RELIGION: Look around

Scrolling through streaming channels looking for just the right movie can become downright maddening at times. After Christmas, the task becomes incredibly tedious as Christmas movies were "low-hanging fruit" for the last five weeks. For our family to sit down and watch a movie, it has to be the perfect recipe. We love sagas: Star Wars, Hunger Games, Stranger Things, The Chronicles of Narnia, and other trilogies and series. My favorite saga is the sweeping, epic The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I devoured the books written by J.R.R. Tolkien, and I love the movies directed by Peter Jackson.

So, as soon as Christmas was over, we began another journey with the Fellowship to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. (I will go ahead and apologize to anyone who isn't familiar with the basic plot of the Tolkien novels, but it will all come to a point at the end). I've read the books twice, and seen the movies at least 30 to 40 times, while the rest of my family have only watched them a handful of times. As we sat and watched the events unfold, my children began to ask me questions about the differences between the movies and the books -- of which there are many.

As we talked, we began discussing the use of plot, character, settings and other cinematic and literary minutiae. My kids began finding connections and parallels between Christianity and the movies by seeing the contrast of light and dark, good and evil and redemption and betrayal. The story behind Tolkien writing his tales is fascinating, and has been covered in many different documentaries and biographies, so I won't get into all that with this article.

As I watched Frodo, Sam, Gandalf and the rest of the Fellowship of the Ring chart a course to destroy the evil that had taken hold of Middle-Earth, something struck me that had never struck me before: the theme of hope. The characters would endure a terrible tragedy or get lost in horrible darkness, yet could see hope echo throughout the trial. There would be a foul enemy just outside the door waiting to attack, but there always seemed to be a glimmer of hope arriving soon or an expected escape. It's as if these characters were looking for it.

In one particular instance, a character (Merry, a Hobbit) was bemoaning the darkness and evil into which the world had fallen. The world was on the brink of devastation. His long soliloquy could best be summarized as: If I would have known the world was this terrible, I would have never left my home. An elven character by the name of Haldir looks at him and says, "The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater." (The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, II, 6, J.R.R. Tolkien)

This quote is particularly fitting for where we find ourselves at this time in our world. It seems that we look around and see the darkness and evil, yet we must continue looking for hope and love mingled in the grief. While there is much to look at and fear, we must always be on the lookout for hope -- a ray of sunlight shining through the dark clouds.

In our scriptures, Paul also had a word for those to whom he was writing regarding finding hope in the pain, and light in darkness: For God, who said, "Let there be light in the darkness," has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6). So - my friends, look for hope.

Listen: "Concerning Hobbits" by Howard Shore.

Jeremy DeGroot is Lead Pastor at FBC Siloam Springs, a husband, daddy and musician. You can contact him via email at [email protected] or reach out on Facebook.