Scrooge and Elf

I did a Christmas movie two-fer, also known in some circles as a marathon or a movie binge. I watched the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol and Elf.

I own 9 versions of the Dickens classic. I can’t exactly say why I’m drawn to the movies and the book other than the character of Ebenezer Scrooge.

I can think of no other character outside the Bible who transforms so dramatically from beginning to end. Scrooge goes from the most unfeeling, miserly, cold-hearted man to ever live into the patron saint of Christmas.

The 1951 movie especially captures the meanness of the pre-spirits Scrooge and the giddiness after. Alastair Sims captures all of the range of this character better than any other actor that I’ve ever seen.

And Elf. It’s such a goofy movie that I love so much. You have a grown-up kid who thinks he’s an elf because he grew up among elves. However, it’s not all candy canes and twirly swirly gum drops.

There’s actually a dramatic part of the story where Buddy the Elf doesn’t feel like he fits in anywhere– neither the world of elves or the world of humans. I think that resonates with just about every one of us at some point.

The key is when Buddy finally finds his purpose, what he’s good at, and quits trying to please everyone else and fit their ideas of what he should be.

So that’s my Christmas two-fer. I feel all warm and fuzzy inside now. So Merry Early Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Only 17 more days!

Another Christmas Carol

“It was the afternoon of Christmas Eve and Scrooge was conscious of a thousand odors, each one connected with a thousand thoughts and hopes and joys and cares long, long forgotten” (from The Muppet Christmas Carol).

Yeah, I finally got around to this one. It was as delightfully muppet-y as I’d hoped it would be. I think I’ve now seen just about every important adaptation of A Christmas Carol that’s ever been put on film.

As stated before, my very favorite adaptation is still the 1951 British version starring Alastair Sims. That’s always required viewing for me every Christmas season. But this one will be added to my list of favorites.

Now matter how many times I’ve seen it in all its various incarnations, the truth of the story always hits home with me. Christmas may be a day on the calendar, but the spirit of Christmas isn’t limited to 24 hours. It’s all the days of the year, ever year for as long as we live.

Christmas above all isn’t about presents and decorations. It’s about remembering those who have enriched our lives but who are no longer with us. It’s about family and friends gathered together to celebrate another year come and gone. It’s about the God who became flesh and was born into the world and dwelt among us, showing that even though we could never get to God, He could (and did) come to us in Jesus.

My prayer for all of us this season is that we don’t get so lost in the commercialism and fast-paced hustle that we forget about the tiny baby lying in a manger. I’m praying we can all celebrate the Advent of Emmanuel, who’s coming changed the world.

And yes, it was great seeing all my favorite Muppet characters (even Beaker), especially Gonzo as Mr. Charles Dickens and Rizzo the Rat as himself.

Advent Wisdom

“Can you forgive a pig-headed old fool with no eyes to see with and no ears to hear with all these years?” (Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol).

I love this line from the 1951 Alastair Sims adaptation of A Christmas Carol. I very much doubt it’s from the Charles Dicken’s novel, but I think it echoes the sentiment of his original work.

It also echoes the sentiment that many of us have felt when we discover wisdom in our later years.

I’ve found lately that wisdom is found in appreciating what you have and not taking the people in your life for granted. At this time of year, it’s easy to look back at people — especially relatives– who are no longer living– and see how many missed opportunities you had to spend time with them.

Wisdom is knowing that while you may have learned a lot over your lifetime, there is still so much yet to discover and experience, so much out there that you don’t know, that your knowledge compared to the total sum of knowledge and wisdom is a drop in the ocean.

For me this year, wisdom has been learning to slow down and savor the Advent season and not be in such a hurry to get to Christmas. It’s been seeing the holiday as more than just what’s underneath all the shiny wrapping papered boxes under the tree.

Advent and Christmas celebrate that God saw that we could never hope to comprehend Him where He was, so He came to where we were and became one of us so that we might truly know Wisdom Incarnate.God became a man so that man could know God and see that He is infinitely loving and trustworthy.

So far, so good. I’ve made a small dent in my required holiday movie watching. I’m also learning to wait well in this Advent season. So it’s all good.

 

 

 

Unspeakable Joy to All You Ebenezers Out There

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“Joy, it’s always a function of gratitude — and gratitude is always a function of perspective. If we are going to change our lives, what we’re going to have to change is the way we see” (Ann Voskamp).

I love the 1951 version of Scrooge, known to us Americans as A Christmas Carol. Most of what I love about the movie is how giddy Ebenezer Scrooge is at the end when he discovers the true spirit of Christmas. That gets to me every single time.

I’m thinking about a Facebook friend who posted about how much she hated Christmas, partly due to the fact that all she saw were the crazy spending, the long lines, the push-and-shove grab-all-you-can mentality.

That’s not Christmas. At least that’s not what Christmas is truly all about.

Joy does come when you shift your perspective from what is seen, i.e. the money exchanging hands, to the unseen, i.e. what can never be bought and can never be earned but only received as a free gift.

I often lose perspective, especially in Nashville traffic. But I always love being reminded that as a believer saved by that amazing grace, I have more reason than anyone to have unspeakable joy.

I hope you never forget who you were when Jesus found you. I hope you never lose the feeling of that moment when your life changed forever and you went from being a nobody set on a dead end street to a child and heir of God bound for something much better than anyone has ever dreamed.

Jesus now and Heaven ahead. Actually, Jesus now and then Jesus AND Heaven ahead. There will always be Jesus.

I love that I discovered Advent later in life because I appreciate it so much more than if I had grown up with it. I also love that I am still coming to understand the full extent of what that unspeakable joy looks and feels like.

I hope and pray that never gets old for any of us who have ever experienced it.

The end.

 

Up, In and Out

We had a guest speaker at Kairos tonight named Chris. Apparently, my ADD kicked in at some point because his last name escapes me. I remember that he is a pastor in a church at Tuscaloosa and a self-proclaimed introvert, but I can’t for the life of me recall any part of his last name.

He said that the Christian life basically needs three parts– up, in, and out.

Up is worship, in is community, and out is evangelism. Any two without the other third is an incomplete faith. You need all three.

Without worship, you cut yourself off from the power source. Without community, you become easy prey for temptation (like the gazelle that gets separated from the pack when chased by lions). Without evangelism, what you learn and accomplish dies with you.

You need all three. We all do. Yet every one of us is weak in one of these areas. Chris admitted that his area of weakness was evangelism. I can relate. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to go up to a  complete stranger and share your faith.

Still, all is not lost. You can always pray for those in your circle of influence who don’t know Jesus. That’s a place to start. That’s where I am.

By the way, his name is Chris Brooks. I cheated and looked up @kairosnashville and saw where he was tagged in one of their posts. Thanks again, social media, for helping me appear smarter than I really am. That and google are my friends.

My takeaway is that you will never outgrow your need of spending time with God (worship), spending time with other believers (community), and sharing your faith with non-believers (evangelism). The best news of all is that God has already given you everything you need to succeed in all three areas. He’s given you Himself.

So basically, as long as you realize you will never outgrow your complete and total dependence on Jesus, you will be fine.

 

God Bless Us, Every One!

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“Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that Truth might be accused of false witnesses, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.” (St. Augustine of Hippo)

It’s Christmas Day.

For me that means a contentment that goes deeper than me getting all the presents I wanted. It goes even deeper than seeing the faces of family when they unwrapped one of my presents.

For me, contentment on Christmas Day comes from knowing that the baby born on this day doesn’t live in men’s hearts only one day of the year, but all the days (I “borrowed” that line from a movie I watched again earlier today).

The true meaning of Christmas will be just as true on December 26 and beyond. It remains true 365 days of the year, every year. Even on those weird leap years.

I’m content. Even if I watch every girl I’m ever interested in fall in love with someone else, I’m content. Even if I never get that dream job, I’m content.

God became human for me so that I could be like Jesus one day. So that everything that belongs to Jesus– perfect peace, complete joy, unending love, eternal riches– could be mine. Better yet, it is mine.

Like Scrooge, I don’t deserve to be so happy, but I just can’t help it. I really can’t.

May that kind of joy be yours on this Christmas Day and on every day that follows!

The Day After Christmas

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It’s December 26, or as it is officially known, the day after Christmas. Canada and other former British colonies celebrate today as Boxing Day (which has absolutely nothing to do with actual boxing, much to Mike Tyson’s chagrin).

In the past, December 26 always was a let-down. I had waited for weeks and weeks for Christmas to arrive and when it did, it went by so quickly and was over. The presents were nice, but it seemed sad to have nothing to look forward to again for another 364 days.

Of course, you could always celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, made famous by the old song. That gives you until January 6 to keep your Christmas lights and decorations up if you’re dreading having to take it all down.

But I remember something one of the characters in a movie version of a Christmas Carol:

“Mortal! We Spirits of Christmas do not live only one day of our year. We live the whole three-hundred and sixty-five. So is it true of the Child born in Bethlehem. He does not live in men’s hearts one day of the year, but in all days of the year. You have chosen not to seek Him in your heart. Therefore, you will come with me and seek Him in the hearts of men of good will.”

(Ok, I cheated a bit. I remembered a a bit of that vaguely and looked it up on google and found the rest.)

The child born in the manger deserves more than one day a year to celebrate his arrival. Why not make every day a reminder that Emmanuel, God with us, has come and has not left us.

I personally think that it’s perfectly acceptable to watch Christmas movies all year long, should that be your heart’s desire. And if you want to pull out your Christmas music in July, I say go for it!

But most of all, we should strive to be like old Scrooge, who learned to keep Christmas well in his heart not just the one day a year, but every day.

 

 

A Christmas Carol And What Came Of It

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This is not about how the 1951 Alistair Sims version of A Christmas Carol is by far my favorite and the definitive film adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel. Or how about how I watch it every single year during the Christmas season.

This is about how the movie affected me this particular year.

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First of all, the scene of the Crachit family talking about Tiny Tim after his death affected me more this year than in years past. Maybe it was because the deaths of the 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut. The part where Mrs. Cratchit talks about how slowly Bob Cratchit walks now and how fast he used to walk with Tiny Tim on his shoulders. The line that really got to me was “But he was very light to carry, and his father loved him so, that it was no trouble, — no trouble.”

Of course, in the movie, Scrooge changes his ways and the that future is averted. It’s too bad that only happens in the movies.

But I love the part in the end of the movie when Scrooge is overcome with mirth over the transformation affected in his life from just one night. The best line in the whole movie for me is when Scrooge says, “I don’t deserve to be so happy. But I can’t help it. I just can’t help it.”

I know the feeling. Sometimes, I see the grace God has shown me and what I would have been without it and I get a little giddy. Not often, but when it happens, those moments are precious and treasured.

People who know the dark thoughts that sometimes cross their minds, who remember some of the terrible, stupid, awful things they’ve said and done, who wish with all their might they could go back and undo or unsay so many things, are the ones who truly understand and appreciate grace. People like me.

So this is the movie I’ll keep watching every year. And I pray this for you as I echo the words of Tiny Tim: “God bless us, every one!”