It's a Wonderful Life
It’s that time of year again. In our American culture, it’s time for decorating, buying presents, baking cookies, celebrating with family and friends, singing Christmas carols, and hopefully, also worshipping the Lord Jesus, who truly is “the reason for the season”.
One Christmas tradition that is also a REALLY BIG DEAL to some people is watching Christmas movies. Even if you’re not much of a movie watcher, you’ve probably seen at least a few holiday films in your lifetime. Some are classics from way back, like A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, or Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
We’ve also got some more modern classics, like The Grinch, Elf, and Home Alone. There are horror movies, adventure/drama movies, comedies, and romances, all with a Christmas theme.
But of all the Christmas movies available, movie experts say that one stands out as having actually changed the Christmas movie genre. Even though it was released over 35 years ago, you can still find it playing in theaters at this time of year. On television you will find marathons from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, where one station plays the film over and over again for 24 hours straight, attracting more than 40 million viewers. I’m speaking of A Christmas Story, the film about nine-year-old Ralphie Parker, who desperately wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, even though everyone keeps telling him that “you’ll shoot your eye out!”
Movie critics say that this movie was the first one to show things the way they really were for most families at Christmastime, and to show it from a kid’s perspective. Not everything was rosy in 1940 in Hammond IN, the setting for the movie. Ralphie had to contend with a bully at school and his grumpy dad at home, as well as the usual sibling rivalry with his brother. He was obsessed with getting his Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, but it didn’t look promising. Mr. and Mrs. Parker seemed at odds with one another, and Ralphie’s mother seemed to be trying to hold the family together.
The thing that makes A Christmas Story’s success so amazing is that it was an incredibly LOW BUDGET film. Think about it…there were no real “special effects”, no fancy sets, the actors weren’t the biggest names around, and it was actually filmed mostly in Cleveland!
When it was released, it wasn’t projected to do very well, and although it was modestly successful, it disappeared in two weeks. Then a funny thing happened. With the advent of VHS players in homes, people were interested in buying movies, and A Christmas Story was in in the right place at the right time. Before you knew it, people were snatching it up and watching it in the comfort of their own living rooms. Over the years, people made it a part of their regular holiday tradition. Some people invented games and activities, contests and even conventions based on the movie. Over the last 35 years, this low-budget, unlikely film has risen to become one of the most popular American Christmas movies of all time.
In the same way, wasn’t Bethlehem an unlikely place for the King of the Universe to show up? Weren’t Mary and Joseph the least likely people to be his parents? Isn’t it kind of strange that a baby who was so poor that he had to sleep with the animals became the most powerful figure in human history? And wasn’t it shocking that lowly shepherds-people on the bottom rung of society-were the first to hear the news that the Messiah had arrived?
God the Father had it planned this way all along. He was doing a new thing. He was doing it His way, not the way that people expected. He was breaking the mold, and bringing news of great joy that was for all the people. He was fulfilling His promises and the prophecies that had been uttered centuries before. He was sending Emmanuel, “God with us”, who would save his people from their sins. That’s the real Christmas Story, no matter what time of year it is.
- Janet Emerson
A Secret of a Deeper Faith
The Bible is full of heroes that inspire us by their faith-filled exploits. Daniel in the lion’s den, Noah building the ark, and Elijah calling down fire from heaven capture our imaginations and create within us a yearning to follow in their footsteps.
Perhaps no one is a greater example of the life of faith than Abraham. God called him to leave his native country and go to a new land. He and his then-childless wife would eventually have more descendants than there were stars in the sky and all of the nations of the world would be blessed through him. While far from perfect, Abraham’s faithful obedience is held up in the Scriptures as a model for all of us to follow. He is called the father of those who have faith (Galatians 3:7-9).
Romans 4:20 has a great secret that points the way to developing a faith like Abraham’s. “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” Abraham was in the habit of giving glory to God before he received the answer to the promise.
Many of us will remember to thank God afterwards for the blessings that he gives us. Our thankfulness may even turn to worship. Abraham glorified God even when it appeared that it would be impossible for God to keep his promise. And the practice of glorifying God caused his faith to grow deeper and more certain.
What does it mean to glorify God? The term “glory” means that something is weighty or honorable. When referring to the Lord, it means that which makes God impressive. Of course, each of his attributes is impressive. We cannot add to the “weight” of them, but by focusing on them and acknowledging them we bring him honor.
By developing the discipline of glorifying God, we change the “weight” which we allow things to have in our lives. We tend to focus on our problems. As we do, we give our problems “glory” and they become heavier in our minds. If we focus on God, he becomes heavier and our problems lighter.
What does this look like? How do we glorify God so that our faith grows stronger?
I find that I need to set aside time to worship. Sunday morning is a good place to start. The music team at Word of Life does a good job of setting the table for us to worship. The music is God-focused and invites us to glorify him. It’s possible to simply sing along or enjoy the quality of music, so I need to intentionally focus on the Lord and the aspect of his character that the music is highlighting. In my mind (or out loud) I say, “Yes, Lord, this is true about you. You are holy. You are powerful. You are faithful.” The music, along with the encouragement of the people around me singing, makes it easy to shift my vision from my problems to God.
But an hour on Sunday isn’t enough. We need to have regular times of private worship as well. Let me give you three tips to developing a habit of glorifying God:
As you spend time focusing on the greatness of God you will discover that your faith in him will grow. As your faith in him grows, you find that obedience to him will become easier. You will pray with more certainty and start to walk in the footsteps of Abraham
Word of Life Staff
A place for the Word of Life staff and guest writers to share of themselves in writing with the Word of Life family.