Finding the Gospel in The Star

What’s your favorite Christmas movie? Whatever it may be, you’re sure to want to share it with the teenagers in your life. Watch the Rooted blog this holiday season, where we are uncovering the gospel in some of the all-time great Christmas films. We’ll help you keep Christ at the center of your Christmas celebrations, at home and at church. Enjoy!

Last night we watched The Star as a family. The Star tells the story of a small donkey named Bo (short for Boaz) who yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. One day, Bo finally finds the courage to break free and embarks on the adventure of his dreams. On his journey, he teams up with Ruth, a lovable sheep who has lost her flock, and Dave, a dove with big dreams of his own. Along with three wisecracking camels and some eccentric stable animals, Bo and his new friends follow a star and become accidental heroes in the greatest story ever told – the first Christmas.[i]

There are some great themes in this movie, and just some good old silliness in the funny animals. More than that, The Starshows us glimpses of the gospel and points us to the truth of Jesus this Christmas season.

Found, Healed, and Named

When Boaz breaks out of the “daily grind” at the mill, he injures his leg and finds himself taken in by a kind lady named Mary. Even though Mary becomes Bo’s owner by chance, she nonetheless loves him, heals his wounded leg, and gives him his name—Boaz.

Like Boaz, our hope is found in the God who takes us in. It is his son, Jesus, who finds us and purchases us with his blood, not us who find him. He heals the brokenness caused by our own sin, and he gives us a new name and a new identity, just like Mary does with Boaz.

Willing to Die for Your Enemies

Toward the climax of the movie, Bo saves Thaddeus and Rufus, the very two dogs who have been after him for the entirety of his journey. Once Boaz’ enemies, Boaz rescues these helpless dogs who would have died had not someone stepped in and saved them.

This act resembles Christ, who on the cross, saves the people who put him there. The good news is that Christ rescued us sinners, who were once his enemies, from our own demise on the cross. Though we don’t deserve it, we too have been saved and rescued—just like Rufus and Thaddeus.

God’s Kindness Leads to Repentance

After Bo rescues Rufus and Thaddeus, they humble themselves and say, “We’re bad dogs.” Romans 2:4 tells us: “God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance.” When Bo saves these dogs, it reveals the sin in their hearts that had led to their unloving behavior towards Bo. It is Bo’s kindness to them that leads them to admit they have been bad.

The message of the cross is the culmination of God’s kindness to us. God saves us from his wrath toward our sin because Jesus took the punishment for our sin on the cross. Christ’s incredible love for us is the greatest news: we have been rescued by Jesus alone, and it is this glorious news that motivates us to turn in repentance from a self-centered life to a Christ-centered life.

Serving the King

During the entire movie, Bo dreams of belonging to the royal entourage who helps pull the emperor. He longs for the glory, purpose, and prestige that comes with such a position. However, he ends up having to choose between chasing the royal entourage and carrying some pregnant lady to a little town called Bethlehem. Unknowingly, Bo chooses to serve the true King of Kings, rather than to fulfill his own dream. He discovers that real joy and meaning is found in serving King Jesus.

There is greater joy in being the servant of King Jesus than being served by others, because it is what we were created to do: to glorify, honor, serve, and worship him. Bo finds fulfillment not in accomplishing his own dreams, but in playing a small part in God’s plan.

Where the Movie Swings but Misses

Though The Star has plenty of great gospel themes, there are some places that miss that mark slightly. Consider talking with your children about how The Star sounds more like the things they hear in the world rather than what they hear in God’s Word.

Works

After Rufus and Thaddeus admit that they have been “bad dogs,” they go to the stable and witness the birth of Christ. After witnessing this miraculous event, Rufus says, “Are we good dogs?” and Thaddeus responds, “We have to try to be.” In this moment, Rufus and Thaddeus seem to be driven by moralism, not grace.

Moralism is the gospel’s epic enemy. Moralism says, “If I obey, then God will accept me.” The gospel says, “I’m accepted. Therefore, I obey.”

You see, someone who believes that their salvation is based upon their own works and effort will always be stuck thinking that it is their “trying” to be good that “makes” them good. Their obedience is always motivated by fear and insecurity.

But someone who believes they are accepted by God because of what Jesus has done for them has a motivation to serve him that is based on grateful joy! There is no longer any room for confidence in “trying to be good.”

Repentance AND Faith

While Bo’s kindness towards Rufus and Thaddeus leads them to repent of their bad ways, it does not lead them toward faith in Christ as their only hope. Just like God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance, this repentance is meant to lead us to faith in Christ alone. Jesus said at the beginning of his ministry, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel”  (Mark 1:15).

We can show our kids the greater joy of turning from the kingdom of self and turning to the Kingdom of God.

As a parent, I’m sure you will be watching some Christmas movies with the family this year. Whether it is Elf, It’s A Wonderful Life, or White Christmas, consider these discussion questions to prompt catching all the ways good stories reflect the truth, beauty, and goodness of the greatest story:

  • What are some of the conflicts within individual characters and between characters?
  • How do the characters change from the beginning of the story to the end?
  • What do the characters believe will make them happy?
  • What parallels do you see between this story and the gospel? Is there someone who sacrifices for others? Loves their enemies? Gets something they don’t deserve? Is loved unconditionally? Becomes more prideful or more humble?
  • Where does this story swing and miss? Do they promote finding meaning in what you do? Or finding joy in another person? What is the good news they are promoting and is it really good news that can last?

Whatever the movies we enjoy, may we watch to glorify.

 

[i] Plot summary from The Star (2017) – Plot Summary – IMDb

Joey Turner is a young husband and dad who is obeying the Spirit's prompting to evangelize and equip parents and students in Beavercreek, OH through the written Word. He is privileged to be married to his wife Jenny, with whom he has four amazing children. Joey serves as the Pastor of Student Ministries at Patterson Park Church in Beavercreek, OH.

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