[su_note note_color=”#d5d5d5″ text_color=”#91201f”]It’s Star Wars Week here at Christ and Pop Culture! To celebrate we are posting early reprints of each feature from the recently published “Star Wars Special Tribute Edition” of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine! You can subscribe to Christ and Pop Culture Magazine by becoming a member and you’ll receive a host of other benefits as well.[/su_note]

The first movie I ever saw in the theater was Star Wars: A New Hope. At least, it is the first movie I remember seeing in the theater. It’s hard to imagine now what it must have been like to see Star Wars for the first time, and not just to see it for the first time, but for no one to know a thing about it. It wasn’t a classic yet. No one knew Luke Skywalker’s name. The movie blew me away. It blew us all away.

Every Christmas, I asked for Star Wars figures. I had Han, Luke, Leia, Chewy, Darth Vader, Hammerhead, and every other named and unnamed character. I had a replica of the Millennium Falcon. Every kid I knew secretly tried to move things with the force. Every kid I knew could not wait to see the next movie. I specifically remember my anticipation for Return of the Jedi. I even remember hearing it was going to be called Revenge of the Jedi.

If the power of the dark side is hate, then what is the power of the light side but love?

I am not exaggerating to say that Star Wars was a huge part of my childhood. I am not exaggerating to say that we watched Return of the Jedi with unabashed glee. When Vader picked up the Emperor and tossed him over the rail, our hearts sang. Vader still had good in him. Luke saved his father. Yoda had said, “Once you start down the dark path, forever it will dominate your destiny.” Luke’s love for his father had triumphed, and in the end, Luke did not turn to the dark side. Vader turned to the light, and he cast his old master down to his doom.

The new episodes could not have come at a better time. My own children are now 7 and 11. This very week, we sat down to watch the original trilogy together for the first time. My son has seen them before, but he had been young enough not to really remember. My daughter didn’t want to watch them at all, really. But I bribed her with popcorn and promises that it would be good. In five minutes, she was Princess Leia.

I cannot go back and relive the wonder of seeing Star Wars for the first time, but I did get to watch it in my children. After all these years, the movies have not lost their charm. My son wants to be Luke Skywalker. My daughter is Princess Leia. Our dog Buster is Chewbacca. I am happy to say that I have been assigned the role of Han Solo. I saw their amazement at the power of the force. I saw their horror at Vader’s revelation. But I also saw something that I did not expect: They wanted Vader to pay. But Luke loved his father instead of killing him. Luke battled his anger, his desire for revenge, and he prevailed. Forgiveness and love won the day, and Luke became a Jedi like his father before him.

At the end of Return of the Jedi, I told my children that forgiveness and mercy is the true power of the light side, not lightsabers and mind tricks. Isn’t that what Luke taught us? Why did he throw down his lightsaber if a Jedi’s power is found there? Luke started his journey as a Jedi believing that the glory of being a Jedi was action and adventure. By the end of the movies, he understood that the power of the force is found in love, like the love of a son for his father and a father for his son. The Evil Emperor taunted Luke by saying, “The hate is swelling in you now. Take your Jedi weapon. Use it. I am unarmed. Strike me down with it. Give in to your anger. With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant.” If the power of the dark side is hate, then what is the power of the light side but love?

Soon, my family will go and experience the next generation of films together. We will pay too much money for popcorn, too much money for drinks, and we will probably smuggle in Skittles and whatever else we want to sneak into my wife’s purse. My daughter will probably pick a new hero to emulate and so will my son. There will be new heroes for a new generation. But I will still be Han Solo. Always and forever, I will be Han Solo.

Illustration courtesy of Seth T. Hahne. Check out Seth’s graphic novel and comic review site, Good Ok Bad.