Posts Tagged ‘A Christmas Story’

“Glory to God in the Highest,” Day 11: Life Is Like That

December 11, 2016

I recently created a 31-day Advent/Christmas devotional booklet for my church called “Glory to God in the Highest.” I will be posting a devotional from it each day between now and the end of the year. Enjoy!

Scripture: Romans 8:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18

glory_cover_finalIn the holiday classic movie A Christmas Story, the family’s Christmas turkey dinner is ruined when the neighbors’ dogs steal the bird off 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.”

chinese_restaurant

The Chinese restaurant where the family has Christmas dinner


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.”[1] We’re told that God has “hemmed us in, behind and before,” and that we are held securely in God’s hand.[2] We’re told that in all things God works for good of those who love him.[3] We’re told that the grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient in every circumstance.[4] We’re told that nothing separates us from God’s love.[5]

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?

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18

2. Psalm 139:5, 10

3. Romans 8:28

4. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

5. Romans 8:38-39

Sermon 12-06-15: “Reel Christmas Classics, Part 2: A Christmas Story

December 7, 2015

christmas_story

This sermon, illustrated using clips from the 1983 film “A Christmas Story,” is mostly about greed: our sinful tendency to desire far less than what God wants to give us. But it’s also about the gospel of Jesus Christ, which, in a way, also comes through in this movie. 

Scripture: Luke 15:11-24

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

The following is my original sermon manuscript. The video clips from A Christmas Story that were shown in the service are included. Please note: The first two minutes of my sermon video are missing, due to operator error. 🙄 For the missing part, refer to the manuscript.

How many of us grown-ups don’t feel a pang of nostalgia when we see that? I do! We remember what it’s like to desire one great toy for Christmas… If only Santa or our parents could give us one great toy for Christmas. It’s a wonderful feeling—desiring something. It’s an emotion, of course, that marketers and advertisers exploit very well. Just a year ago, comedian Jerry Seinfeld received an honorary Clio Award. A “Clio” is the equivalent of the Academy Awards for the advertising industry. And the words of his acceptance speech were brutally honest and deeply cynical, in a way that surely made advertising industry executives in his audience squirm in their seats. He said:

I love advertising because I love lying. In advertising, everything is the way you wish it was. I don’t care that it won’t be like that when I actually get the product being advertised because in between seeing the commercial and owning the thing, I’m happy, and that’s all I want… We know the product is going to stink. We know that. Because we live in the world and we know that everything stinks. We all believe, ‘Hey, maybe this one won’t stink.’ We are a hopeful species. Stupid but hopeful.

I’m sure Seinfeld is exaggerating here. I doubt he believes that “everything stinks” in the world; I certainly don’t. I don’t even believe that the Christmas gifts we desire will inevitably let us down. But I do agree with Seinfeld to this extent: Everything in the world has the potential of stinking. Why? Because of sin. It infects everything, and it’s everywhere. And it certainly has the ability to corrupt our desires, to confuse us about what we really need to be happy, to be satisfied. There’s nothing at all wrong with Ralphie desiring this Red Ryder BB gun, just as there’s nothing wrong with our wanting things. But the question is, why do we think we need them? What do we think possessing them is going to do for us? Read the rest of this entry »