Catching the Fire of Hope

December 9th, 2013
Image Courtesy Lionsgate/Color Force

Catching Fire, the second film in The Hunger Games franchise, opened last month to critical acclaim and impressive box-office returns. The movie continues the story of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, two teens from District 12, a poor region of the future dystopian nation of Panem. In the opening volume Katniss and Peeta were selected to compete in Panem’s annual “Hunger Games,” an event in which 24 teenage contestants fight to the death in front of a nationally televised audience.

The purpose of the games, which select two youth—one boy and one girl— from each of Panem’s twelve districts, is not just to entertain the masses or to reward the home district of the winning contestant but also to send a message: Everyone in the district Panem is at the mercy of the regime based in The Capitol. Any freedom or peace or comfort they enjoy comes courtesy of their wealthy totalitarian government and can be taken away at any time. But Catching Fire shows that, even in Panem, people are able to find hope. For Katniss and Peeta, hope comes in the form of rumors of a rebellion. There are signs that the people in the districts, drawing inspiration from Katniss’s performance in the previous year’s games, are rising up in revolution against The Capitol. Perhaps the oppressive regime that forces young people to kill for sport will not be in power forever.

From Panem to Judea

The world into which Jesus was born was similar to Panem in many ways. Jesus’ family lived in Galilee, a small territory on the fringes of the powerful Roman Empire. At the time of Jesus’ birth, Galilee and Judea (where Jesus was born and would die) were controlled by Herod the Great, a ruthless puppet king with no qualms about ordering children to be killed (see Matthew 2:13-18). Many of the Jewish people in the area lived with hope that a messiah would rise up and free them from Roman rule. We know that Jesus was the Messiah, but he wasn’t the sort of messiah that people expected. He wouldn’t physically deliver the Jewish people from the Romans. Instead he offered a greater hope, an eternal hope.

Jesus died to atone for our sins then rose again, defeating death and giving us hope for eternal life with God. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection did not end pain, despair, and suffering here on earth; but it did show us that God is ultimately in control and that God ultimately will prevail. During the Advent season we not only prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem two millennia ago but also we celebrate all the ways that Jesus continues to enter our world. We look forward to Jesus’ promised return. Advent is a season of hope, a time to remember that the darkness in the world will not have the final word.

People of Hope

Youth are well aware of the darkness and brokenness in our world. Many have experienced darkness in the form of bullying, abuse, and broken relationships. Some have suffered the effects of chronic illness. And even those who have not known suffering on a personal level are aware of brokenness and darkness in their community and the lives of others. This is especially true as we remember the thousands of people hurt by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and reflect on the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

Christian youth should see themselves as expressions of God’s hope. They cannot bring an end to pain and despair, but they can pray for others; show people God’s love; point people toward the hope that we have in Christ; and look forward to God’s eternal promises.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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