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The Gospel According to Baby Yoda

December 20, 2019

I am an ordained minister so perhaps titling an article “The Gospel of . . .” and then not following with Matthew, Mark, Luke or John is a little provocative. Good. After all, gospel means good news. And Baby Yoda is good news.

Now, if you haven’t yet been introduced to Baby Yoda, welcome to this plane of existence.  Because Baby Yoda owns it.  Baby is out-polling Democratic presidential candidates, announcing collegiate football coaches, promoting music by pushing all sorts of buttons, and trending non-stop. Social media? Baby Yoda. Disney+, the internet, Etsy crafts, the national conversation? Baby Yoda. The galaxy (well, galaxies, since we know along with Earth, Arvala-7, Tatooine and Sorgan are all enamored with Baby Yoda) is now firmly in the grip of this tiny, precious, three-fingered, coo’ing, green tyke.

If we are honest, we wouldn’t want it any other way.  Because Baby Yoda is the cutest thing to exist. Ever. If we are honest, we need it to be this way.  We need Baby Yoda.

After marveling over the Baby Yoda phenomena, my PR Director, René, asked me, “Why? What is it about Baby Yoda that has captured us?”  Without missing a beat, I replied, “Hope. Baby Yoda is hope.” We all need hope these days.

Actually, that’s how the entire Star Wars saga opens. Episode IV:  A New Hope. For the most part (but not always), Star Wars has mastered mythological narrative, timing, and even marketing. In my opinion, it is no small thing that The Mandalorian was released in the dark days of winter. It’s no small thing that Baby Yoda is referred to as The Child. It is no small thing that we are at a critical time in the Star Wars saga – the end of one order, and the rise of something new. The in-between days. Star Wars is being handed from one generation to the next.

And, in my theological opinion, it is no small thing that we find advent overlapping with Baby Yoda. Heretical? Not really. The word advent is rooted in the Latin meaning arrival, particularly of something or someone important. Perhaps it is not even a small thing that we are having to wait – a concept so foreign to our microwave, Amazon Prime existence – for our Baby Yoda merchandise. We are being asked to pause. Consider.  Anticipate. Wonder. Let go. And yes, we are being asked to hope.

At its best, mythology works because embedded within it is Truth.  At its best, myth parallels reality in mysterious, beautiful, even heartbreaking ways.

I think it is common knowledge we live at a time when hope seems lost. Institutions are collapsing. Empires are dying. We are told truth is not truth. The common good has been sacrificed at the altar of individualism. Those entrusted to protect us sell us out to the highest bidder. Paradigms and systems are toxic. Dystopian literature resonates with our youth in strange and sad ways.

But myth tells us that in the darkest times, hope is birthed. A baby will be born. A child will appear. A light will flicker. The oil will last.  At the bottom of a Greek jar, Elpis remains. That which we thought was dead will live again. It is so much easier to let go of all that is broken, dark, evil, wrong, and dead when we can see something – anything – on the horizon. Hope is what we see, and what we grab even as we let go of all that is lost and dead.

We don’t always know exactly what hope is, of course. Mary did not know how Jesus’s life would unfold. No one knew how long the oil would burn in the Temple.  Or that Elpis was in Pandora’s jar. Or that a 17 year old boy would defeat Voldemort. Or Hobbits would ensure the Ring’s destruction. We do not know how Mando and Baby Yoda’s story will play out. And yet, somehow we do know. Because in so many ways, their story is already working.  Hope has already arrived. We are already better for Baby Yoda. We talk to each other again. We share memes with each other again. We wonder together again. We anticipate together again. We hope together again.

Hope is often portrayed as a thing with feathers.  Or small.  Or easily overlooked.  An ember.  While I think there’s something to all of these images, we cannot forget that within an ember lies fire. Within a child, great human potential. So, in this winter time when we ponder the coming of new ages, new springs, new awakenings, it should not and cannot be forgotten:  Hope is also a force.

May the force be with you. May the force be within you.

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