The Brilliance of Dr. Seuss, the Grinch, and the Root of Bitterness

happyEndingOn Sunday we looked at the parable of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. In this movie we saw how Grinches are people who enjoy wrecking other people’s joy. That they are bitter, hateful, spiteful, and often live alone up on a mountain with a dog – or maybe cats too.

The point is that with the Grinch Dr. Seuss actually perfectly portrays people in our own lives: people who are petty, small, angry, and bitter. Part of the difficulty with Christmas is that we often end up in close proximity to Grinches. And this can be dififcult and stressful but the question isn’t so much how do we deal with such people? But instead, one question deeper – how do people become Grinches?

We looked back to the movie and again Dr. Seuss is right on. People become grinches when their heart shrinks. When is starts to grow small and cold. One of the number one things that causes this is bitterness. Bitterness will shrink and shrivel your heart faster than anything.

So if that’s how you become a Grinch, how do you prevent that? Because Grinch’s aren’t just around us, but also inside us.

For that we looked, not to the movie, but to Hebrews 12:12-14 where we read this, “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many”.

We camped out here for a while, because the author of Hebrews gives us four really practical steps to prevent “grinchiness”. The first is he teaches us to work at peace. To never give up on peace, to never give into apathy, but instead to work as best we can at peace. He also reminds us to live a holy life. And a holy life looks like Jesus’ life. So we could say to work at living like Jesus. Thirdly, he teaches us to rely on one another, and care for one another. Grinches live lonely lives, and we need to be reminded of the importance of caring and supporting one another. And last but not least, to watch out that bitterness doesn’t take root in our hearts.

What we all know that is living like the Grinch isn’t life-giving. So make a choice to live differently. That’s what changes the Grinch, he makes a decision and his heart grows a little bit. That’s what we need to do too.

So we ended with a challenge to prevent Grinchiness, by rooting out bitterness. To this Christmas work at peace with those who it’s tough, to work at living like Jesus, to ask for care and support for those around us.

And if you get a chance why not watch the movie, because it’s great, and a classic.


Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Prevent Grinchiness, by rooting out bitterness

Teaching Points:

  • Parables hide in plain sight.
  • A Grinch is someone whose heart has shrunk and shriveled.
  • Grinches aren’t just around us, but also inside us.
  • That the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  • Work for peace.
  • Holiness looks, and lives like Jesus.
  • Work at living like Jesus.
  • Work with one another.
  • Root out Bitterness with making a decision.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What are some of your favorite Christmas movies? Do you have any Grinches in your life you have to deal with? What has been helpful in learning to deal with them? Is there any bitterness developing in your heart that needs to be dealt with? Whom do you need to work at peace with? How can you do that?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Watch the movie, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, and then talk about how bitterness can make you into the Grinch. Talk about how it’s important to be grateful at Christmas, to work for peace, and to give. Ask them if there is anyone they want to give to.

Challenge for the Week: Root out bitterness.

The Grinch as a Parable

how-the-grinch-stole-christmas-originalThis Sunday we are showing a parable at church. Of course it’s the classic movie, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, the classic version.

This movie is actually a great parable of what happens when we let bitterness take root in our hearts. It’s actually a really good glimpse into what happens when we stop trying to make peace and live in harmony, and let our self-interest guide us.

So we are going to look at this movie and see how we can not only deal with the “Grinches” in our lives, but how we can ensure we don’t become a Grinch.

Because the slide to becoming a Grinch is often a subtle and slow slide. But it’s one that can be prevented, it can be seen, and it can even be turned around.

So that’s where we are going – but here’s some homework. Watch the Grinch a) because it’s a good parable b) because it’s an awesome movie. I mean who can’t love it when it has lines like, “you’re as prickly as a cactus, and as slippery as an eel” 🙂

“We’re A Couple of Misfits”

On Sunday we talked about the feeling of being a misfit. We watched a clip from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer where Hermey and Rudloph sing, “We’re a couple of misfits, we’re just a couple of misfits, what’s the matter with misfits, that’s where we fit in”.

And then they sing something so true, “We may be different from the rest. Who decides the test, of what is really best?”

Isn’t that true?

Haven’t you ever thought that?

Why do they get to decide what’s best? Why do they get to decide the test of fitting in or not. And they might be your father, mother, sister-in-law, neighbour, whatever.

The point is that many of us don’t’ feel like we fit in around Christmas. Christmas can actually be a time where we are reminded of the fact that we don’t fit in. But this is the exact opposite of what the Christmas story teaches us.

The Christmas story teaches us that Christmas is about welcoming the misfits.

If you think about it at the birth of Jesus we have the Magi, the Shepherds, and Mary and Joseph. All misfits.

The Magi are foreigners, people of different race, religion, and politics. People who are rich and in a different class than Mary and Joseph. Yet they are welcomed in.

The shepherds are outcasts too. They are misfits for sure. Shepherds were people who weren’t marriage material, who were often people of “dubious character”, who were literally on the outside of society. They were misfits.

And Mary and Joseph were too. They clearly didn’t fit in with their family, because no one would welcome them in while she was pregnant. Instead, they were forced to a full inn. People I’m sure thought that Mary had some “character flaws” of her own, that she was pregnant and not yet married. So she and Joseph too are misfits.

Yet what do we see? Jesus’ birth bringing all these misfits together.

One the first things Jesus does when he enters the world is to welcome people who don’t feel like they belong. Is to draw people together who are often left out.

So Christmas, if it’s about anything, is about welcoming. It’s about hospitality. It’s about making room for the misfits in our lives.

So we close with a challenge. That if you feel like a misfit to know that you are welcomed to celebrate with our church, and with Jesus for his birth. Because Christmas is about welcome.

And if Christmas is about welcoming, we should practice welcoming. We need to reach out to the misfits in our lives, and invite them in. It might not be easy, but it really is necessary to live out the meaning fo Christmas.

Because Hermey and Rudolph’s song has some truth, “We may be different from the rest. Who decides the test, of what is really best?” Well, who decides the test, is God. And his decision is to welcome those different from the rest, so I think it’s something we should do too.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Christmas is about welcoming misfits

Teaching Points:

  • Being a “misfit” is a feeling we can all equate to, but hate having.
  • “We may be different from the rest. Who decides the test, of what is really best?”
  • The original Christmas was full of misfits.
  • The Wiseman are foreigners, rich, and different in terms of race, religion, and class.
  • One of Jesus’ first acts upon entering the world is to draw people of difference together.
  • Shepherds were some of the lowest of the low.
  • Jesus’ coming draws misfits together.
  • Christmas is about welcoming the misfits of the world.
  • Jesus decides the test of what is really best.
  • If we want to practice Christmas, it’s about welcome.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What are some of your favorite Christmas movies? When have you had a time where you didn’t fit in? How did you handle it? Are there places you don’t fit in now? If Christmas is about welcome and including, who should you be including this Christmas? How might you do it? Who can help you to keep to it?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Take sometime and watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Afterwards spend sometime talking about the importance of welcoming “those who don’t fit in”. Ask them who they might want to welcome in their school, family, or friends and how they might do it. Then actually help them to do it!

Challenge for the Week: Welcome a misfit; and join in if you are a misfit.

The Christmas Story and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph-Red-Nosed-Reindeer-007This Sunday we are using Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer as our jumping off portion of our sermon. I’m very excited about it, because this is one movie I watch every year. I have watched this movie ever year of my life that I can remember. It helps that this movie is almost double my age…but it’s still good!

But here is what the movie really gets to really well. It gets to the fact that so many of us don’t feel like we fit in with the world. That the expectations that are placed on us, are ones we can never live up to.

And many of us feel this reality all the more at Christmas.

And that’s what I want to talk about on Sunday, the feeling of not fitting in. The feeling of being a bit of a misfit. The feeling of not being included, and what Christmas has to say about that.

Because the truth is this: if Christmas is about anything, it certainly is about welcoming.

So that’s where we are going. But before we get there, why not grab some popcorn and watch a great Christmas movie – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and a Bumble that bounces.

Advent and “A Christmas Story”

movieposterThis Sunday we looked at the movie A Christmas Story to give us a fresh perspective on the Christmas story. And we watched this clip of little Ralphie so deeply hoping for a Red-Rider BB Gun.

The point of the clip on Sunday was that in our day and age – we don’t hope like Ralphie does. We are so generally worried about “living in reality” that we reing in hope. We don’t place our hopes on getting this one thing.

But that’s not what we see actually in the life of Mary. She is given an amazing promise of God, something that seems not just unlikely but impossible. But Mary doesn’t let doubt in, she doesn’t temper her hope with “realism”, she doesn’t lower her expectations, but let’s her hope in God run wild. Listen to what she says in Luke 1:46-55:

Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”

Mary hopes completely in God. She lets her hope in a merciful and strong God run wild. She doesn’t temper her hope with realism, or pragmatism. She hopes against all odds, that God has moved and is working within her.

And I think this is something we need to learn at Christmas especially. We need to learn to hope because Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming and with him everything changes. So we need to learn to hope, we need to let our hope run wild. That was the main point of Sunday. To let our hope in Jesus run wild.

And like Ralphie so deeply desiring a BB Gun, I asked everone one question: What is it you really want for Christmas? What are you really hoping for? And we’re not talking about gifts or deep desires. Is it for a marriage or body to be healed? To finally find a spouse, or purpose? To have a child, or a have a relationship healed? What is it you really want for Christmas?

Because I think that Christmas is a time to let our hope out, to share with God what we need and place our trust in him. That’s what Mary does, and I think that’s what we should do as well. And if there is ever a time to hope, I believe it is now.

So why not today answer that question: what are you hoping for this Christmas? Why not share with Jesus and trust in him to act. Because I know we often think about, “what happens if I get let down?” Well I think Christmas is about asking, what if God shows up and comes through. Because that’s what he did way back when, when he entered the world. And I think he can do it today.

So what are you hoping for?


Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We need to learn to hope.

Teaching Points:

  • Advent is a time where we wait and prepare for Jesus.
  • We don’t hope all that much anymore.
  • We don’t get our hopes up, because it is easier, but not necessarily better.
  • We need to learn to hope recklessly.
  • As Christians we can truly hope.
  • What do you really want this year for Christmas?
  • The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it has established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild. G.K. Chesterton
  • I believe in Hope, capital H, because I believe in Jesus.
  • Hope is the act of taking the next step. Karl Barth

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What are some of your favorite Christmas movies? Would you say you’re someone who hopes – or keeps your hopes realistic? How come? What are you hoping for this year? Who are you hoping with that can support you as you watch and wait for God to move? What reasons do you have to hope in God? How has he been faithful to you in the past? How might he be faithful to you this advent?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Spend sometime talking with your kids about hope. If they write down what gifts they are hoping for, why not have them make another list. “Things I’m hoping for, or things we can pray for”. Have them make a list of things and then pray over those things, and bring those things to Jesus.

Challenge for the Week: Let your hope run wild.

Christmas at the Movies

This Sunday we are starting a brand new series called, “Christmas at the Movies”. We are looking at some of the traditional Christmas stories, and themes and using movies to help us gain a fresh perspective on a changeless story.

So join us each Sunday as we look at these movies over the next five weeks:

  • A Christmas Story
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
  • National Lampoons Christmas Story
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • It’s a Wonderful Life

I know your favorite movie might not be there but hopefully one of them is, and hopefully we see you this Sunday!

Christmas Movies

“Jesus Didn’t Ring the Doorbell”

1546071_10153722534615643_359237485_nEarlier this week at breakfast Hudson was sitting at our counter and we were talking. He looked so very sad and he said to me, “Daddy, Jesus didn’t come”. I asked him what he meant.

He said this, “Daddy, Jesus didn’t come and ring the doorbell. He didn’t come for his birthday. He missed his birthday.”

He had been thinking about this because his birthday is coming up, and he’s been talking about it all the time (he wants an Angry Birds, Cars, and Tree-Rex themed party). And I guess from all this thinking he was actually watching and waiting for Jesus to show up on Christmas day.

I sat down and talked to him about how Jesus was here over Christmas and how he is here with us now. I tried to explain to him how Jesus is a part of our lives. And he just kept coming back to – “But Daddy, I want him to ring the doorbell and come in”.

And to be honest I was a little stuck. How do you help a 3 year old become aware of God’s presence all around? How do you help him enter into the awe and wonder of encountering Jesus? How do you explain to them that Jesus is real, and present but probably won’t ring the doorbell for his birthday?

And if I’m honest with you – I don’t have a lot of great answers. I tried talking some things through but they all fell flat. I guess that’s the joy of parenting, you get to figure it out as you go, and I’m sure I’ll get another shot at explaining it.

So if you’ve maybe walked through with your kids, nieces, or grandchildren I’d love your thoughts. How do you help children experience and develop an awareness of the presence of God? I think that’s an important question to ask, think about, and try to figure out because I want Hudson to grow up knowing the full presence of God in all he does.

So I’m still working that out, and I have a lot of ways to grow as a parent. But one thing made me extremely happy even while I struggle to explain and try to help Hudson encounter Jesus. And it’s this: he was waiting and looking for Jesus and that’s a great start.

Advent Reflection: Worshipping Jesus during Christmas

1371540_95553958On Sunday we looked at one last response to Jesus. We’ve already looked at how we wait for Jesus’ arrival, we are to respond with willingness when he shows up, and yesterday we saw how we are to respond with worship.

We looked at the story of the wisemen or the magi. In it they do something remarkable. They actually fall at Jesus’ feet and worship him when they find him. This is quite amazing because these are professional men, these are wealthy men, these are probably powerful men. And their response to a little boy in a hovel of a town, in the shadow of Herod’s third largest temple, fall on their face in adoration.

This is the response that we are to have towards Jesus Christ when we enter into his presence. We are to adore him. The magi do not fall at the feet of Jesus because of what he has done for them. They do not fall at his feet out of gratitude, because Jesus hasn’t done anything for them at all. They fall at his feet because of who he is. And this is a central part of worship. We need to worship Jesus not just for the good things he does for us, but we need to worship him for who he is.

Because he is King.

Because he is Good.

Because he is the Messiah.

Because he is God.

So we landed on one question from this story. When was the last time you worshipped Jesus like the wisemen did? When was the last time you entered into Jesus’ presence, fell at his feet and really worshipped him?

I think this is an important question because Christmas is to be about Jesus. And if we want to put Jesus at the centre it means to focus on him and worship him. I know when I asked that question, that for me, it’s been too long since I’ve just worshipped Jesus.

So we left with this challenge for this week: Christmas will soon be here, so find time to worship Jesus fully this week. Carve out time to worship him. For you that might be painting, walking, praying, singing, dancing, sitting silently, writing or whatever else. The point isn’t how you worship Jesus, but an invitation to actually do it. So Christmas is here in a few days so why not take up that challenge. If we truly want to bring Christ back into Christmas I think it begins with bringing him back in our lives with a focus on worshipping and adoring him. Because he does deserve it.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We need to worship Jesus fully

Take Aways…

  • Advent should be a season of worship
  • They “Fell down before him and worshipped him”
  • To be prostrate is to be in a position of submission
  • The magi fall at Jesus’ feet out of adoration
  • Adoration differs from other forms of worship such as supplication (asking for things), confession of sins, and offering thanks, inasmuch as it consists in devout recognition of God’s transcendent excellence – Catholic Encylcopedia
  • We need to worship Jesus fully
  • Our response to Jesus in this season, needs to be to worship him fully.
  • When was the last time you came into Jesus’ presence and fell at his feet like the Wisemen?

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?

Think through this advent season and simply reflect on where your focus has been. Has it been on Jesus or other things? How can you shift your focus to Jesus this week? When was the last time you worshipped Jesus like the wisemen? How might you worship Jesus fully this week? What activities or practices draw you closer to him? Set aside some time this week to spend with Jesus.

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk to your kids about the real reason about Christmas – how it’s about Jesus. Talk to them that its about worshipping him. Ask them how they might want to do that. Maybe they want to dance, maybe they want to give some of their toys to others, maybe they want to draw a picture and talk with Jesus. Whatever it may be why not actually do it with them.

Challenge for this Week Worship: Jesus fully this week

“Daddy Snow It Must Be Christmas”

1457457_10153541584360643_258669238_nHudson has no filter whatsoever. I doubt many three year olds do. I’d love to tell you some examples…but I think most of them are better left out of print…

The point though is that you have no doubt what he is thinking. And he has an ability to just change your perspective on so many things.

Earlier last week with the first kind of snowfall, as I was getting ready to shovel the snow, grumbling about the cold, and not loving the early morning – I was taking Hudson to daycare.

And as soon as he steps on the porch, he starts yelling and dancing instantly. “Daddy it’s here, it’s here, snow is here. Daddy, look ,snow, and that means it’s Christmas…Yeah!!!!” And he started running around, making tracks, jumping up and down and yelling “yeah it’s Christmas.”  I saw quite a few families who were walking their kids to school, look at Hudson, smile, and laugh.

And it dawned on me that I was missing something. I was missing some of the joy, anticipation, and excitement about Christmas. I was missing out because I wasn’t entering in.

So of course we ran around in the snow, and I started rediscovering the joy of this season.

So my question for you is this: have you lost any of the joy and anticipation of the season?

Because Christmas is a great season, there is so much to celebrate, and there is joy to be found. Don’t let the familiarity with Christmas rob you of its wonder.

Because Hudson taught me, and I think any of my neighbors outside, that there is something coming worth getting excited about.

Preparing for Jesus’ Yes

1430243_28387738On Sunday we looked at two Christmas stories. These two stories are very similar, both people receive amazing promises, have an encounter with an angel, and have some amazing desires met. The difference between the two stories is in the responses of the two people.

The first, Zechariah is promised to receive a special child from the Angel Gabriel. This is an amazing thing, and something he has been hoping for. But because his heart isn’t ready, he is unable to fully receive the promise. His response to Gabriel is “how will I know this will happen?”. He essentially asks, what more proof will there be that this promise will actually come to be? And Gabriel turns to him and essentially simply states, “The fact you are talking to an angel of God should be enough proof”. The point is that for Zechariah his initial response was a bit of reluctance, of hesitancy, of doubt.

The very next story though shows a bit of a different response. The angel Gabriel shows up to Mary and gives her a very similar promise. That she too would bear a son but that this son would be the Messiah. What an amazing promise! Her response though is very different from Zechariah’s, she says, “I am willing to accept whatever God wants”. Her response is willingness.

So we ended asking the question if God were to show up today – what would be your response to him? Would it be reluctance or acceptance? Would it be doubt or willingness?

I think this is an  important question to ask because I believe we’d like to be like Mary – responding with acceptance and willingness. The trouble is the longer we wait for God’s promises the more difficult it is to respond with Mary. We start to base our hopes on our expectations, rather than on God’s ability to do the impossible. We start to base our hopes on our reality, rather than God’s.

So we ended with this challenge on Sunday. Let’s prepare our hearts for God’s arrival. Jesus is coming; that’s what Advent is all about. So let’s prepare our hearts so that when he comes we can respond like Mary, with willingness and acceptance.

The only way to prepare our hearts to be able to be like Mary, I think, is to simply get closer to God. The closer we are to God the more likely we can respond rightly to God. So this week focus on getting closer to Jesus. Spend time with him in prayer, in conversation, in closeness and let that start to prepare your heart for his arrival. Advent is a time of preparation, so let’s prepare for Jesus because one thing is sure. He is coming, so let’s be ready.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea We need to have willing hearts

Take Aways…

  • Advent a time of waiting but also preparing.
  • We couch our expectations in our version of reality
  • Zechariah has based his life on what he thought is possible
  • We can be so unprepared in our hearts and minds, that we don’t even believe the promise and struggle to receive it.
  • In Zechariah’s response there is reluctance, in Mary’s there is willingness
  • What would be your response -willingness, or doubt?
  • We need to prepare our hearts to accept the impossible.
  • We need to have willing hearts.
  • Get close to God

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?

What have you been waiting for? Would you say you are ready to receive it? What might be your response today to Jesus’ arrival in your life? How can you get closer to Jesus this week? What will you do this week?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: This week simply watch your kids. Give them something exciting, something great, and watch how easily they receive it. Kids have a natural way of receiving good things without questioning it. Why not learn from them this week.

Challenge for this Week: Get close to Jesus.