The Star – Movie Discussion
The Star follows the familiar advent story except it does so through a different (and fun but fictional) perspective—that of the donkey who carried the pregnant Mary on his back into Jerusalem. Here are 10 lessons (with discussion questions) we can take away from the story.
- Accepting God’s Plan—Mary (especially) had to be willing to yield to God’s unusual plan for her life. She had to choose to surrender and yield her life if she was to become the mother of Jesus. Yielding isn’t easy. It isn’t always pretty. But it is worth it. What things have you had to accept from God’s hand that weren’t easy, but worth it? Is there anything God is asking you to surrender to Him now?
- God’s Plan isn’t always easy—Mary and Joseph struggled. They had to take a long journey while she was very pregnant. There was no place for her to have her baby. (Just to name a few of the difficult circumstances they faced after they said yes to God’s will. Saying yes to God isn’t any guarantee that things will therefore be easy or simple. It simply means that even your struggles are in the center of God’s will. The movie makes this very clear—listen to their discussion: Joseph: Just because God has a plan doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, and that scares me. Mary: This IS hard. We don’t always think about how Mary and Joseph must have struggled, so I loved this raw honesty. What examples can you think of in the Bible where God’s plan wasn’t easy...in fact, it was scary...for those who followed it? How does this help, challenge or encourage you?
- Even the rocks cry out...why wouldn’t we expect the animals to know?! Without a doubt there is a lot of anthropomorphism going on in this movie, but on the other hand, the Bible makes it clear that the earth itself recognized its maker when He came, so it is such a stretch to believe that animals would as well? Well, to be fair, they were a bit like us—they saw the star and knew it was something important, but they didn’t know the baby Jesus was a King until they were told. Still, it’s an interesting question to me, how much revelation did the animals in the stable have? There’s that song, Mary, did you know? But I wonder, Donkeys and sheep, did you know?
- Joseph and Mary were very much human...and he struggled with fear of not being able to provide. The movie shows the real humanity of Jesus’ parents. Joseph was a man, a husband, a father...who struggled with the things men, husbands and fathers struggle with—things like not being able to provide for his wife and family. It’s easy to see the cozy nativity scenes with their glowing halo of warming light and see it with such a nostalgic sweetness. It’s good to be reminded (just a little, it is a cute little kid’s movie, after all) of the gritty reality of them and their lives at that time. Did you think about Mary and Joseph and their lives differently because of this movie?
- Our examples inspire others...even though we may not know it. Mary was a woman of prayer and her example impacted others. When Bo (the donkey) was in a bind, he imitated Mary and tried prayer. “I could try praying. Um...let’s see... how did Mary do this?” That’s the thing about influence though, we rarely are aware of it. We don’t know who is watching us, who is taking note, or when they might just be desperate enough to follow our example. Bo wasn’t asking Mary to teach him about prayer. He never told her he noticed her praying. He probably wasn’t even all that interested at the time. But a time did come when he was interested, a time of desperation, and she wasn’t there to know about it, but her example inspired and instructed him. Whose example have you followed, been inspired or helped by? Did they know about it? Do you work to live a good example for others to follow?
- Our “little” offering may be exactly what is needed. When Mary and Joseph found the stable, one of the animals said, “It’s not much, but there’s plenty of light!” It was a poor offering, and yet, after finding the town hotels all filled up, it was a glorious offering. The animals had no idea how beautiful that little stable was because they had no idea how desperate Mary and Joseph were. Don’t let the smallness of what you have to offer shame you into withholding what you have. Offer it. You never know how beautiful your little gift may be to the one its given to. What do you have to give? Have you ever been ashamed that what you had to give wasn’t enough?
- We should have mercy on our enemies. An evil man and his two dogs were in pursuit of Bo throughout the movie. In the end, Bo was in a position to let them die, or save their lives. In the spirit of Jesus (who he hadn’t even met yet), Bo chose the latter. He chose to love his enemies and do good to those who persecuted him. That beautiful act of mercy opened the dogs’ hearts to change. They followed Bo to see the baby Jesus and again, there was a defining moment. The other animals, Bo’s friends, were scared to see their enemies and persecutors come into the sacred space. They easily could have acted in fear and kicked out the bad dogs, but instead they gave grace and welcomed them in to the place of worship, into Jesus’ presence.
The story line of these two bad dogs had to be my favorite part of the movie. This was such a pivotal time in their lives—that time when they either decided they were bad dogs who could never change, or when they decided they could change and be good. And a large part of that decision had to do with how the “good” animals chose to respond to them. Would they only see them as evil, or would they allow them to change and be good? Would they welcome them into their circle of love and worship? (This is SO much like the story of Saul’s conversion to Paul and welcome into the body of believers after he had been on a mission to kill them.) It’s hard. It is hard to love our enemies. It’s hard to let go of fear and choose grace, mercy and trust. It’s hard to let someone questionable into our safe space and place of worship—but how we treat them often determines who they become. It’s the way of Jesus, to speak life, even into things that are void, empty, chaotic, dead... It was his very first act in Genesis 1, and one He has continued throughout all of time, and we are supposed to be like Jesus in this. Bo and his animal friends are a great example for all ages! Do you have any “enemies” that you can show mercy to? Have you ever shown mercy, grace, forgiveness and/or acceptance to someone who was an enemy, or at least, not a very good person? Or has anyone ever done that for you? How do you think things would have turned out if the animals hadn’t welcomed the bad dogs to the manger?
- Freedom brings choice. Once they were free from slavery to a bad master, the bad dogs had to make a choice, were they going to be bad dogs or try to change? As mentioned, a huge part of that process was that the other animals welcomed them and showed them that they could be good. The other huge part of that process is that the bad dogs themselves had to decide to change, or at least, they had to decide they wanted to. At first, they felt they didn’t have a choice. “We’re bad dogs,” they said. But Bo reminded them, “You don’t have to be. You’re free now.” (Their evil master was dead, so they weren’t slaves to sin anymore—it’s such a cool presentation of the gospel!) So one of them asks the other, “Thaddeus, are we good dogs now?” (Like he wonders if it can be that simple.) Thaddeus answers him, “We have to try.” He understands that it may be a difficult process to change your way of being, but he also sees that they have a choice and that it’s worth the fight. They were slaves to sin and their evil master before, but with their freedom they had choice. They weren’t forced to be good, goodness is a choice. Jesus never forces us to follow Him.
- Often we don’t know the importance and/or magnitude of things in our lives until they’ve passed. Bo carried the pregnant Mary on his back, but he didn’t know till after the fact that her baby would be King. Bo carried Mary with a willing, joyful heart, but just imagine if he’d grumbled and complained at the task the whole way. How ashamed would he have been when he found out that he’d been carrying the savior?! The lesson here is, no matter the burden you are carrying, always assume you’ve got a king on your back. Hebrews 13:2 mentions a similar idea, “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” I think this is why we are told in the Bible to do EVERYTHING we do as unto the Lord. Because we never know just how significant it may be. Have you ever been surprised to find out that something you did turned out to be a way bigger deal than you knew at the time? How can Bo’s example encourage you to do everything you do as unto the Lord?
- Every knee will bow in the presence of Jesus. The movie ends with one of the wise men telling the group in the stable that the baby Jesus was the King. They were all there, all had seen the baby, but not all had fully known who he was until someone revealed the truth. When that happened, everyone—kings, shepherds, animals and even the bad dogs—all knel before the baby Jesus. This is our role as Christians. We are surrounded by people who may have seen Jesus, may know something about Him, but who don’t actually realize that He is King. Our job is to live lives that reveal the Kingship of Jesus (as we also tell people who He is). As we do so, the people around us will kneel, because in His presence, every knee will bow. Do you know people who know about Jesus but haven’t recognized Him as King, haven’t knelt in His presence? How can you be like that wise man who helps others recognize that Jesus is King?