12/17/2013 04:20 EST | Updated 02/14/2014 05:59 EST

The Hunger Games and Church

With the popularity of the "Hunger Games" book and movie series, by Suzanne Collins, and the recent release of the second movie in the trilogy, "Catching Fire", we can all live in this imaginary world for a time, and enjoy the adventures and the "take away" or lessons, from that. In the Hunger Games we see how terrible it is if our world ever degenerated to such a state, where, for "entertainment and control", teenagers were forced to fight each other to the death, as part of a cruel government sponsored reality TV show.

What most young people might not catch right away, because their knowledge of history is now only developing, is that our world had at one time, degenerated to such a state, where the Roman government, before the time of the "Big Change", B.C., Birth of Christ, (Oh, sorry, B.C.E., Before the Common Era) held the Gladiatorial games in the Coliseum, forcing, usually slaves, to fight to the death.

Here is a link and a quote to Wikipedia's article on "Bread and Circuses."

"Bread and circuses" (or "bread and games") (from Latin: "panem et circenses") is a metaphor..." (And did you catch how Suzanne Collins called her imaginary Hunger Games world "Panem" after the Latin word for bread?)

And here, I will just mention that "bread and circuses" is a metaphor for how the Roman government stole wheat from other countries as "tribute" and staged the cruel Gladiatorial games as "entertainment." And not to brag mind you, how it was the Christian faith that was the "Catching Fire", that brought Western Civilization to the world, and an end to the cruel games.

But in this blog, I don't want to just "brag" about that, (that would be way too easy.) In this blog I want to look at how the "genre" of the "Hunger Games" is similar in some ways (the importance of the use of our imagination, for example) to the "genre" of the Bible.

In the "Hunger Games - Catching Fire", we can all live in this imaginary world for a time, and enjoy the adventures and the "take away" or lessons, from that.

Similarly, at church, we can all use our imagination to live in the Biblical world for a time, and enjoy the adventures and "take away" of that, too.

It's Christmas, and we can imagine living there, during all the events surrounding the birth of Christ, described in the Gospel of Luke.

For example, here are a few verses:

Christ's Birth Announced to Mary

Luke Chapter 1 vs 26-38

"Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.  And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end." Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.  For with God nothing will be impossible." Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

And we can imagine what it must have felt like for Mary to be told that these two little boys were going to grow up and change the world, and even the cruel world of the Roman Gladiatorial Games. Not by power or money or any kind of wealth at all, but by words. And that has to be the greatest adventure of all.

Ok, I will admit that watching "Hunger Games - Catching Fire", at the movies is not exactly the same as going to church. After all we do not sell popcorn and snacks at church. But my point is that using your imagination to live for a time in a different world and enjoying the adventures and "take away" of lessons learned, is very much the same.

For example, a few weeks ago, at Ellerslie Road Baptist Church, Pastor Mark Dixon spoke on the first few verses from the Gospel of Mark. (Yes it is OK for a newspaper to mention the message at a real church from a real Pastor in the real world.)

Here are some of the Bible verses mentioned that Sunday.

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

Mark Chapter 1, verses 1-8

"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets: "Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,

Who will prepare Your way before You. The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord;

Make His paths straight." John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, "There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

And so right away, the Biblical world starts talking about, "sins" (the Roman Gladiatorial games for example) and a "take away" that is unexpected and unavailable from any of the adventures and lessons of imaginary worlds like the Hunger Games.

And this Christmas, as mentioned in the above Bible verses, if you let your imagination live for a time in the adventures of the Biblical world, your "take away" back to the "real" world, just might be something very profound and very good; the "Catching Fire" of the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit."

P.S. Here is a great Bible verse that describes what the "Biblical World" is all about. This is the first verse from the New Testament book of "Hebrews." The author of this book does not identify himself. Perhaps it was written by James, the brother of Jesus. (Joseph was not the father of Jesus, but Joseph and Mary did have James together.)

Hebrews Chapter 1, verse 1 "In the past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets, at many times and in various ways, but (now) He speaks to us through His Son..."

(And remember, Jesus was one of those two little boys spoken of to Mary by the angel Gabriel. And did you go there in your imagination to the greatest adventure ever told; how

Jesus was going to grow up to not only change the world but to save the world, through all he spoke to us and did. And he did. (His followers stopped the Roman theft of wheat and "Gladiatorial Hunger Games", and not only that, His followers have informed the arts for centuries with the most beautiful poetry and music, befitting the King.) It's Christmas, and Christmas is the center that can hold; Christmas is the grace that can make us a better people, a stronger people, a more Godly people; a people where the mistreatments of others such as in the dystopian world of the Hunger Games, will not be tolerated. And that is the wonderful lesson and "take away" from the adventures of both. And this is all thanks to the life and work of one of those two little boys, spoken of to Mary, by the angel Gabriel. And that is why we still greet each other, even today, with Merry Christmas.)