One of My Favorite Movies…, Advent 1 (B) – 1999
November 28, 1999
One of my favorite movies, one based on an equally wonderful play is Camelot, starring Richard Harris as King Arthur. It is the story of the Knights of the Round Table. It is the story of peace, joy, love, prosperity that once filled the land of England.
But is it also the story of how all this was destroyed by the unfaithfulness of Arthur’s wife, Queen Guinevere, and of his best knight, Lancelot.
The climactic last scene of the story takes place on the eve of a mighty battle, a result of this betrayal. Arthur’s forces line up against those of Lancelot in a conflict that has been forced upon the king.
As Arthur reluctantly prepares for the battle, he discovers a boy — about thirteen years old. Arthur questions the boy, who tells the king that his name is Tom. And then he reveals why he is there. “I’ve come to fight for the Round Table. I intend to become a Knight of the Round Table.”
The king, disillusioned about the shattered peace which his Round Table had symbolized, asks how Tom knows about it. “Was your father a knight? Was your mother saved by one? Was your village protected by knights?” Tom’s reply was simple, yet profound. “Oh, no, my Lord,” he says. “I only know of them-the stories people tell.”
This gives the king pause for a moment, as he considers the wisdom he has just heard. And then he says to Tom, “From all the stories people tell, you wish to become a knight. Tell me what you think you know about the Round Table.”
Tom replies with great excitement: “I know everything. Might for right. Right for right. Justice for all. A round table where all knights would sit in unity. Everything.”
Then King Arthur, as his world is crumbling around him, realizes that he has just heard this mere boy speak the words of hope that he had lost sight of.
And, instantly, Arthur knows what to do. He forbids Tom from fighting in the coming battle and commands him rather to hide behind the lines until the battle is over. He knights him “Sir Tom” and commands him to return to England –alive — and to grow up and grow old-and to remember the story of Camelot.
He says to Tom,
Each evening from December to December,
before you drift to sleep upon your cot,
think back upon all the tales you remember-of Camelot.
Ask every person if he’s heard the story —
and tell it strong and clear if he has not —
that once there was a fleeting wisp of glory called Camelot.
Now, the King s aide reminds him to hurry for it is time for the battle. Arthur moves briefly toward his army, but then pauses. With triumph in his voice, he asserts, “I have won my battle, and here in this boy is my victory. What we did with the Round Table will be remembered. You will see.”
Arthur sends Tom off on his mission to tell far and wide the story of Camelot.
This is a story for Advent. It is most interesting that the author of this play chose December to December for the period in which the boy should remember about Camelot.
We would say Advent to Advent, but it is in fact December to December. Our church year provides for us a way to remember the story of Jesus from beginning to end and from end to beginning again.
God’s story with us is one that began in perfection-at a time in the Garden of Eden when all was peace and joy like Camelot in the successful days of Arthur’s Round Table.
Like Camelot, paradise in Eden was lost through unfaithfulness. And like Eden and Camelot, this is the story for each of us, as it is played out in our lives over and over again.
God’s love and grace is realized and accepted, only for us to turn our backs on God in unfaithfulness. And God forgives us and takes us back and gives us his love and grace all over again.
In a cycle that continues, our story is like the story of the movie Camelot, for we, like Arthur, know that the shattered vision is not the end of God’s story with us.
No, the story does not end there. The Good News of Christ presents us with a vision of what the Kingdom of God really is, and, therefore, what the church is called to be.
Over and over again, we are called to tell the stories of the Kingdom of God-to remind ourselves of how the church is to look in the fullness of God’s time and to share this story with those who do not know it. We are called to remember how God would have us act and how he would have us be.
The novel on which the movie Camelot is based is called The Once and Future King. Jesus, our lord, is also a once and future king. Indeed, part of the story we remember is that Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
In Advent, we recall the expectation and waiting and watching and longing for the first Coming of Christ into the midst of our humanity. We also recall, as we do in today’s Gospel reading, the second coming of Christ.
In Advent we especially remember, and we anticipate, what God promises. Like Tom of Camelot, we know everything, because we have heard the stories about God. And, like Tom, it is our mission not only to remember, each December to December, but also to tell the stories far and wide — reminding those who have heard them, and proclaiming them afresh to those who do not know the story of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
In the Camelot of God’s Kingdom, we will know the stories of God’s power and we will be transformed into God’s likeness-the Christ.
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