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
Not long ago, I was babysitting my grandkids and I was trying to play a song on my phone for them. The speakers on my phone were a little feeble even though I had it turned all the way up, and my five-year-old grand-daughter said, “Just put it in this coffee cup, Mémé, and it will get louder.” Huh?? Did you know that if you put your cellphone in a cup or bowl, with the speaker down inside the vessel, it will amplify whatever you’re trying to listen to? I had no idea.
The type of cup will determine the amplification you experience. Cups of different structures, shapes, weights, and materials will produce a slightly different sound quality and volume. I thought of this little techy trick last week when we were at the Christian and Missionary Alliance’s General Council.
During the course of the seven-day conference, we heard messages from God’s Word from a variety of speakers, who were chosen to reflect the multi-cultural nature of our movement. One night we heard from an African-American preacher, and the next night a Korean-American pastor preached. We heard from a couple who are of Puerto Rican descent, and also from a Cuban pastor. We heard from C&MA leaders who are white. Our worship leaders and singers were both male and female, black, brown and white, and young and old.
The whole conference was a great experience, but the most touching thing to me was the way that God used His vessels of different ethnicities, cultures and ages to transmit to us different aspects of the same beautiful message. They challenged and encouraged and taught us in different ways. The heart of our Gospel “song”, with its melody, its lyrics, and its message, does not change, but the tone, the key, the timbre and the tempo of the song changes with the style and cultural experience of the vessel who is sharing the Word.
I loved each and every one of these messages, words spoken by servants of our Father, coming from many different cultures, but united in Him, simply doing their part to be the best amplifiers of his Word that they can possibly be.
How can you be the kind of “coffee cup” that He has called you to be, to be a vessel that takes the Song of the Savior and amplifies it so that those around you can hear its life-giving melody?
- Janet Emerson
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.