Not long ago, Missy and I sat down to watch a classic holiday movie. Plenty of snow, a family reunion, and of course, a figure with a booming voice who’s recognized worldwide.
Man, “The Empire Strikes Back” never gets old.
Now that everyone’s stopped throwing snowballs at me, perhaps I should explain.
A long time ago, in a living room not so far away, I got Missy hooked on Star Wars. It wasn’t intentional. One quiet Saturday afternoon, I just suddenly found that I had company on the couch, watching blasters and bounty hunters with me. And since Missy goes all in on what she loves (partly from her developmental disability, partly from a naturally enthusiastic personality), it wasn’t long before she started pointing out Darth Vaders and Chewbaccas everywhere we went.
The best part? It was “Empire” that drew her in.
Now Missy’s not a dark and brooding personality. I mean, she cranks up the stereo to house-rocking levels with dance music and Christmas carols. She would go out every night to see holiday decorations if she could (and some years, we’ve come close). She likes bright colors, bright dresses, bright purses of near-infinite capacity.
And yet the movie that set the hook in her is easily the darkest of George Lucas’s original trilogy. It’s not a happy-ever-after fairy tale like the original “Star Wars” or a redemption story like “Return of the Jedi.” It’s a pure curb-stomp trampling of the good guys from beginning to end: the rebels lose their new base, Leia and Chewie lose Han, Luke loses his hand and his certainty. Even C-3P0, the comic relief, gets blasted to bits before everything’s done.
But the more I think about it, the more it fits. “Empire” is the perfect movie not just for our family Christmas Princess, but for the season in general.
Because first and foremost, it’s a story of hope.
The Empire wins victory after victory. But by the end of the story, the Rebellion’s still there. Nearly all of the major heroes have gotten away, including the one Vader wanted most. The light has dimmed – but as long as it’s still shining, the darkness hasn’t won.
Now come back to this season. The time of year where the nights grow darker – and the lights shine brighter. Maybe for Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Yule, or just someone’s own personal persistence. At the darkest times, we shine.
And boy, have we had a lot of darkness to push against lately.
You don’t need me to list all of it. For one thing, I’d need a longer column than this. For another, each of us knows the pains and the strains far too well by now. Violence and death in places that should be safe. Hate and anger driving fractures at a moment when we need everyone’s strength. A world that too often has us under siege, collectively, individually, and even microscopically.
But the light hasn’t gone out yet.
And when any of us add our glow – however flickering it may feel – that light of hope gets just a little stronger.
If that isn’t something to celebrate, I don’t know what is.
So light the lights, on the houses and in the hearts. Reach. Listen. Strengthen. Hope. Especially hope. That’s where it begins and how it endures: believing that the light will come and shining your own until it does.
That’s the beauty of the season and everything behind it. So give it a good look.
And if you want to give it a good Lucas too, Missy won’t complain.