As we enter the season of Christmas, the Love Thy Nerd writers want to share moments from nerd culture that resonate with them and reflect the weeks of the Advent calendar.
Week One – Hope – Prophet’s Candle
Kingdom Death: Monster – Madeline Turnipseed
The Children of Israel were scattered, conquered, enslaved, and subject to a vicious cycle of sin and suffering. They were without hope. Though the prophets spoke of sin and punishment, they also promised something more. A final deliverance was coming.
“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2
Kingdom Death: Monster, on its surface, is a grotesque of pain and fear. Unknowable horrors emerge from the darkness, relentless in their efforts to devour the few survivors that populate the settlement. There are two choices: walk out into the dark alone and submit to the fear that awaits because you are incapable of your own salvation, or stand fast and hold your lantern high that it may dispel the darkness and be a beacon to those around you. There can be more to life than fear and suffering.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
Week Two – Faith – Bethlehem Candle
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Madeline Turnipseed
By faith did Mary and Joseph accept the words of the angels that their unborn child was the one prophesied, the one to finally deliver the children of Israel once and for all from their cycle of miseries. By faith did they leave their home in Nazareth, though Mary was far along in the pregnancy, and make the trip to Bethlehem for the census. By faith did Micah record the inspiration of the Spirit hundreds of years before, believing that all these things would come to pass to fulfill the prophecies. The healing power would be born in Bethlehem.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.
He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.” Micah 5:2-4
The Doctors Jones have a strained relationship at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Though they’re brought closer through the capers of the film, Indy has to take his father on faith in the final scene as he navigates a booby-trapped temple. He has only some scribbled notes to guide him past razor-sharp blades, crumbling tiles, a seemingly sheer drop, and a room full of vessels that pretend to be the Grail. Indy doesn’t care about the Grail for himself—it belongs in a museum—but he’s in desperate need of its healing power for his father, bleeding out in the antechamber. Because of the power of the Grail, they are able to not only escape the temple and the Nazis but have time to repair their relationship.
Week 3 – Joy – Shepherd’s Candle
Wandersong – Madeline Turnipseed
Sheep are a lot more like people than we’d like to admit, but being out away from humanity can make a shepherd feel disconnected from their people. Imagine how flabbergasted they were, then, when the angels announced the birth of the Messiah not in the temple, not in the market, not in the royal court, but on the face of an empty mountain outside of town to only their smelly selves. They picked themselves up off the ground and rushed to see the child, then couldn’t contain themselves.
“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told to them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:17-18, 20
No one expects anything from the player character of Wandersong, a young bard possessed by joy. The bardlet is explicitly not the Hero and is pitted against her in an effort to save the world. But the most consistent opponents our bardlet faces are everything fellow characters embody other than joy: depression, apathy, existential crisis, hatred, and fear. Armed only with a voice, the bardlet shows them that they, too, can have joy.
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10
Week 4 – Peace – Angel’s Candle
Rakuen – Jon Campoverde
The holiday season is one of the most exciting times of the year. Plans are made. Journeys are taken. Gifts purchased. But more often than not, the holidays bring out the worst memories. Disappointment abounds. Trauma resurfaces. Grief attacks. Mary & Joseph found themselves in a distant city with nowhere to stay but a stable. Water broken, Mary lay in the straw, her husband before her on his knees and a donkey braying in her ear. Talk about a perfectly planned Christmas, yet, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” – Luke 2:19
How!? How is it that in the face of what could have been the worst experiences of her young life was Mary able to treasure the event? She just gave birth to her first child in a stable, laying him in a manager. Mary had every reason to remember this season with bitterness, but she instead treasured it because in the midst of the pain she received the best gift of all. He brought her peace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27
In Laura Shigihara’s Rakuen, we encounter another mother and son who have every reason to grow bitter. However, as they journey together, the Mother becomes the peace-giver, for she silently follows the Boy as he navigates mortality, coming to terms with not only his father’s passing but also his friends’ deaths and eventually his own. The Mother speaks when the Boy asks for help until he no longer can. Then, she comes to him in his pain, finding him wrapped up in grief—grief much like the kind the holiday season leaves wrapped under the tree. She reminds him of the stars that shine in the darkest of nights; she gives him hope, which brings him peace.
As we remember Christ’s first coming this holiday season, looking forward to His second coming, we reflect on the hope, joy, and faith that He has brought us. This is where we find peace in the midst of holiday darkness. He shines bright and has given us His peace. He is here, and everything will be alright. He is right here by our sides as we walk through the night.
Christmas Day – Light – Christ’s Candle
Pyre – Steve Miller
We often miss the suddenness of salvation in the Christmas story. Jesus’ birth is not a prelude for what’s coming – it’s all part of the main event. Simeon, a devout believer, does not mince words when he sees one-month-old Jesus: “for my eyes have seen [God’s] salvation.” Anna, a prophetess, also recognizes redemption is here and uses similarly grandiose terms to start spreading the story immediately. Both waited their entire lives for this one moment. Everything is changed.
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21
The Voice: And thus, the scribes have chosen;
The exile appointed by the Nightwings shall be free.
Absolved of all misdeeds.
Returned to glory in the commonwealth.
The Reader: May she return in glory.
The Voice: Godspeed, Jodariel.
The eight scribes are ever merciful.
By their grace, the cycle of the rites may soon commence again.
And, just like that, sixteen years in eternal purgatory ends. Carried by the efforts of her fellow exiles in Pyre, the liberation rite is won and Jodariel is free. Their victory effectively scrubs out every crime she ever committed. As she steps into the pillar of pure light, she smiles faintly, then hurdles upwards back to her home. Everything is changed.
Featured image “candle” by davidpwhelan (Morguefile license, resized).