Posts Tagged ‘A Christmas Story [movie]’

Advent Devotional Day 28: “Life Is Like That”

December 28, 2018

During the month of December, I’ve prepared a series of daily devotionals to help my church get ready for and celebrate Christmas. I created a booklet (if you’d like a copy, let me know), but I’ll also post devotionals each day on my blog.

Devotional Text: Romans 8:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18

In the holiday classic movie A Christmas Story, the family’s Christmas turkey dinner is ruined when the neighbors’ dogs steal the bird from the kitchen counter. The narrator, a grown-up Ralphie, says, “Life is like that. Sometimes at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.”

This was a minor disaster, to be sure. But I love the way the father responds: Despite the fact that Christmas turkey was his favorite part of the holiday, when it was taken away from him, he controls his anger, forces a smile, and tells his family, “Go upstairs. Get dressed. We’re going out to eat.”

If you’re a parent—if you’re a human being in general—you are constantly called upon to rise to the occasion, to deal with adversity, and to handle disasters with equanimity.

So how are you doing at it? 

I have a friend who teaches psychology at a university in town. He said that most of our suffering in life comes not from the disaster itself, but how we respond to it. In my experience, I know that’s true.

But my friend is speaking only from a secular perspective. We believers have God’s Word. In it, we’re told things like “Rejoice always… give thanks in all things.” We’re told that God has “hemmed us in, behind and before,” and that we are held securely in God’s hand. We’re told that in all things God works for good of those who love him. We’re told that the grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient in every circumstance. We’re told that nothing separates us from God’s love.

This means that God has a plan for our lives, and he’s working that plan “when our joy is at its zenith, when all is right with the world, and when disasters, large and small, happen”—and they will. But when they happen, we can say, “Well, this isn’t what I planned or wanted—but I’m not in charge here. I wonder what the Lord is up to? He must have something better for me than I planned.” 

God must have something better for me than I planned!

Do we have the faith to stare a disaster in the face and say that?

In my own experience, and in the experience of any number of people I’ve ministered to over the years who’ve survived disasters, God has a way of taking the bad stuff and transforming it into something good. Have you experienced God this way? If so, how can this experience help you the next time disaster strikes?

Advent Devotional Day 2: “Things Were Different”

December 2, 2018

During the month of December, I’ve prepared a series of daily devotionals to help my church get ready for and celebrate Christmas. I created a booklet (if you’d like a copy, let me know), but I’ll also post devotionals each day on my blog.

Devotional Text: Luke 15:1-2, 11-24

In the holiday classic movie A Christmas Story, the nine-year-old protagonist, Ralphie, has finally had enough: he beats up a bully who has been tormenting  him and his friends for years. His mom intervenes to stop it, but it’s too late. She arrives in time to see her son pummeling the boy mercilessly and—worse, from Ralphie’s perspective—to overhear him cursing like a sailor as he does so. 

His mother, however, is filled with compassion. She takes him home, washes his face, consoles him, and puts him to bed so he can calm down.

At dinner, when his father asks about his day, Ralphie is shocked when his mother downplays the fight—and doesn’t mention the profanity.

“I slowly began to realize,” Ralphie said, in retrospect, “I was not about to be destroyed. From then on things were different between me and my mother.”

From then on, Ralphie realized that his mother was not going to destroy him. He knew that compassion, mercy, and grace were going to win out over judgment, wrath, and death. He knew that his mother was on his side. And he knew that nothing he could do would separate him from his mother’s love. 

Our heavenly Father loves us like that!

Think about today’s scripture. The younger son has squandered his father’s property, threatened his family’s financial security, and told his father, in so many words, that he wished he were dead. And now, out of desperation, the younger son is going home. He can’t predict what his father will do to him. But he knows what he deserves. The best he can hope for is that his father will at least let him live like a slave. 

But the unimaginable happens: when he returns home and experiences his father’s love, mercy, and compassion, what must he have thought?

“I slowly began to realize, I was not about to be destroyed. From then on things were different between me and my father.”

And so it is with us. Our God refused to let sin separate us from him for eternity. He refused to let us get what we deserved. He refused to let us suffer hell without intervening to save us. He loved us too much. 

And God knew before the foundation of the world the price he would pay to save us—that God himself would come into the world in Christ and die on a cross. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

And now things are different between us and God. There is now no condemnation! If we’ll only receive the free gift that he’s offering us!

Have you received this free gift of God? If so, do you picture God as a compassionate father, eager to forgive you—or as Someone who’s waiting to punish you when you mess up? Which picture better corresponds with the Bible?