Why We Still Need & Love The Holiday Special
The holiday special is a lost art, but this year, Marvel brought the world a special treat with the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. It’s no masterpiece, but it does what it needs to do and doesn’t overstay its welcome. We can all agree that we need more Drax in our lives, and Mantis is undoubtedly one of our less-known background characters, so an adventure with the two of them feels like a great use of 45 minutes.
My favorite part of these holiday specials is that they don’t need to go above and beyond with some ephemeral narrative; they can keep things grounded and remind us of the more straightforward message of being better people. Is it cheesy? Yeah, but I write nerdy sermons on pop culture. I’m cheesy.
For this nerdy sermon, we’re going to talk about how Drax and Mantis, and the crew help illustrate one of the lasting truths of the Christmas season. Maybe they even prove you never needed to abduct a celebrity to find happiness. Let’s talk about it.
Welcome to Checkpoint Church - where nerds, geeks, and gamers come together to talk about faith, games, and James Gunn continuously bringing the best soundtracks in the MCU. I’m your Nerd Pastor Nate. If you like these weekly deep-dives, be sure to sub and hit that bell to find out when our next one drops.
Philippians 2:1-5 NRSVUE
If, then, there is any comfort in Christ, any consolation from love, any partnership in the Spirit, any tender affection and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.
So let’s start with the holiday special - spoiler warning for the whole thing. It’s a super short and easy watch - you could watch the entire thing in the time it takes to watch, like, three nerdy sermons.
Or you could watch it AND three nerdy sermons. Just saying.
The holiday special follows two lesser-known members of the Guardians - Drax the Destroyer and Mantis.
Drax, the lovable doofus who can pack a punch, comes up with the idea to cheer Peter up from his loss of Gamora during the Infinity War saga by getting him something special for Christmas - or should we say someONE special for Christmas.
Drax has been paying some attention and has heard Peter talk about a hero of Earth named Kevin Bacon - remember Peter was abducted from Earth as a kid during the 80s - who once saved the world with Dancing and ‘killed’ Jason Voorhees.
Drax determines the best gift imaginable would be giving Peter his own Kevin Bacon by getting the actual Kevin Bacon as a gift.
Mantis goes along with the plan, and the two travel to earth where, through a series of absurd holiday hijinks involving a funny little man, they successfully brainwash Kevin Bacon and bring him to their ship in time for Christmas.
Of course, Peter is shocked and appalled by the human trafficking of movie star Kevin Bacon and forces the two to loosen their brainwashing and take Kevin back home.
But not before Kevin can teach the crew about Christmas… through song?
It’s a goofy scene from a movie with a goofier plot, but the ultimate message here is clear and humble: it does come down to the thought of the gift that counts.
Or something, I guess.
Idk we got to see again and hear for the first time from Cosmo the Spacedog, and honestly, that’s enough to make this whole thing worth it for me.
But then, this IS a nerdy sermon, and I have something more to say about this... Right? Yeah, of course, I do. Right?
What’s most notable to me with all of the Guardians movies is the character work that James Gunn has presented by the menagerie of personalities in the crew.
Peter Quill has this tendency to cause a shift in the people around him - turning the infamous Yondu into a proud father figure, softening and swooning the heart of the warrior Gamora, and dancing his way into defeating Ronan the Accuser.
This theme of change and evolution in character is essential for these movies, and it’s also vital for the life of a Christian. A literal mindset shift must occur whenever we accept Jesus into our lives. With that in mind, let’s look at our scripture.
In this epistle or letter, from the Apostle Paul to the early church in Philippi, he is writing to these people in a bit of a different light from some of his other letters. Often Paul chastises the early church for their shortcomings, but the church in Philippi has moved past that phase into the next one: suffering.
Whenever a community truly gets past the internal strife, the external strife hits pretty hard. At the very least, it’s more noticeable whenever everything has settled inside the house.
Paul, in a sense, is commiserating with the people of the church and explains that he has spent his life in this kind of suffering; it is natural.
But then he offers our scripture for today as a comfort: in the midst of that suffering, try to focus on one main thing: being of the same mind together. What mind, you ask? The same one as Christ. And what was on Christ’s mind? Quite a lot, but above all, he was the suffering servant. He humbled himself beyond reason and lived as a tortured human, not just a human, but a tortured one.
What does this look like?
Have the same love of Christ for one another
Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit
Regard others as better than you
Look to the interests of others
Jesus isn’t mentioned in this holiday special, but the other three things there should sound pretty familiar.
Drax and Mantis genuinely see Peter as their primary focus, willing to travel across the known universe to get what they know Peter would be interested in for Christmas. They didn’t do it from their selfish desires or ambition, with Drax even going so far as to leave his funny little man behind to chase down Bacon.
If you can go back to 2014 and recall Drax from then - that doesn’t sound like something he would do. And admittedly, even in this film, he is conflicted but chooses to put Peter above himself.
It’s a silly example, obvs, but it’s important because it’s a mindset shift for the members of the Guardians. While the actual result is problematic, the thought behind the thing is evocative of a mindset shift that Paul the Apostle called us to thousands of years ago.
And it’s a mindset shift that makes so much sense during Christmas.
We’ve heard it so many times, but it’s always lovely to listen to it just one more time. It’s the thought that counts, but it doesn’t stop there. The fact that the thought even happened to begin with really sets apart the change in persona.
My wife and I celebrate Christmas each year by getting each other four gifts, and we have a cute rhyme with it… we get each other something you want, something you need, something you wear, and something you read.
This serves a few purposes, but what sold us on it was that we had stopped getting each other gifts because we already had everything we wanted.
If we needed something, we would just go buy it.
But - see - that’s just not the point of the thing. I like getting her four simple things because it gives me the express time and purpose to think about her and nothing else for just a little bit. I get to go into a store and consider her and only her. And that’s special. And then, when Christmas morning rolls around, I open the things she got for me, and it becomes doubly meaningful because I know that she thought about me and nothing but me for however long it took to get those things.
The truth of Jesus’ mindset was that it scratched the same itch that humanity needed all along - we didn’t need the Savior to ride in on the white horse, we needed a Savior to remind us that we matter and we’re worth being known and seen and cared for. And then that Savior looked us in the eyes and said, go and do likewise.
So what does all of this mean for us today?
As we enter the final few days of Advent and enter into Christmas, consider for a moment what you’re doing for others. And I don’t mean go out and buy gifts for them and give them money or whatever; I mean really consider what you’re doing this FOR. What are you hoping these folks get from the kindness you offer?
It’s a simple mindset shift, but also so incredibly challenging. In a world and a nature designed for survival and caring only for our own skin, this is the call that we have placed upon ourselves when we call ourselves Christians. If you take the time to consider WHY you’re doing something for another person, positive or negative, I will bet everything I have that changes the way you see the world.
Take it from us at Checkpoint - we hear it endlessly from nerds everywhere. They just appreciate that we make these videos to meet them where they are - and that’s precisely why we make them. We considered this from the beginning. These sermons are FOR you so that you know that you matter to God and this church community.
So, whether you’re a talking dog, a talking plant, or a talking racc - (rocket yelling ‘I’ll kill you” from the movie) - I mean, uh, Bradley Cooper, know you’re always welcome here at Checkpoint Church.
God loves you.
We love you.