Christmas at the Movies: Charlie Brown and Gathering and Gratefulness

Title_frame_from_A_Charlie_Brown_ChristmasOn Sunday we began by watching a clip of Charlie Brown’s Christmas. This is where Linus tells Charlie brown what Christmas is about. And I think for every Christian there isn’t a real disagreement that Christmas is about Jesus. But how this plays out in our lives there is a lot of diversity, and I think some wasted energy.

So on Sunday I wanted to clearly explain what I think Christmas being about Jesus means. And to do this we thought about what the actual first Christmas was like.

Most likely the first Christmas was full of some anxiety, some stress, mess, and transcendent joy. This is because every birth I’ve been at part of it had some anxiety, stress, mess, and transcendent joy. As a Dad I was quite terrified by everything with the birth of our first son, and this is at a hospital with loads of medical professionals. I couldn’t imagine what Joseph must have been feeling, and the stress to not harm the Son of God as a baby.

But what I’ve also known is that amidst the worry, stress, and excitement there comes a moment of transcendent joy when you hold the newborn baby in your arms. And what has happened in every instance after this, in our world, is that family and friends come over, bring food, and gifts and we celebrate the gift of new life.

And as I was reading the Christmas story, something new hit me. I always thought of how the shepherds and Magi showing up are displays of God’s glory and power. Now though, I see them maybe more of displays of the humanity that God tenderly cares for.

Mary and Joseph were alone without anyone to share the birth with, and God sends shepherds to rejoice with, and Magi to worship and give gifts. And it struck me: the very first thing Jesus did was gather people together to express gratefulness and gratitude at the gift of life.

Before Jesus did any healings, miracles, teaching, or dying and rising again – his very first act is to bring people together to celebrate and be grateful. Because of Jesus’ birth Mary, Joseph, Magi, and Shepherds are drawn together to celebrate and be grateful for the gift of life in their hands.

This is what happened on the very first Christmas, and I think it needs to ground what we believe Christmas is about. Christmas is about gathering together to be grateful for the gifts of life God has given us. When we say Christmas is about Jesus, that’s true. But I wish we would understand how part of what the truth is, is to actually do is to cause us to gather with family and friends with grateful hearts and celebration.

Christmas, if it is about anything, is certainly not about boycotting, arguing, or debating. Christmas is about gathering and celebrating. Christmas is about sharing in the gift of life that is given to us. Christmas is about gathering and being grateful.

So that was the main point on Sunday; Christmas is about gathering and begin grateful. And then we closed with actually practicing this. We gathered for a Christmas meal and shared things we were grateful for. And I think that’s a good practice to do this Christmas.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaChristmas is a time to gather and be grateful.

Teaching Points:

  • Christmas is about Jesus.
  • What is central to Christmas?
  • We have a sanitized picture of the birth of Jesus
  • God sends people to celebrate and appreciate the new birth
  • Jesus’ birth directly caused people to gather, be grateful, and celebrate
  • Jesus gathered together diverse people, to appreciate the gifts given to them
  • The story isn’t just about what happened back then but what should happen today.
  • We should gather friends and family together, and practice being grateful for the gifts God has given us.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What was funny? What can you be grateful for this Christmas? How has God given you life, strength, hope, or something tangible in the past year? Who can you share your gratefulness with?

Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families

Today it’s simple – ask your kids what they are most grateful for in life. But beforehand help them to learn the right example by sharing what you appreciate and are grateful for about them.

Challenge for the Week: Gather with people and be grateful

The Meaning of Christmas

christmas-bulbs-1258956-639x750On Sunday we are looking at what the meaning of Christmas is. And while I think at first glance that seems pretty clear – it’s about Jesus. I’m not so sure we know how that actually applies to what we live, and what we do.

Lots of Christians around Christmas debate how the meaning of Christmas is Jesus. For some this means fighting consumerism, for others it means being able to say “Merry Christmas”, not “Happy Holidays”, or there are lots of other debates going on.

So while every Christian would agree, that Christmas is about Jesus, what that practically and actually means is quite different depending on what Christian you talk with.

So that’s what I want to clear up on Sunday. I want to clear up what Christmas being about Jesus really means practically for our lives. What we should positively be doing if that statement is true. And it’s something simple, it’s something practical, and like the best simple and practical things – it’s absolutely transformational.

Christmas at the Movies: Home Alone and Hilarity

home-alone-boyGUEST POST: Pastoral Intern Carter Whyte

This week we began our “Christmas at the Movies” series – using classic Christmas movies to help shed new light on Jesus’ coming to earth. The enjoyable viewing of Home Alone served two purposes for this first message in the series: it taught us about our forgetfulness, and it forced us to put the message into action by having fun.

Just like Kevin’s parents forgot him at home when they went away for Christmas, oftentimes Christians forget something very important when we enter this holiday season: Joy!

We read in Luke 2 that when an angel announced Jesus’ birth to nearby shepherds, the angel proclaimed, “I bring you good news that will be great joy to all people.”

How often do we celebrate because of Jesus? 

Sometimes Christians become fun-suckers, boring, and somber. We may try to rationalize these attitudes by saying that being serious and focused are important because we have a mission to complete and our days are numbered. But think: If the good news is supposed to bring joy into our lives, can we possibly spread the message of this good news without bringing joy along?

We know that joy is good! Laughter refreshes us! Doing fun things relieves us of the worries we have been carrying around! None of us want to go to work every day when there is absolutely nothing pleasurable about it.

There is a time for sorrow, and mourning, and self-reflection. But there is also a time for joy, and shouting, and self-expression! And Christmas is that kind of time!

Christian maturity should lead to more joy, as a result of a deeper connection with the Spirit that produces joy, and the Jesus that brings joy to the world! So let’s be mature this Christmas and let our lives be filled with joy because of Jesus.

  • With still a few weeks until Christmas, why not consider adding in some extra celebrations with your family and the people around you?
  • Invite people from work over to have a fondue dinner!
  • Do something new and exciting with your spouse!
  • Add something new to a traditional Christmas dinner – invite your family into a sing-along, or invite somebody new along! (Or write a poem!)
  • Join in with your kids when they are silly, or build a gingerbread house with them this Sunday for the competition in Plattsville!

Don’t forget to have joy and spread joy to others this Christmas!

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Don’t forget to bring joy with you this Christmas. 

Teaching Points:

  • Sometimes it’s easy to forget the most important things
  • “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people”
  • God is about Joy, and the instigator of Joy
  • You don’t win points by being more conservative than God
  • Don’t forget to have fun this Christmas.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What was funny? When have you forgotten something important? What brings you joy at Christmas? How can you spread joy? How can you have fun? What can you do today to bring joy to your family?

Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families

Ask your kids what is most fun thing to do at Christmas. Then go do it.

Challenge for the Week: To go have fun!