Christmas at the Movies: Charlie Brown and Gathering and Gratefulness

Title_frame_from_A_Charlie_Brown_ChristmasOn Sunday we began by watching a clip of Charlie Brown’s Christmas. This is where Linus tells Charlie brown what Christmas is about. And I think for every Christian there isn’t a real disagreement that Christmas is about Jesus. But how this plays out in our lives there is a lot of diversity, and I think some wasted energy.

So on Sunday I wanted to clearly explain what I think Christmas being about Jesus means. And to do this we thought about what the actual first Christmas was like.

Most likely the first Christmas was full of some anxiety, some stress, mess, and transcendent joy. This is because every birth I’ve been at part of it had some anxiety, stress, mess, and transcendent joy. As a Dad I was quite terrified by everything with the birth of our first son, and this is at a hospital with loads of medical professionals. I couldn’t imagine what Joseph must have been feeling, and the stress to not harm the Son of God as a baby.

But what I’ve also known is that amidst the worry, stress, and excitement there comes a moment of transcendent joy when you hold the newborn baby in your arms. And what has happened in every instance after this, in our world, is that family and friends come over, bring food, and gifts and we celebrate the gift of new life.

And as I was reading the Christmas story, something new hit me. I always thought of how the shepherds and Magi showing up are displays of God’s glory and power. Now though, I see them maybe more of displays of the humanity that God tenderly cares for.

Mary and Joseph were alone without anyone to share the birth with, and God sends shepherds to rejoice with, and Magi to worship and give gifts. And it struck me: the very first thing Jesus did was gather people together to express gratefulness and gratitude at the gift of life.

Before Jesus did any healings, miracles, teaching, or dying and rising again – his very first act is to bring people together to celebrate and be grateful. Because of Jesus’ birth Mary, Joseph, Magi, and Shepherds are drawn together to celebrate and be grateful for the gift of life in their hands.

This is what happened on the very first Christmas, and I think it needs to ground what we believe Christmas is about. Christmas is about gathering together to be grateful for the gifts of life God has given us. When we say Christmas is about Jesus, that’s true. But I wish we would understand how part of what the truth is, is to actually do is to cause us to gather with family and friends with grateful hearts and celebration.

Christmas, if it is about anything, is certainly not about boycotting, arguing, or debating. Christmas is about gathering and celebrating. Christmas is about sharing in the gift of life that is given to us. Christmas is about gathering and being grateful.

So that was the main point on Sunday; Christmas is about gathering and begin grateful. And then we closed with actually practicing this. We gathered for a Christmas meal and shared things we were grateful for. And I think that’s a good practice to do this Christmas.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaChristmas is a time to gather and be grateful.

Teaching Points:

  • Christmas is about Jesus.
  • What is central to Christmas?
  • We have a sanitized picture of the birth of Jesus
  • God sends people to celebrate and appreciate the new birth
  • Jesus’ birth directly caused people to gather, be grateful, and celebrate
  • Jesus gathered together diverse people, to appreciate the gifts given to them
  • The story isn’t just about what happened back then but what should happen today.
  • We should gather friends and family together, and practice being grateful for the gifts God has given us.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What was funny? What can you be grateful for this Christmas? How has God given you life, strength, hope, or something tangible in the past year? Who can you share your gratefulness with?

Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families

Today it’s simple – ask your kids what they are most grateful for in life. But beforehand help them to learn the right example by sharing what you appreciate and are grateful for about them.

Challenge for the Week: Gather with people and be grateful

The Meaning of Christmas

christmas-bulbs-1258956-639x750On Sunday we are looking at what the meaning of Christmas is. And while I think at first glance that seems pretty clear – it’s about Jesus. I’m not so sure we know how that actually applies to what we live, and what we do.

Lots of Christians around Christmas debate how the meaning of Christmas is Jesus. For some this means fighting consumerism, for others it means being able to say “Merry Christmas”, not “Happy Holidays”, or there are lots of other debates going on.

So while every Christian would agree, that Christmas is about Jesus, what that practically and actually means is quite different depending on what Christian you talk with.

So that’s what I want to clear up on Sunday. I want to clear up what Christmas being about Jesus really means practically for our lives. What we should positively be doing if that statement is true. And it’s something simple, it’s something practical, and like the best simple and practical things – it’s absolutely transformational.

A Difficult Christmas

On Sunday we are opening up a bit of a difficult topic. We are actually going to talk about grief. I know not a normal “Christmas” topic. But here is the truth, Christmas can be really difficult for some people. And Christmas is also about hospitality, and welcoming others.

So on Sunday I want to talk about how to welcome, include, and gather those who are hurting. A few weeks ago I talked about fully entering into the joy of Christmas. On Sunday I want to take the flip-side and look at welcoming those who are struggling. And to do this I want to watch one of my favorite movies. Well not the whole thing, but a significant portion of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

So that’s where we are going on Sunday, but before we get there, why not spend sometime thinking if there are those who are hurting who you can reach out to this Christmas. Because one of the biggest things we will learn from the movie, is the power of noticing a need.

Christmas at the Movies: Home Alone and Hilarity

home-alone-boyGUEST POST: Pastoral Intern Carter Whyte

This week we began our “Christmas at the Movies” series – using classic Christmas movies to help shed new light on Jesus’ coming to earth. The enjoyable viewing of Home Alone served two purposes for this first message in the series: it taught us about our forgetfulness, and it forced us to put the message into action by having fun.

Just like Kevin’s parents forgot him at home when they went away for Christmas, oftentimes Christians forget something very important when we enter this holiday season: Joy!

We read in Luke 2 that when an angel announced Jesus’ birth to nearby shepherds, the angel proclaimed, “I bring you good news that will be great joy to all people.”

How often do we celebrate because of Jesus? 

Sometimes Christians become fun-suckers, boring, and somber. We may try to rationalize these attitudes by saying that being serious and focused are important because we have a mission to complete and our days are numbered. But think: If the good news is supposed to bring joy into our lives, can we possibly spread the message of this good news without bringing joy along?

We know that joy is good! Laughter refreshes us! Doing fun things relieves us of the worries we have been carrying around! None of us want to go to work every day when there is absolutely nothing pleasurable about it.

There is a time for sorrow, and mourning, and self-reflection. But there is also a time for joy, and shouting, and self-expression! And Christmas is that kind of time!

Christian maturity should lead to more joy, as a result of a deeper connection with the Spirit that produces joy, and the Jesus that brings joy to the world! So let’s be mature this Christmas and let our lives be filled with joy because of Jesus.

  • With still a few weeks until Christmas, why not consider adding in some extra celebrations with your family and the people around you?
  • Invite people from work over to have a fondue dinner!
  • Do something new and exciting with your spouse!
  • Add something new to a traditional Christmas dinner – invite your family into a sing-along, or invite somebody new along! (Or write a poem!)
  • Join in with your kids when they are silly, or build a gingerbread house with them this Sunday for the competition in Plattsville!

Don’t forget to have joy and spread joy to others this Christmas!

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Don’t forget to bring joy with you this Christmas. 

Teaching Points:

  • Sometimes it’s easy to forget the most important things
  • “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people”
  • God is about Joy, and the instigator of Joy
  • You don’t win points by being more conservative than God
  • Don’t forget to have fun this Christmas.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What was funny? When have you forgotten something important? What brings you joy at Christmas? How can you spread joy? How can you have fun? What can you do today to bring joy to your family?

Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families

Ask your kids what is most fun thing to do at Christmas. Then go do it.

Challenge for the Week: To go have fun!

Christmas at the Movies

So on Sunday we are opening up a new series for Advent – Christmas at the Movies Round 2! We did this last year and people really liked it so we are going for it again. I’m going to be trying to tie in all sorts of movies to help reveal the truth about Christmas.

Sometimes Christmas becomes so familiar that we forget the key things about it. So join with us as we look at some classic movies to learn some new things about joy, about Elf, about gathering together, and learning to be grateful. Hope you can join us!

Christmas Movies

Why I Love an Old Fashioned Christmas

1435391_49019940On Sunday we shared a lot about the traditions surrounding Christmas. Or if the word tradition bothers you – think instead of rhythms that surround Christmas. Because traditions are funny things, they are rooted in the past, but they actually preserve the future. That’s what they do.

Traditions are things that grow, that hold faith and family together. And without them family and faith can slip away or fade away.

This is something that I’m beginning to realize more and more. That traditions create memories, they are containers that hold meaning, and draw family together and pass along faith.

So on Sunday I shared some of the traditions that are part of my family.

Watching National Lampoons every year

  • Decorating the tree
  • Going to Christmas Eve services
  • Praying before gifts
  • Reading the Christmas story
  • And many more

The point is that the traditions – or rhythms – ground my family and my faith. They ensure that I remember that something important is happening and someone important is coming.

So we closed Sunday with giving a simple challenge: what is one tradition you want to start this year, and one tradition you want to keep and really invest in.

And I know in one sense all this talk about tradition makes me old fashioned. But that’s okay, because what really matters to me isn’t being cool and new. What really matters is my family growing closer, being pointed towards Jesus, and having memories that last, linger, and shape them.

 

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Creating and keeping traditions matter.

Teaching Points:

  • The stories are the point
  • That traditions are often the cradle and the keeper of faith.
  • Creating and keeping traditions matter
  • Traditions hold family and faith together

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What was funny? What are some of the traditions your family kept growing up? What are some of your favourite memories? Why do you think traditions might be important? What are some traditions you keep in your family? What are some you might want to start? How can tradition help to pass along faith, and hold family together?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Talk to your kids about some of your favourite traditions. Then ask them, “What traditions should we have around Christmas?” Why not invite them into the discussion and take up their ideas. Sundaes on Christmas Eve? Why not. Wake up before the sun on Christmas day? Sure. Talk to them and develop some traditions.

Challenge for the Week: What traditions do you want to start, and keep?

Traditions, Turkey, and Tree’s

1435915_59713170This Sunday is our annual Christmas meal at the church. So if you’re in the area and want some turkey, come on by and join us.

But this is one of the things that I love most about Christmas. I love how there are traditions that we do every year. That there are reminders that Christmas is coming, that there are markers that point to Jesus, that there are memories that go back decades.

For me, one of the memories I have is watching the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas each and every year. It was my dad’s favourite movie, and every year we’d watch it together.

But what about you? What makes Christmas – Christmas for you?

Because traditions matter, memories matter, and markers matter.

So that’s what we are going to be talking a little bit about on Sunday before we eat lots of turkey. But before we get there, why not think through what traditions matter to you. Because the funny thing about traditions is they root us in the past, but point us forward to the future. And that’s what we’ll explore on Sunday.

The Brilliance of Dr. Seuss, the Grinch, and the Root of Bitterness

happyEndingOn Sunday we looked at the parable of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. In this movie we saw how Grinches are people who enjoy wrecking other people’s joy. That they are bitter, hateful, spiteful, and often live alone up on a mountain with a dog – or maybe cats too.

The point is that with the Grinch Dr. Seuss actually perfectly portrays people in our own lives: people who are petty, small, angry, and bitter. Part of the difficulty with Christmas is that we often end up in close proximity to Grinches. And this can be dififcult and stressful but the question isn’t so much how do we deal with such people? But instead, one question deeper – how do people become Grinches?

We looked back to the movie and again Dr. Seuss is right on. People become grinches when their heart shrinks. When is starts to grow small and cold. One of the number one things that causes this is bitterness. Bitterness will shrink and shrivel your heart faster than anything.

So if that’s how you become a Grinch, how do you prevent that? Because Grinch’s aren’t just around us, but also inside us.

For that we looked, not to the movie, but to Hebrews 12:12-14 where we read this, “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many”.

We camped out here for a while, because the author of Hebrews gives us four really practical steps to prevent “grinchiness”. The first is he teaches us to work at peace. To never give up on peace, to never give into apathy, but instead to work as best we can at peace. He also reminds us to live a holy life. And a holy life looks like Jesus’ life. So we could say to work at living like Jesus. Thirdly, he teaches us to rely on one another, and care for one another. Grinches live lonely lives, and we need to be reminded of the importance of caring and supporting one another. And last but not least, to watch out that bitterness doesn’t take root in our hearts.

What we all know that is living like the Grinch isn’t life-giving. So make a choice to live differently. That’s what changes the Grinch, he makes a decision and his heart grows a little bit. That’s what we need to do too.

So we ended with a challenge to prevent Grinchiness, by rooting out bitterness. To this Christmas work at peace with those who it’s tough, to work at living like Jesus, to ask for care and support for those around us.

And if you get a chance why not watch the movie, because it’s great, and a classic.

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Prevent Grinchiness, by rooting out bitterness

Teaching Points:

  • Parables hide in plain sight.
  • A Grinch is someone whose heart has shrunk and shriveled.
  • Grinches aren’t just around us, but also inside us.
  • That the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  • Work for peace.
  • Holiness looks, and lives like Jesus.
  • Work at living like Jesus.
  • Work with one another.
  • Root out Bitterness with making a decision.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What are some of your favorite Christmas movies? Do you have any Grinches in your life you have to deal with? What has been helpful in learning to deal with them? Is there any bitterness developing in your heart that needs to be dealt with? Whom do you need to work at peace with? How can you do that?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Watch the movie, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, and then talk about how bitterness can make you into the Grinch. Talk about how it’s important to be grateful at Christmas, to work for peace, and to give. Ask them if there is anyone they want to give to.

Challenge for the Week: Root out bitterness.

The Grinch as a Parable

how-the-grinch-stole-christmas-originalThis Sunday we are showing a parable at church. Of course it’s the classic movie, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, the classic version.

This movie is actually a great parable of what happens when we let bitterness take root in our hearts. It’s actually a really good glimpse into what happens when we stop trying to make peace and live in harmony, and let our self-interest guide us.

So we are going to look at this movie and see how we can not only deal with the “Grinches” in our lives, but how we can ensure we don’t become a Grinch.

Because the slide to becoming a Grinch is often a subtle and slow slide. But it’s one that can be prevented, it can be seen, and it can even be turned around.

So that’s where we are going – but here’s some homework. Watch the Grinch a) because it’s a good parable b) because it’s an awesome movie. I mean who can’t love it when it has lines like, “you’re as prickly as a cactus, and as slippery as an eel” 🙂

“We’re A Couple of Misfits”

On Sunday we talked about the feeling of being a misfit. We watched a clip from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer where Hermey and Rudloph sing, “We’re a couple of misfits, we’re just a couple of misfits, what’s the matter with misfits, that’s where we fit in”.

And then they sing something so true, “We may be different from the rest. Who decides the test, of what is really best?”

Isn’t that true?

Haven’t you ever thought that?

Why do they get to decide what’s best? Why do they get to decide the test of fitting in or not. And they might be your father, mother, sister-in-law, neighbour, whatever.

The point is that many of us don’t’ feel like we fit in around Christmas. Christmas can actually be a time where we are reminded of the fact that we don’t fit in. But this is the exact opposite of what the Christmas story teaches us.

The Christmas story teaches us that Christmas is about welcoming the misfits.

If you think about it at the birth of Jesus we have the Magi, the Shepherds, and Mary and Joseph. All misfits.

The Magi are foreigners, people of different race, religion, and politics. People who are rich and in a different class than Mary and Joseph. Yet they are welcomed in.

The shepherds are outcasts too. They are misfits for sure. Shepherds were people who weren’t marriage material, who were often people of “dubious character”, who were literally on the outside of society. They were misfits.

And Mary and Joseph were too. They clearly didn’t fit in with their family, because no one would welcome them in while she was pregnant. Instead, they were forced to a full inn. People I’m sure thought that Mary had some “character flaws” of her own, that she was pregnant and not yet married. So she and Joseph too are misfits.

Yet what do we see? Jesus’ birth bringing all these misfits together.

One the first things Jesus does when he enters the world is to welcome people who don’t feel like they belong. Is to draw people together who are often left out.

So Christmas, if it’s about anything, is about welcoming. It’s about hospitality. It’s about making room for the misfits in our lives.

So we close with a challenge. That if you feel like a misfit to know that you are welcomed to celebrate with our church, and with Jesus for his birth. Because Christmas is about welcome.

And if Christmas is about welcoming, we should practice welcoming. We need to reach out to the misfits in our lives, and invite them in. It might not be easy, but it really is necessary to live out the meaning fo Christmas.

Because Hermey and Rudolph’s song has some truth, “We may be different from the rest. Who decides the test, of what is really best?” Well, who decides the test, is God. And his decision is to welcome those different from the rest, so I think it’s something we should do too.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Christmas is about welcoming misfits

Teaching Points:

  • Being a “misfit” is a feeling we can all equate to, but hate having.
  • “We may be different from the rest. Who decides the test, of what is really best?”
  • The original Christmas was full of misfits.
  • The Wiseman are foreigners, rich, and different in terms of race, religion, and class.
  • One of Jesus’ first acts upon entering the world is to draw people of difference together.
  • Shepherds were some of the lowest of the low.
  • Jesus’ coming draws misfits together.
  • Christmas is about welcoming the misfits of the world.
  • Jesus decides the test of what is really best.
  • If we want to practice Christmas, it’s about welcome.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What are some of your favorite Christmas movies? When have you had a time where you didn’t fit in? How did you handle it? Are there places you don’t fit in now? If Christmas is about welcome and including, who should you be including this Christmas? How might you do it? Who can help you to keep to it?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Take sometime and watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Afterwards spend sometime talking about the importance of welcoming “those who don’t fit in”. Ask them who they might want to welcome in their school, family, or friends and how they might do it. Then actually help them to do it!

Challenge for the Week: Welcome a misfit; and join in if you are a misfit.