Originally published Nov. 30, 2016.
Just in case you aren’t aware, Christmas is coming.
I know for many of you, maybe even most of you, this comes as no surprise. Sure, I get it, you have been looking at a calendar, or television commercials, or watching the sales. Perhaps you determined this in the aftermath of extended family decimating a turkey not unlike piranhas in the Amazon. Or maybe it was the beginning of strange small lights appearing on your drive home.
For me, it isn’t any of those…it is Hallmark Christmas movies. Yes, I am married to a “Hallmarkaholic.” Oh you may not yet see a 12-step program set up for these people but it should be made available.
“Hi, I’m Sheri, and I’m a Hallmarkaholic.”
“It’s been seven hours since I watched my last movie…” You get the idea.
Now before you pounce on me about pointing out her particular addictive behavior, I recognize I’m the co-dependent! “Hey honey, may I get you another cup of tea while you’re watching the movie?” And truth be told, I have spent a good number of hours watching some of Larry Levinson’s finest. I’ve also had to walk away from a number that were, well, just not watchable. And in the process of watching some of these “questionable” movies the mental steps begin of determining do I walk away, or do I stay and watch? What is it about the movie that draws me in or turns me away? What is it about certain characters that I don’t like or that I like? Or is it the acting? And then I find myself asking these same questions in other parts of my life – including Christmas church services.
Jesus was a storyteller and I think God loves the dramatic. Throughout scripture we see great drama, amazing rescues of his people from slavery, battles of epic proportions where walls are broken down supernaturally, or battles of 300 versus a countless enemy and the 300 win, love stories of a man giving years of his life to serve for the hand of the woman he loved, and the greatest love story of all, Jesus giving his life for the world! And truth be told (I like truth!) the coming Advent season is exactly what makes Hallmark movies enjoyable!
Hope, peace, joy and love. The Sundays of Advent tell a story which includes all of these components or something related. The word “advent” means “coming” or “arrival” so this season we celebrate the coming of Jesus. The individual Sundays will likely present a message about each of these topics, hope, peace (or preparation for peace), joy and love, and the great finish comes with Christmas Eve.
A good movie needs characters, conflict and resolution. Just like today, there were issues in the world at the time of Jesus which included harsh politics, difficult economics and, in many ways, a breakdown of society. What was needed as much then as now is hope – don’t we hope it will get better? Couldn’t we all use peace, especially after this election year? And I know joy always seems in shorter supply than we would like! And is there truly anyone alive who doesn’t desire a great love story?
All joking aside, it doesn’t take much to see this world needs these things. Reading the news, looking on Facebook, listening to the radio, and we are bombarded with negative stories. Images of violence, distrust, hate, pain…this is breaking our hearts and destroying our souls. I have literally been brought to tears by the words I read of people I have respected and admired and now their outbursts have had shattering effects on many. “Friends,” using the word loosely, have gotten into such heated debate over issues facing this country and this world that no one would have believed they ever had a positive relationship. And our children have picked up on an even bigger challenge. They have been left with such a feeling of despair because they hear and see nothing which gives them any hope of a good life.
If the world is to be destroyed by mankind in such a short time, why bother going to school or even worry about being a good person? I have heard those very statements from their mouths…but…and this is the important thing…there is hope! There can be peace, and joy, and love!
Jesus spoke of these times. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Now I admit, not everything will be repaired or made right in a two-hour time period (less commercials). It will take much longer. But we need to start, for our own good and for the good of our children.
This Sunday, at whatever church you may pick to attend, they will likely be talking about an amazing story. One that changed the world as we all know it. The story may not play out as a young child on stage saying, “I’ll tell you what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.” And it likely won’t be played out as a Hallmark Christmas movie. But the story will tell of a God who loved his creation so much, he gave his very best, his son, to be the greatest gift the world has ever known.
And for many, like me, we may struggle with the cast of characters, the level of drama, and the overall production, but I want to encourage you all to focus on the story. The story is a great one, full of hope, full of peace, full of joy, and most importantly, full of love.
So while I go and get my wife another cup of tea before the next movie starts, maybe you can make your Sunday plans. And may this season bring you true hope, true peace, true joy and true love!
Len Bundy writes from WonGeneration.