Friday, November 30, 2012

Loving Charlie Brown

Christmas is just around the bend now, and TV channels are already starting to play all those Christmas-themed movies and specials we know and love. With that in mind, I thought I would spend a few weeks talking about some of my favorites. Those who know me well may recognize some of this from a sermon series I did during the Advent season last year.

Today: A Charlie Brown Christmas

We all know the Christmas season is supposed to be a joyful one. We fill out cards, share a big family meal, exchange presents, and just generally have a good time. We decorate our trees and sing our carols as we reflect on the love we share. And for so many people, it's a season filled with smiles and laughter and gladness. But for so many others, it's not.

One person who struggles to find happiness this time of year is Charlie Brown, star of Charles M. Schulz’s popular Peanuts cartoon strip. Normally, we expect our heroes/stars to be brave, self-sufficient, strong, intelligent, outspoken, successful, good-looking, optimistic - but generally speaking, Charlie Brown is none of those things. Instead, poor little Charlie Brown is insecure, bald, and seems to have a permanent case of bad luck. He is what you might call a "born loser". His friends call him "Blockhead", his baseball team always loses, and Lucy always moves the football away before he can kick it.

And so, every year, when A Charlie Brown Christmas comes on (as it has without fail since 1965), it comes as no surprise that Charlie Brown has a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit. While everybody else is happy and excited, Charlie Brown feels misplaced. In fact, these are his first lines in the special:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Click Here and Be Thankful!

Well, Thanksgiving is upon us, and you know what that means...


I heard someone say once, "Only in America can you have a whole day devoted to thanking God for what you already have, and then the next day go out and trample over one another in the name of a good sale for things you don't need!" But it seems to me that things are getting worse. I was already complaining when I saw that Walmart was gonna start their "Black Friday" sale at 8 PM on Thanksgiving Day - that seemed ridiculous enough - but then I saw a flyer announcing that K-mart's event begins at 6 AM Thanksgiving Day!

Click © 2006 Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)
I think it's time to start a movement. We've heard so much over the past few years about "putting Christ back in Christmas". I think it's time we remind people to put the Thanks back into Thanksgiving! We need to remind people that Christmas is about more than presents and Thanksgiving is about more than just rushing out to buy presents! These holidays, for the Christian, ought to be times of reflection and celebration. Just as Christmas becomes the celebration of the greatest gift of all, when God sent his Son to live and die for us, so Thanksgiving is a time to remember the many gifts God has given each of us, especially the gifts of life and family and love. These gifts are greater than all the "stuff" we can ever buy in a store (Luke 12:23), and that's a lesson Adam Sandler's character learned the hard way in the 2006 movie, Click.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lost Causes

The United States seems to be in the midst of a cultural "civil war" with Christians on both sides. Many of my conservative Christian friends are upset at the results of the presidential election, while some more liberal Christian friends see the results as a good thing. Believers on the "Religious Right" look at the Democrats' stances on abortion and gay marriage and see them as being in direct defiance of what the Bible teaches. Those on the other side look at the Republican plan and accuse them of neglecting the verses about caring for the poor and showing no favoritism to the rich. Even though we were meant to be united in Christ, the Church seems to be split over whether the letter of the Word or the spirit of the Word is more important. They are divided over interpretations and preferences. And if we look around at how many different denominations there are, it really shouldn't come to us as any big surprise!

Lincoln Memorial
Abraham Lincoln led America through some divisive years
At times, it can be downright depressing, as people on each side feel like they're fighting an uphill battle for the principles they hold dear. In addition to the presidential election, there are things like the vote to legalize marijuana in Colorado and Washington and the vote to allow same-sex marriage in more states that continue to spark debates and legal battles. These things polarize the population, and then we see the rise of atheist groups and the growing acceptance of other religions, and we see Christian symbols being removed from public places, and it can be easy to believe that fighting for our Biblical principles is a lost cause - especially when the Bible says things will only get worse!  Jesus says that when we hear about wars and rumors of wars, and when natural disasters are springing up all over the place, and when Christians are being persecuted right and left, these things are only "the beginning of the birth pangs" (Mark 13:8) - the first signs that the end of the world is coming. But in the same breath, he encourags us not to give up, for "the one who endures to the end will be saved." (Mark 13:13)