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!

The Joy of a Ziggle

What is a ziggle you may ask? Only the most amazing toy ever. Hudson has one of these at daycare, and just loves it. So I found it online, got it shipped, and Hudson had one of the best days of his life. Here is a video of him on it:

 

He loves the speed, he loves “ziggling”, and scootering around. He loves spinning faster and faster. He just has such a sense of joy with it.

Here is what struck me with Hudson. Do I get that amount of joy out of anything? I mean Hudson gets pure joy out of the ziggle? Is there anything that gives me that much joy in life?

I don’t ask that question in a downer way or depressing way. I would say I’m a pretty happy, and optimistic person. I ask that question out of a “depth or capacity” concern.

What I mean by that is this: have I through the process of living lost some of my ability to deeply feel joy?

Has my ability to fully experience joy been lessened by living life? Have I lost some capacity for joy, life, and love? Because Jesus is clear – he has come to give life abundant, full life, and joyous life (John 10:10). But have I lost some of that?

And if I’m honest, in some ways the answer to those questions are…yes. In some ways I don’t seem to enter into life as fully as Hudson.  I’m not as prepared as he is to shout with joy.  I’m not maybe as ready to experience joy as deep as he does. And for me this isn’t a guilty thing. This is just a real thing that I hope to change.

And here is how I’m going to change it in three steps.

  1. I’m going to pray and ask God for more joy. I don’t think I’ve ever really done this. But it seems like a good place to start. If you read the Psalms (like 51:8, 12) the writers are often asking for joy. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, so it’s something that we can be given more of.  Just like we can pray and ask for more patience and self-control. So why not ask for more joy? Seems like a good thing to get to me!
  2. I’m going to spend more time with my boys. I think if you find a source of joy, stick with it. And Jesus says that the Kingdom of God belongs to the childlike. So I’m going to learn from them how to enter the moment.
  3. Last but not least, I’m going to try to have more margin in my life. I’ve noticed the busier I am, the less joyful I feel. So I’m going to try to change this and really enter into the moment.

So those are some of the things I’ve been learning from Hudson, and I think it’s worth thinking about. Oh and there is one more step to finding joy…seeing if anyone makes an adult sized ziggle 🙂

“Daddy Snow It Must Be Christmas”

1457457_10153541584360643_258669238_nHudson has no filter whatsoever. I doubt many three year olds do. I’d love to tell you some examples…but I think most of them are better left out of print…

The point though is that you have no doubt what he is thinking. And he has an ability to just change your perspective on so many things.

Earlier last week with the first kind of snowfall, as I was getting ready to shovel the snow, grumbling about the cold, and not loving the early morning – I was taking Hudson to daycare.

And as soon as he steps on the porch, he starts yelling and dancing instantly. “Daddy it’s here, it’s here, snow is here. Daddy, look ,snow, and that means it’s Christmas…Yeah!!!!” And he started running around, making tracks, jumping up and down and yelling “yeah it’s Christmas.”  I saw quite a few families who were walking their kids to school, look at Hudson, smile, and laugh.

And it dawned on me that I was missing something. I was missing some of the joy, anticipation, and excitement about Christmas. I was missing out because I wasn’t entering in.

So of course we ran around in the snow, and I started rediscovering the joy of this season.

So my question for you is this: have you lost any of the joy and anticipation of the season?

Because Christmas is a great season, there is so much to celebrate, and there is joy to be found. Don’t let the familiarity with Christmas rob you of its wonder.

Because Hudson taught me, and I think any of my neighbors outside, that there is something coming worth getting excited about.

Pure Joy and Pure Wonder

This is a picture of Hudson. I think it just shows pure joy. I love this picture because it is who Hudson truly is. He is a boy with a lot of joy.

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And to be honest Hudson shows his joy and thankfulness a lot. His prayers at supper and lunch tend to be long as he thanks God for everything he can think of. They are full of joy of what he has done in the day and hopes to do.

What amazes me is how much he has to thank God for, things I don’t even think of. He thanks God for all his cars (often by name…so it takes a while). He thanks God for our family, for Grandma and Nana and Papa (often also praying that he will go there on Tuesday), and for sunshine, for his backpack, for Skylanders, and for everything else.

I got to wondering if part of the reason Hudson is so joyful in this picture is because he is able to be so “present” to things?

Every experience for Hudson is like a brand new experience. He enters into with eyes-wide-open. We have been to the Splash Pad in that picture dozens of times, but he loves it like it’s new each and every time. There is a sense of wonder that permeates his life. There is a sense of joy that spills out.

I wonder when was the last time I felt like that?

When was the last time you looked like that picture?

I think this is something to strive for. I think this is something to seek, about being at a place of pure joy. So this week practice being thankful, practice entering into familiar places and relationships with wonder and awe. Practice being fully present. And if none of those things work. Why not try running through a splash pad…

“The insights of wonder must be constantly kept alive…I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder. And you gave it to me”. Abraham Joshua Heschel

Money Can Buy You Happiness

Money can buy happiness. It’s true and if you’d like to see the study that shows it I’ve posted the video below.

But for the quick version here’s how you can buy some happiness. Spend money on someone else.

Studies have shown that giving and spending money on others actually increases your happiness more than if you would spend it on yourself. Basically the social sciences are now catching up to what the Bible has always taught us: that being generous leads to a fuller life.

So on Sunday we’re actually going to look into this a bit deeper. We are going to be talking about money and finances. Now often when this has been talked about in the church it has been done poorly. This leads people to thinking that the church is just in it for money, that the pastor is trying to get a raise, or that giving gets tied to guilt. But this isn’t the picture of money and finances that the Bible paints. In the Bible guilt isn’t to drive our giving, instead grace is to guide our giving.

So on Sunday we are going to be looking at the topic of money from a different angle: through the lens of grace. We will explore how, when money and giving gets tied to grace, new life forms, how joy explodes, and how you connect not only with God but others. So I hope you can join us.

To prepare why not try this today: take the money you would have spent on yourself for coffee, for lunch, or something else and spend it on someone. See how it makes you feel when grace gets tied to giving. And then we’ll explore it deeper on Sunday. But today why not go out and buy some happiness…

Hide and Seek with Jesus

On Sunday we talked about joy, and you can listen to it here. We talked about how joy is connected to finding Jesus. Because when you find Jesus, you find someone special. You find a person who is God, and yet just like us. You find a person who knows what it is to struggle, yet overcomes. You find a person who knows everything, yet just wants to get to know you…

This is a person worth finding.

And when you find him and connect with him you get connected to joy, hope, peace, and love. Because Jesus is each of those things. He doesn’t give us joy, we find our joy in him as Paul says. And so key to finding and holding on to joy in our lives is finding and holding onto Jesus. He is our source. Finding Jesus means finding joy, peace, hope, and love that lasts. It lasts because he lasts, he is steady, he is true, and the story of Christmas is that he is here. The invitation to the shephereds in Luke 2 is that Jesus is findable, “meetable”, and here.

So how do you find him in your life? Simple. Just do what the shepherds do…they start looking.

Each week I write a post called “Where I saw Jesus this Week…”. And maybe this week you should comment or write your own post titled “Where you found Jesus this week…”

Because he is ready and willing to be found…and with him comes joy, peace, love, and hope…

The question is are you looking?

And if you find him, I’d love to hear how and where…

Finding Joy…Creating Joy…

What brings you joy?

Seriously. What are a few things that bring you joy? Is it being with friends, a good cup of coffee, a sunrise, a giraffe, dancing, cooking, hunting, creating?

What brings you joy?

My challenge today is this: to do something that brings you joy just for the sake of it.

As Christians we’re able to enjoy life, to experience it deeply and openly. So do that today. Go for a run, get out some paints, make a chair. Do whatever is in your  nature that brings you joy, and simply be in the presence of joy.

I’m going to cook. I’m going to get out the ingredients, a new recipe, some great music, and sit my son on the chair and we’ll cook together. And probably make a mess together, but we’ll find joy together.

So find joy today. And then this Sunday we’re going to journey together to hopefully discover how to find joy always. But why wait till Sunday?

Start finding joy today… and share with me what gives you joy?