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Posts tagged ‘Christmas Story’

Peace amidst difficulties…

By Pastor Bobby Schuller

“And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.” 
Luke 1:14

I remember two years ago when we had our second baby, when my wife Hannah went into labor, we arrived at the hospital to find that all the beds were occupied. So, they put Hannah in a bed in the hall, in full labor, with nurses scurrying around. We felt uncomfortable, angry, frustrated. We wanted to be in a private, clean, nice room to give birth to our baby.

I think about how uncomfortable that was – a very scary and painful experience. Then I imagine what it was like for Mary, in labor, no room at the inn. There’s nowhere for her to have this baby, which, especially in those days, was a very dangerous situation. And the best they could come up with was a stable out back.

There, Mary gives birth on a bed of straw. And Jesus is laid in a manger, a feeding trough, where the horses and cows eat. To make it ready for the baby, they had to clear away all of the dirt to make it as clean as possible for the newborn. There’s Mary with all of her injuries from having just given birth to a baby, and yet do you feel, when you read that story, any of the aggravation and anger I experienced when Hannah was giving birth? You don’t see that. You see this peace. You see peace in the midst of a very difficult situation.

Prayer: Father, when I read the Christmas story, every part of it is filled with your peace. No matter what the difficulty or challenge, your peace filled every heart that came close to the Savior. May my heart come close and find your peace in Jesus. Amen.

Devotion: What can rob your peace…and restore your peace…at Christmastime?

Are Americans Prioritizing Scrooge and Ralphie Over Jesus?.

'A Christmas Story'
A survey found that while 30 percent make a tradition of watching the 1983 film ‘A Christmas Story,’ only 15 percent say reading the Bible’s account of the birth of Christ is part of their holiday traditions. (Facebook)

A new Christmas poll finds less Americans are actually reading the Bible’s account of Christ‘s birth for Christmas, especially in comparison to those who make watching Christmas movies a tradition.

According to the results of a survey released Wednesday, 94 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. For most, this will be a time for traditions. Whether it is watching a classic movie, reading a Christmas poem or short story, or opening up the pages of Scripture, traditions will play an integral part of their holiday celebrations.

The new survey commissioned by the American Bible Society and conducted online by Harris Interactive in November among more than 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and up found that while 30 percent make a tradition of watching the 1983 film A Christmas Story and 28 percent look forward to watching a film or TV version of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, just 15 percent say reading the Bible’s account of the birth of Christ is part of their holiday traditions.

“There is nothing wrong with enjoying some of the great Christmas films that have been made over the decades,” says American Bible Society Chief Communications Officer Geoffrey Morin. “It is just important that Christians don’t make holiday celebrations more about Scrooge and Ralphie than about Jesus.”

The survey also found that knowledge of the biblical account of Christmas was lacking. Fewer than half of Americans (42 percent) were able to correctly identify what the Bible says brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for Jesus’ birth—reporting for a census. Worse still, just 28 percent of those ages 18 to 34 knew the right answer.

“Everything we know about Christmas comes from the pages of the Bible,” Morin says. “I hope these survey findings will encourage people to take a step back and consider making the biblical account of Christmas part of their celebrations.”


Peace be with you…

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
-John 14:27

As we near the anniversary of the birth of our Savior, I think about the shepherds. After Mary and Joseph, they were the first to be chosen to meet the Messiah. They’re out on this cold night tending their flock when angels come to them and tell them the good news. From what we read in scripture, their experience is a very peaceful one where they follow the directions of the angels, find Jesus, and bow before Him.

In the nativity scene, itself, we see this image of the Prince of Peace. Even though He’s in a manger in a place not designed for newborn babies, where injuries could happen and the environment is dirty, nonetheless there’s a sense of real peace, tranquility, and even joy and celebration.

Something is different. The event, which we now call Christmas, is heralding that, possibly, the peace that surrounds what could have been a very horrible situation in this stable, maybe that peace won’t just stop there. Maybe it’s not an event in and of itself, mutually exclusive of the world around it. Perhaps, just maybe, this baby boy will bring shalom, will bring peace to the whole world, to Israel, to Syria, to the uttermost parts of the world. This peace that is right there in this manger, maybe it will enter into the hearts of broken and hurting people everywhere, into my heart, and into yours.

That’s exactly what the Christmas story is about – peace – and it begins with you, and it begins with me, right in our hearts. Be assured that, with the arrival of baby Jesus, Christ can now enter our broken, chaotic lives and cause us to live in peace, in shalom.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the peace of Jesus. Just like the shepherds, living lives of want and discomfort, it only took Jesus to change their lives forever. Continue to fill my life with your peace…with your shalom. Amen.

Devotion: How does Jesus bring peace to your heart, especially now as we celebrate Christmas?

By Bobby Schuller, Crystal Cathedral Pastor

Ralphie vs. George.

A couple of years ago a film crew from our church hit the streets of Charlotte, N.C., to produce a “person on the street” video asking people, “What comes to your mind when you think of the Christmas story?”

Number one answer?

“The movie.”

Yep, the 1983 “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid” tale from 1940s Indiana of a 9-year-old boy’s desire for a Red-Ryder Carbon-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle BB gun (and, lest we forget, with a compass in the stock).

An intriguing editorial in TIME magazine at around the same time noted how A Christmas Story had become the quintessential American film for Christmas, replacing It’s a Wonderful Life. Titled “Generation X-Mas,” it chronicled how an “upstart film became a holiday icon for the post-boomer set.”

As for George Bailey?

“Not so into him anymore.”

Those from older generations stayed with Bedford Falls, along with Macy’s (Miracle on 34th Street) as their favorite film destinations. But respondents a bit younger, from 18 to 41 years old, granted the “major award” to Scott Fargas, Flick and the Bumpus’ dogs.

TIME suggested this as one of the “pop-cultural shifts” such as football overtaking baseball, or salsa defeating ketchup, that “signal bigger changes.”

Perhaps because A Christmas Story is everything It’s a Wonderful Life is not – “satiric and myth-deflating, down to the cranky store Santa kicking Ralphie down a slide.”

Or perhaps it is because of the changing relationship between the community and the individual. Whereas the older films position Christmas as that which “uplifts the suicidal, raises every voice in Whoville, [and] renders peace between Macy and Gimbel,” A Christmas Story “inverts the moral.”

Now it’s the individual Christmas experience that matters. Getting the BB gun, instead of protecting the local Savings and Loan for the poor, is the point. Or as TIME put it, “It’s the individual Christmas that matters.  Bedford Falls can take a hike … [it’s not about] angels getting their wings. Christmas is about the kids getting their due.”

But perhaps we can go where TIME could not.

The great divide between It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story is more than just the radical individualism that marks our day, but what has spawned such individualism. The real divide between the two films is that one retains the idea that Christmas is about the birth of the Christ child, and one does not.

Unless I have missed it, A Christmas Story does not have a single reference, symbol, picture or event that would suggest Christmas is about the birth of Christ, or has religious significance of any kind. A brief snippet of “Go Tell It on the Mountain” is revealed in a downtown scene, but that’s about it. No nativity scenes, no church services, no Christian music – even the department store,Higbees, honors the season not with shepherds or wise men, but with characters from The Wizard of Oz.

It’s a Wonderful Life, on the other hand, was rich in Christian idea and ethos, from traditional Christmas songs celebrating the birth of Christ (the climax of the movie is marked by the spontaneous outburst of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”) to the central character of an angel.

Yet this reflects more than the choice of one movie over another.

An analysis of 48,000 hours of programming by the NRB (National Religious Broadcasters) found that 90 percent of holiday programming did not have a significant spiritual theme; 7 percent had a religious or spiritual theme, but did not refer to Jesus or the biblical story of His birth.

Jesus was the focus of only 3 percent of all Christmas programming.

I’ll confess that A Christmas Story has become one of my favorite movies. The nostalgia of the time, and the way it reveals how Christmas often “works,” runs deep and familiar.

But when I watch it, along with millions of others, I remind myself that while it is Christmas story,

…it is not the Christmas story.

For a taste of that, I need to go back to Bedford Falls.

For a full-course meal, I need to go all the way back to Bethlehem.

James Emery White



Adapted from James Emery White, The Church in An Age of Crisis (Baker).

“Generation X-Mas: How an upstart film became a holiday icon for the post-boomer set,” James Poniewozik, Time, December 10, 2007, p. 90. Read the article online.

National Religious Broadcasters analysis can be found in the Winter 2004 edition of Enrichment, and also on the website of Preaching Today (a service of Christianity Today magazine). The website for the NRB is

By Dr. James Emery White

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book isThe Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log on to, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

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