Christmas Carol Service 2004
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
“They call him
Mr. Incredible. This mighty-muscled, super-powered strongman can
single-handedly rescue a little old lady's cat from a tree, apprehend bank
robbers, and save a suicidal jumper - then dust off and squeeze into a tuxedo
just in time to get married to Elastigirl, a super heroine with amazing
stretchability. Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, along with other
"supers" like Gazer Beam (who can shoot lasers from his eyes) and
Frozone (who can do anything with ice), protect the citizens of the great city
The residents are nostalgic for the simple valour of a bygone era of bold heroes who could save the world, unfettered by criticism and litigation. But those glory days come to an end. People are unhappy with being saved; people are unhappy with how they are saved. Suffering from inferiority complexes, people run out of "tolerance" for the Supers. They filed lawsuits taking superheroes to task for the collateral damage of crime-fighting. The nation's saviours are driven into a "protection program," forced to blend anonymously into the daily grind, repress their powers, and support the illusion that everyone is comfortably equal in strength.
Now known as Bob and Helen Parr, Mr. Incredible has gotten soft, slogging his way through day after day of thankless work processing insurance claims. Elastigirl is now a homemaker with three kids to look after: Dashiell, who's gift of super-speed prohibits him from participating in sports; Violet, an ultra-shy teenager who can turn invisible and generate impenetrable force-fields; and infant Jack-Jack, who hasn't yet mastered eating baby food, much less exhibited any "special" abilities. Bob is seriously frustrated at the pointlessness of it all. Now, working a mind-numbing day-job as a claims adjuster for Insuracare, Mr. Incredible has receded into the hulking slouch known as Bob Parr. Bob suffers under the harassment of a whiny boss. Then he goes home to his wife Helen and finds her patience—and her limbs—stretched to their limits by two tempestuous super-kids. In this environment of talent-repression, humdrum routine, and excessive nostalgia, Bob starts sneaking out to perform covert hero-work with his icy super-buddy Lucius, a.k.a. "Frozone." He finds new hope and new confidence when he is approached by Mirage, a mysterious operative who tells him the government has a secret program that will pay him handsomely for his services. Unfortunately, it's all part of a nefarious plot to get rid of every super-hero on earth - once and for all! Before long, the whole family is drawn into the excitement, and they're forced to come to terms with the abilities they've stifled for so long.”
If you haven’t yet seen the Incredibles, I’d can recommend it. I wonder who is your favourite super-hero? Captain America? Wonder Woman? Flash Gordon? Can you guess the three most popular super-heros?
Superman was actually born way back in 1938. Created by Jerry Seigel and artist Joe Shuster for Action Comics. Superman first came to the screen in a movie serial staring Kirk Alyn, then in 1953 first appeared on TV played by square-jawed George Reeves. The first of the four Superman films starring Christopher Reeve premiered in, wait for it, 1978.
Batman was born a year after Superman in 1939. He was created by Bob Kane for DC Comics, In 1966 Batman appeared in an ABC TV series played by Adam West. 1990 saw Michael Keaton play a darker adult Batman, then George Clooney and presently Christian Bale.
But the youngest of the three super-heros and currently most popular is Spider-Man. Created in 1962 by Stan Lee for Marvel Comics. It was only in 1977 that the first live-action Spider-Man appeared on TV starring Nicholas Hammond while his big screen debut was in 2002 played by Tobey Maguire.
Why are we so attracted to super-heros? Interestingly, two of the three were born in the despair of the 2nd World War. Why do we seem to prefer fictional super-heros who save the world from evil? And why do we seem to need new heros to replace those who have faded or become jaded?
That is why the Incredibles are so fascinating. Our jaded world, sceptical of the bible and its vision of a Saviour who will bring peace on earth, echoes the film’s suspicion of super-heroes. “Biblical visions of utopia are scorned, blamed and even feared…” Does the imagery of the peaceable kingdom where all creatures live in harmony sound to good to be true?
Does a society where injustice is unknown seem like a dream? Can we really imagine a place where crying and mourning will cease? Is it a little naive to believe God’s promises made through Isaiah, Micah and the Apostles? Is believing the message of the angels in the Christmas story too naïve? And yet, we all agree the world as it is, is not as it should be. On that, there seems to be no argument.
The politicians know the world as it is, is not as it should be. They campaign on their visions of what should be done to right the wrongs in the world. The advertisers know the world as it is, is not as it should be either and they know consumers know it. So they too sell their vision. The right car, the right makeup, the right healthy food, even the right detergent, and your life can have inner peace and lasting fulfilment. Scientists know the world as it is, is not as it should be and they too have the answer or they will after the next great discovery… They tug at the heart promoting the qualities of medicine for everything from an upset stomach, a blinding headache to cholesterol reducing drugs. And of course Hollywood knows the world is not as it should be, and so they offer us a steady stream of super-hero characters, each with their supernatural powers tinged with human imperfections. As a society we are pretty jaded to visions of a better world. So, what’s left? What is the solution? Use the plastic and spend our way out of despair? Fatalism? A grim realism? Suck up your guts and keep going? Is hope to be packed away, like the super-heroes in the movie?
No, because the long promised hope that became human that first Christmas is much harder to suppress than all our super-heros combined. In fact, (judging by the growing numbers of people wishing to come to Christmas services each year) it seems that despite these fallible human agencies - whether of politics, science or Hollywood, at least once a year, we still attempt to fulfill the vision of the angels “on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” (Luke 2:14). For, in Jesus Christ, we discover the truly incredible image of one who is both God and man in the same person. Eternal yet born into time. Isaiah struggles to capture the incredible reality of Jesus Christ’s nature: “And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6). The one who stands behind and over all images of super-heros. The one before whom all become fallible and mortal.
“Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end... establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:7).
Yes, our world
desperately needs real authentic heroes willing to articulate and build the
dream of a just society, to create a foretaste of heaven on earth. And without
them we should not be surprised that people will create their own fictional super-heros,
in their own image. How ironic that the Bible portrays those who follow Jesus
Christ as having a purpose driven mission, a calling and destiny more awesome
and captivating than even that of Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl. Our powers may
not be as spectacular but we have been given the Holy Spirit of God who is
transforming us into God’s children. That makes us - through the power of God -
more than equal to any task, more than conquerors, to use St Paul’s words.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:36-38)
“As long as there are hungry ones, lonely ones, poor ones, as long as there are people sick or imprisoned, abused or marginalised we have work to do. As long as evil reigns we have a mission to fulfil. As long as injustice exists we have a Gospel to proclaim. As long as people remain captive to sin, we have a Saviour’s love to share. We are not called to “save the day” or overcome the world - Christ has already done it. We are not even called to bring in the new heaven and the new earth for that is His role, but we are called to join the family business. We are to use the talents and gifts God has given us to show a sceptical world that God is building his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.”
And if you are not sure of God’s will for your life, if you need more information about Jesus in order to decide whether to serve him, then complete the tear off slip on the card in the rack in front of you and join our Christianity Explored Supper on Thursday 20th January. Join us to find out more about the incredible, supernatural, life God wants to live in and through you. God’s will to create and redeem shall not be thwarted. Hope will not be suppressed. Justice will prevail. Peace will come. If we live in this way there may be ridicule, there will certainly be hardship and possibly even lawsuits and imprisonment - but, like the Incredibles, when at last we lay down our lives we will not wonder why it is we have lived. Lets pray.