This week's theme is JOY.
The first was the climactic scene at the end of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home as the whales are released into the ocean. It's a moment of absolute celebration such as we rarely see in the somewhat emotionally restrained worrld of Star Trek. Spock even smiles and laughs, for goodness' sake! In my chapter on the film in The Gospel According to Star Trek: The Original Crew, I liken the scene to a kind of group baptism, recalling this gloriously joyous scene from the 1973 film, Godspell. The scene in Star Trek IV is a celebration of the salvation, restoration, and renewal of the Earth. In that sense, it also recalls the culmination of salvation through the gospel of Christ.
But, as I thought further, the next scene that came to mind was less loudly celebratory, quieter, more reverent, but nonetheless joyful. At the end of the previous film, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the crew stands silently as Kirk talks with a newly resurrected and restored Spock, hoping for some sign that their friend has truly returned to himself. "Jim," Spock says, after a brief re-enactment of the pair's then-final conversation from the previous film, "Your name is Jim." At this moment, a smile spreads, slowly, but surely, across Kirk's face. Spock remembers him. The joy Kirk experiences here is the reward for the sacrifice og his career, his ship, and his son. He sees recgnition again and the light of life in his dearest friend's face.
This joy of restored relationshop spreads as the entire group gathers around Spock. As the camera pulls back and the film comes to quiet, serene completion, the feeling of joy is as palpable as it will sequel.
The disparity of tone in these two scenes, combined with their remarkable similarity of feeling, caused me to think again on what, after all, joy is. Is it happiness? I don't think so. I think joy is something deeper, something more fulfilling. It can come at a time of exuberance, like the Star Trek IV scene, or in quiet stillness, as in Star Trek III. I also sense something more than an emotional moment to joy. There is a liveliness, a vitality in joy that causes us to celebrate, to resonate with the goodness of something that is truly, deeply good.
And it also occurred to me that these two scenes involve people--a kind of family--coming together. This seemed to illustrate to me that joy often (if not always) has something to do with togetherness, with a communion of the spirit. That joy can come in the presence of other humans, or as we find it alone, in the presence of God. Really, in both instances, God is present. And I can't help but feel that it is the interwoven working of the Spirit of God that energizes and gives life to joy.
How, then, does Joy become a theme at Christmas? The word "JOY" adorns at least as many lawns at Christmastime as the words "Peace" and "Merry Christmas" and "The Reason for the Season," if not more. But the images that bear this word are often quiet and peaceful, not exuberant and festive. But joy encompasses both of these expressions. It is the delight, the relief, of knowing that we are recognized, we are seen by God. We can have Hope. We can be at Peace. Love has come for us. Not just to be found by us, but to pursue us. To seek us out and to save us, though we are lost.
"Long lay the world," the great Christmas hymn "O Holy Night" says, "in sin and error pining, till he appeared and the soul felt its worth." That knowledge, that understanding of the soul feeling its worth is the knowledge that we are not alone, that God has not forgotten us. "We're not momentary specks in an indifferent universe," Benedict Cumberbatch recently told Entertainment Weekly, "We're momentary specks within a very caring, loving universe."