This weekend marks a wonderful milestone of the year. It is a special weekend, and not just because it is the 4th Sunday of Advent; it is officially the week of Christmas! But that is not all, friends, it is also the beginning of the culmination to an event 30+ years in the making: this weekend marked the release of Star Wars Episode VII! This is definitely something to be excited about (I plan to go see it this evening). And as much as I am excited for this, the 7th cinema-based installment, I am equally excited for recent news that another beloved Disney/Lucasfilm franchise is working on its next script. Yes, Indiana Jones himself is expected to return to theaters again in the near future. Granted, it took 20 years between the 3rd and 4th films, but there is still hope that the anti-hero who combines academia with action will be back soon. And, yes, sources say Indy will be played by none other than the original; Harrison Ford.
Why am I so excited about that? Because of its macguffin principal. Nobody handles a macguffin better than George Lucas did. What am I talking about? According to Alfred Hitchcock, who coined the phrase, “a macguffin is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. The specific nature of a MacGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot” (Wikipedia). George Lucas takes the role of said plot device a bit further. George, on the other hand, believes that the MacGuffin should be powerful and that “the audience should care about it almost as much as the dueling heroes and villains on-screen”. With Indiana Jones, the macguffins are clear and vital to the story. In a clear good vs. evil chase to dominance, the macguffins that Indy chases are things such as the Ark of the Covenant and even the Holy Grail.
Bringing Movie Macguffins Down to Earth
With any good movie, there is a macguffin in some form or another. As we continue through this series at Cape Alliance Church in Cape Coral on the birth of Christ, let me propose this question to ponder: what is the macguffin in your life? And what does that have to do with Christmas? As we look into the visit from the wise men, we get a good look at the macguffin in the lives of not only just the wise men, but Herod as well—and God too. An understanding of macguffins gives us a profound understanding of why Jesus came “Down to Earth” and how that changes us. We look at a race against the clock in an effort to uncover the hearts truest passion.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.'”
Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
How can we best define the word macguffin? Something that we cherish above all else; something that we would give everything to have; something that makes life worth living. Jesus made it a point to acknowledge that there are macguffins in everyone’s lives; take a look at Matthew 13:44-46. Everyone has them; the question is, what is yours? Jesus suggests to us that it should be the kingdom of heaven. “Seek first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). Of all the things that could be macguffins; even Christian-type macguffins such as ministry, missions, study, etc…; Jesus wants us to not care about any of that and put our focus solely on Him.
In Luke 10, we hear about the differences between Mary and Martha, sisters who were both friends of Jesus – and happened to have a brother named Lazarus. When Jesus came for a visit, Martha put all her effort into work: cleaning, cooking, etc… while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, simply listening to Him. This, obviously, did not make Martha happy. She complained to Jesus about all the work that Mary was skipping out on. The response was certainly not what she expected. Jesus replied back to Martha that she was the one distracted, not Mary, for she was the one that had all these other things in front of her while Mary was totally focused on her Lord. This is not a typical reminder of the importance of people over tasks in our lives, though I would love to talk about that more in-depth, but a specific lesson that there is nothing—no possible macguffin—more important than simply being in the presence of Jesus.
The Wise Men’s Macguffin
This is what makes the wise men’s story so remarkable. Imagine all the work they had to do to seek out and find Jesus! These guys had to know their stuff. As wise men of the east, it is possible that they had connections to other wise men (or magicians as referred to in that time) of the past. In Daniel chapter 2 we see that Daniel himself, who prophesied about the coming Messiah was the chief administrator in charge of the wise men in Babylon. That connection goes back even farther to the character of Balaam in the book of Numbers. Though Balaam was called on by the Moabites to curse Israel, but because of God’s work in Balaam (a fun story for another time), he was only able to bless them. During those blessings, we get this verse (Numbers 24:17): “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult.” Let’s also add in this verse from Genesis that connects to the idea of a Scepter (Genesis 49:10): “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” Thanks to Creation Today for some help on this history lesson.
Chances are actually more likely that the wise men in Matthew knew about these passages from the Torah more so than the one from Micah, which Matthew quoted. Had they known about the Micah passage, they would have had no reason to stop in Jerusalem, instead heading directly for Bethlehem. What does this mean? It means that these wise men had been looking for this, probably for a long time. In fact, it means they (and those in their order, maybe?) could have been looking for generations. This was their macguffin. They didn’t really know what to expect or exactly how it would all turn out, but they followed the signs, studied the stars and knew it was time to go when the star shone over Jesus as He laid in the manger. Obviously this means they were not there the night of his birth, but they saw the star that brought fear to the shepherds and ran to it. By their gifts we know that they knew who they were bowing to in front of that lowly manger.
Herod had a different macguffin. While he certainly feigned desire to meet Jesus, he never had any intention of getting on his knees. We know that because 1) God warned the wise men to go by a different route, and 2) later on in the chapter we learn that because Herod didn’t know which baby this king was, he had all boys 2 and under killed. It was a horrendous massacre all so that Herod could feel unopposed in his seat of power. Take a look at Matthew 2:13-16. I am reminded of a line from the prologue of the Lord of the Rings.
“It all began with the forging of the Great Rings. Three were given to the Elves; immortal, wisest and fairest of all beings. Seven, to the Dwarf Lords, great miners and craftsmen of the mountain halls. And nine, nine rings were gifted to the race of Men, who above all else desire power. For within these rings was bound the strength and the will to govern over each race. But they were all of them deceived, for another ring was made. In the land of Mordor, in the fires of Mount Doom, the Dark Lord Sauron forged in secret, a master ring, to control all others. And into this ring he poured all his cruelty, his malice and his will to dominate all life. One ring to rule them all.”
Herod was deceived. Power was certainly his macguffin, but just like the 9 kings of men, he could not see that he was merely a puppet of the prince of this earth. Enslaved to his sin, Herod acted out of selfish maliciousness and while he was able to grasp his macguffin temporarily, it did not last long nor actually provided what he was ultimately longing for.
Many Macguffins, One Top Priority
We found out this past week that our little 2 year old, Maggie, was fully emancipated from her biological parents (given a 30 day appeal window) and we are now well on our way through the adoption stage. It is possible that she could be fully adopted by the end of January. We knew we wanted to call her Maggie ever since she first came to live with us, but that is, at this point, not her real name. When we signed paperwork this week to finalize our part of the process, one of the important pages included finalizing what we wanted her name to be. The name Maggie is a short version of Marjorie (which is what her official name will be, God willing). According to the meaning of baby names, Marjorie means “pearl of great price”. It has always been a major goal in both Nita and my life to be parents and finding out that having biological children was not what God wanted for us was a difficult thing to process. He never wanted us to give up on that dream, and led us on a very direct path to becoming Maggie’s parents. With her as the first child we are adopting, we wanted to name her something that held real meaning to the importance of this journey to parenthood. Maggie being our “pearl of great price” perfectly defines the journey God is leading us on with her.
You see, we all have and are drawn to human macguffins; this is not necessarily a bad thing. To have a drive, something to work for, or motivating factors in our life is a natural part of being human. What I am referring to, though, is that pinnacle; the challenge as to what takes that #1 spot in your life. As much as I am absolutely in love with Maggie as her father, she is not even the most important woman in my life, let alone the most important macguffin. While it can be easy to forget that order at times, God is asking us to put Him first. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). This passage is given to the church! This is for Christians! This verse specifically was given to the church in Laodicea who had become lukewarm in their faith. Without God as your macguffin, there is no real passion, no heat to your spirituality. This is what He wants for us – for us to seek out Him as our life macguffin.
While God does not shy away from asking us to make changes like this in our life, there is one major difference with our God – and that is whatever He asks of us, He does it FIRST. He isn’t just asking us to hold Him as the top priority in our lives, but He shows us clearly that we are the top priority in His–FIRST.
O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.
Jesus had your name on His mind before the world was ever created. He sought you out. He is gently romancing—wooing—you even now. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:6-11).
There is no doubt you are God’s macguffin. He came DOWN TO EARTH to live out his love for you. He left the very pinnacle of glory to become the lowest of the low, all so that you could see how much He loves you. He didn’t do it to be an example, nor did He do it to prove His power. He did it because He wanted to; you are worth it to Him. In Jesus, you are so loved that you are His macguffin – the pearl of great price.
What do we do with that? It is only because Jesus came down to earth that we have the ability or capacity to return His love. The challenge today, therefore, is very simple: is Jesus your macguffin? If not, what is in the way? What holds the priority in your life?
What about those who can say that Jesus is their macguffin? How does that live itself out in your life? Jesus showed you His love in that while you were still in your sins, He died for you. What actions are speaking for you? Paul tells Timothy to always do the work of an evangelist; Jesus himself said the harvest is plentiful. We are commissioned to spread the good news of great joy that will bring peace to all mankind. Have you spread news of that peace lately? Have you lived that peace out? Or has your life this season been more about harried shopping, road rage, unbreakable heat or crying over your bank balance?
We do not serve in order to receive goodwill from God, but serve out of love and a calling (which every Christian receives) to spread the good news of Christ. Remember Jesus, who, did not come down to earth to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many. This is ultimately the point of the wise men’s story. Jesus loves us first and foremost – His trip to earth was not about Him, but only about us. We are His macguffin. Who, or what, is yours?