The Reel Christmas
"I Know Him!"
Today is the final sermon in our Advent Series, “The Reel Christmas” a four-part series highlighting themes selected from favorite Christmas movies.
In week one, The Miracle on 34th Street highlighted themes of faith and believing.
In week two, How the Grinch Stole Christmas highlighted the fact that it’s all about the heart.
In week three, It’s A Wonderful Life highlighted how important it is to not compare yourself to others, but rather find your ultimate joy in what you do have instead of what you don’t.
Today, Christmas Eve, we learn a very important lesson from “Buddy the Elf” who understood a great deal about the true elements of Christmas – not the least of which was the ultimate excitement he showed when the announcement was made that “Santa was coming,” and he exclaimed: “I KNOW HIM!”
In case you haven't seen it - here is a short overview of this Christmas Comedy Classic:
Movie Synopsis (Gleaned largely from MHM.com <Movie House Memories – a Movie Review Blog>)
On Christmas Eve, a baby boy crawls into Santa Claus's sack at an orphanage and is unwittingly transported back to the North Pole. When discovered at the workshop, the elves name him "Buddy" because he is wearing "Little Buddy Diapers", and he is adopted by Papa Elf.
Papa Elf raises the little one as an Elf and names him Buddy. But the growing boy just doesn’t fit in because of his size and lack of elfish talent.
As Buddy (Will Farrell) develops into a discouraged man, Papa Elf decides that it is time to tell Buddy the truth about where he came from. Buddy learns for the first time of his deceased Mother and living Father that is on the naughty list. Buddy sets off through the candy cane forest to New York City to find his family.
In the Big City, Buddy is able to track down his Father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan) who never knew he existed and is not happy to meet this quirky man that eagerly calls him Dad.
Walter has a patient wife (Mary Steenbergen) and a son named Michael that come to accept Buddy as part of their family and force Walter to attempt a relationship with his long-lost son.
Buddy enthusiastically tours the city where he finds the world’s best cup of coffee. He lands a job at a department store where he meets and falls for Jovie (Zooey Deschaenel), who is working as an elf. Buddy loses this job when he calls out the fake and intoxicated store Santa and they get into a huge brawl.
Walter gives Buddy a job at his company where Buddy causes havoc for Walter and they have a falling out. Walter does not care about the quality of his books and only cares about making money. Buddy disrupts an important meeting between Walter and Miles Finch, a successful author who happens to be height challenged. Walter is infuriated and tells Buddy to get out of his life.
Buddy is hurt and runs away. As he roams the streets of NYC on Christmas Eve, he sees Santa and his team in distress in Central Park. Buddy tries to help Santa fix his sleigh but it won’t run because there isn’t enough Christmas spirit.
Jovie remembers Buddy telling her “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loud for all to hear.” Jovie begins singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and as others on the street and watching live news reports on television and even Walter join in, the sleigh begins to run. Santa’s job is saved!
Papa Elf updates the audience with the rest of the story. Buddy and Jovie marry and visit the North Pole with their “little one” and Walter is rehabilitated and founds his own successful publishing company. His first book is Buddy’s story. Everyone lives happily ever after and has a Merry Christmas.
I want to ask you some very important questions this morning.
Do you know Jesus, the baby born in the manger on Christmas Day?
Do you know Him?
How excited are you about knowing Him?
Why would we be ultimately excited about knowing Jesus and exclaiming like Buddy the Elf did, “I Know Him!?”
I want to unpack three reasons why we should be as excited as Buddy the Elf to be able to say: “I Know Him”
Reason #1: We should be excited because of Who He is!
John 1:1, 14, 18 - In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.
In the beautiful Christmas Song, What Child is This? The author pens these incredible words:
What Child is this - Who laid to rest - On Mary's lap is sleeping? Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping? So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, Come Peasant, King to own Him The King of Kings salvation brings, Let loving hearts enthrone Him. This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing - Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, The Babe, the Son of Mary. This is incredible knowledge! This is life-altering, a true “life-event!”
Reason #2: We should be excited because what Christ did for us!
I John 2:2-3 - He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments.
I Timothy 2:5 - For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity--the man Christ Jesus.
Jesus is it – He’s our only hope! And as a bonus, people all around, every year, celebrate His coming!
Reason #3: We should be excited because we can have complete access to the Christ of Christmas and to the “out of this world” benefit of having a personal relationship with Him.
Paul, while under house arrest in either Rome or Ephesus, wrote an incredibly encouraging letter to church in Philippi that he sent back with Epaphroditus after Epaphroditus delivered a monetary gift to Paul from the church. This letter, has been termed by man as having the main theme of “Joy.” In this letter, we find Paul’s reason for excitement!
Phil. 3:10-11 - I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
The reason why Paul was excited? When Christ enters our life through trusting in Him alone for our salvation, we experience the same power that raised Him from the dead.
Look with me at Ephesians 2:1-8!
Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. 4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. 8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
This Gift? It’s Jesus! When we are born, we have to deal with spiritual death – being “dead to Christ because of our sin.” But the same power that raised Him from the dead has come to us. By accepting His Gift of salvation, we too can experience a resurrection from death to life eternal.
That knowledge is incredible! Do you know Jesus? Will you exclaim to everyone, everywhere – like Buddy the Elf when hearing that Santa was coming, – “I Know Him!?”
The Reel Christmas
“It’s A Wonderful Life”
This Advent Season, we are gleaning Biblical life lessons from all-time favorite movies! The first Sunday we considered lessons on believing and exercising faith, from Miracle on 34th Street. Last Sunday we gleaned a lesson from How The Grinch Stole Christmas about “heart problems and how small our hearts are when consumed by selfishness and hate.
This week we’d like to consider life lessons from an all-time favorite “It’s A Wonderful Life”
This week’s movie is considered a holiday classic. The gold standard of holiday movies. It was released in 1947 and bombed. It didn’t even making its production budget back.
It didn’t make many waves back in the day, but today this movie proves that sometimes even a mistake can’t stop from believing that it really is A Wonderful Life!
So full of energy, so full of hope, so full of optimism! But….. George Bailey never left town – never got to fulfill his life’s ambitions – instead he stayed in Bedford Falls and much to his chagrin, took over and ran his father’s Savings and Loan business. A rich, miserly, grouchy businessman in town, Mr. Potter, was constantly shoving his wealth around town and subsequently in George’s face.
George Bailey married his sweet heart and had beautiful children, but because George always put the needs of others ahead of his own wants and desires, the Savings and Loan could barely survive.
When $8,000 was misplaced by George’s Uncle Billy a series of events unfolds that causes George to lose it. George leaves his beautiful family and his old house in a huff believing that all was lost and only thinking about what a disaster life was. After getting drunk at a local bar, George gets in a fight and run out the door of the bar to a nearby bridge to contemplate ending his life. However, George’s guardian angel falls from heaven, Clarence who promptly dives into the river to prevent George from killing himself. Instead of jumping with the intent to end his life, George jumps in to save Clarence.
When George says to Clarence he wished he’d never been born, Clarence proceeds to show George an alternate timeline in which George had never been born. George is subsequently shocked and dismayed beyond words! One of the hardest things in life is to live in the present and simultaneously see a bigger picture. George Bailey went off the deep end, because he couldn’t see the bigger picture. How many of us, often feel like our life is just one despair from another and we might even wish we never would have been born?
King Solomon in Ecclesiastes says it well – let’s read from “The Message” this morning.
Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That’s what the Quester says.] There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke. What’s there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone? One generation goes its way, the next one arrives, but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old planet earth. The sun comes up and the sun goes down, then does it again, and again—the same old round. The wind blows south, the wind blows north. Around and around and around it blows, blowing this way, then that—the whirling, erratic wind. All the rivers flow into the sea, but the sea never fills up. The rivers keep flowing to the same old place, and then start all over and do it again. Everything’s boring, utterly boring— no one can find any meaning in it. Boring to the eye, boring to the ear. What was will be again, what happened will happen again. There’s nothing new on this earth. Year after year it’s the same old thing. Does someone call out, “Hey, this is new”? Don’t get excited—it’s the same old story. Nobody remembers what happened yesterday. And the things that will happen tomorrow? Nobody’ll remember them either. Don’t count on being remembered.
Wow! What a dismal perspective! George Bailey felt just like the description of life in our Scripture today. How about you? Do you despair? Do you lack hope? Do you lack joy just in the fact that you’re alive? God has better things planned for your life than to live with that kind of discouragement.
You never realize how much you have until you lose it. Friends are better than anything you could seek. However, we tend not to let that be enough!
George Bailey gave of himself – gave up worldly pursuits to help others – but in the end, George spent so much time comparing his life to others that he couldn’t see what he had.
Comparison is one of Satan’s favorite tools. Jealousy, envy, comparison – they are thieves of joy!
James 3:16 -For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
Do you look at others… At what they have and what you don’t have by comparison? George let the sin of comparison take away his joy - his life appeared so dismal, he wanted to end his life. But George was offered a second chance at life. Let’s look at what happened when Clarence was instrumental in getting a second chance for George Bailey. George returns home with an entirely different perspective. And he was about to experience a surprise like he’d never seen. Even in the face of insurmountable odds, His heart was changed and he became so much more positive – and his financial situation was about to become miraculously different.
Let’s get Paul’s perspective:
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message)
So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.
THE REEL CHRISTMAS
Is Your Heart Big Enough?
Our Advent Sermon Series this year is entitled “The Reel Christmas.” We’ve selected four very popular Christmas movies to assist us in relaying truths about Christmas. Last week Miracle of 34th Street showed us the importance and necessity of believing and having faith. Today, we look to the timeless legend, The Grinch, for our message theme.
“Grinch’s Small Heart”
The Grinch’s heart was simply too small. Too small to understand the concept of doing anything except that which was selfish and for his own personal gain. And because his heart drove his words and actions, his misery demanded company. So he set out to destroy that which fed those with bigger hearts.
In today’s culture, we hear a lot about the heart.
A popular saying today is: “follow your heart…” or “I have to follow my heart.”
One of the most successful people in the computer business was a man named Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Computers. At the time of his death in 2011, Steve Jobs' net worth was estimated at $10.2 billion. From his early days at Apple, Jobs had been rich. He had a net worth of more than a million dollars by 1978, when he was 23 years old. Surely Steve Jobs would have been accurate with his quotes. Here’s what Mr. Jobs had to say about the heart: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
There is one simple inherent problem with following your heart and intuition. By your original nature, it will most often lead you away from God. Let’s look to one of God’s prophets to learn why.
Jeremiah 17:9 - "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”
Dr. Seuss, in our movie today, created a character that embarrassingly mirrors our natural character. That character will plague us until the day we die!
Paul is clear in his analysis of our character challenge in his letter to the Romans
Romans 7:21-25 – “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart.23 But there is another power[e] within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”
The answers to every challenge with the heart is found in Jesus Christ. But He has to inhabit our heart in order to do the work necessary. Jesus is the Light of the World and when He comes into our lives, He chases the darkness away.
God’s prophet Isaiah talked about this darkness and the need for Light hundreds of years before Christ came to earth.
Isaiah 9:2 – “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.”
Paul told the Romans plainly that he found the line between good and evil cutting through his own heart. Just resolving to do better, he said, didn’t produce the results he sought. John, too, wrote about the darkness within us, and our profound need for Christ’s light in our lives.
When truth comes, what happens?
The Grinch’s heart was too small - nothing could fit in it – only the darkness he was born with. But finally, he saw the light. And his heart grew!
Is your heart big enough for Jesus? Or do you have too many other things there?
Christmas will come, whether you have the light within, whether you make room in your heart and certainly with or without your celebration.
The Reel Christmas
There is a popular saying in our culture today – one simple word: Believe! You can find “Believe” on T-shirts, plaques, stationery, cups, magnets, buttons, pillows, posters, and even ornaments! It appears that within the psyche (that which is responsible for one’s thought, feelings, and conscious brain functions), that humans have a deep desire to “Believe” in something. Now we’re not talking about the “believing” in your favorite sports teams, or in your own or someone else’ abilities, etc. Mankind wants to believe in something they can’t see, something “magical” or “mystical.” To be able to believe in something you can’t see or have never seen is called “faith.”
Movies have been made, Books have been written, Cultural Phenomena followed and Religions established and followed – all because of this desire to “Believe” and to have and exercise “faith.”
When one struggles with believing and having faith, there is a cynicism that exists and continues to develop within the human “psyche.” There is good reason for this cynicism. It comes from the Enemy whose very existence is the anthesis of living a life of faith in the Jesus of Christmas. The Enemy does not want us to have faith… to “believe!”
Hebrews 11:6 – “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”
How important is it to believe… to have faith? Well, how important is it to please God?
Going through life without pleasing God is to live life void of the very existence He planned out for you, a plan that was made even before you existed.
Jer. 1:5 - “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you…”
We must believe!
There are however, many skeptics who find it extremely difficult to believe and exercise faith. They struggle, with the basic concept of believing in something they can’t see. Because they can’t accept something by faith, they cover their lack of faith by calling it a “crutch for the weak-minded” or a failure to exercise “common-sense.” They fail to incorporate into their “psyche” or “frame of mind” the concept of faith.
In the Movie: “Miracle on 34th Street” – we see an entire movie based on the subject of “Believing” and having “Faith.” In this movie, Kris Kringle, a.k.a. Santa Claus sums it up well with the quote: “If you can’t accept anything on faith, then you’re doomed for a life dominated by doubt.” You see, the whole concept of Christmas, the birth of the Son of God, born of a Virgin, in a stable, none the less, is just too much for some to believe and accept in faith. And without God putting on flesh, you might as well forget the rest of the story. Christmas is meant to be incorporated into our “psyche”… into our “frame of mind.”
Kris Kringle says: “Christmas isn’t just a day… it’s a frame of mind.”
How is your frame of mind – your “psyche?” Have you embraced God’s plan for you? Have you exercised faith? Do you believe?
I can assure you today – it is God’s will, his “Gift” for you to believe, and receive eternal life. Nothing less will do. You will have “less”, period, if you don’t have faith and believe.
Romans 2:8-10 - 8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Are you like some in the movie? You can’t believe?
John 20:24-29 - 24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin),[c] was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” 26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” 28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. 29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
A line from the movie from George Seaton, the screenwriter for Miracle on 34th Street: “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.” Today, through the eyes of faith believing, would you look into the manger? Would you look full into the wonderful face of Baby Jesus and accept Him as God’s Gift to you?
In times past, from the beginning of the Old Testament God spoke to us through prophets. But the gap that sin created between us and God still existed. The law could not change the sinful heart of mankind.
Then, in His timing, the Old Testament ended - words from His prophets ceased. For 400 years the priests went about their duties without any additional Divine Instruction or Inspiration. Then when God’s timing was perfect, His silence with Mankind was broken by a cry of a baby born in Bethlehem. And we who once walked in darkness have seen a great light.
And then the gap… closed – that is for anyone who believes.
Have you closed the gap between you and God by believing in Jesus Christ – only – for your salvation?
This can be your best Christmas ever!