Saturday, November 29, 2008


Ever so often, someone will ask me what my favorite Christmas show is. There is no easy way to answer that, since I enjoy so many. So about two years ago, I made a list (and checked it twice) of specials and movies that I enjoy over the month of December. I dug it out, made a couple of changes, and will now post it for your viewing enjoyment.

A few notes before you start reading:
1. The list is no particular order. There is no significance to listing one above the other. They are totally random and non-alphabetized.
2. I limited the list to ten (plus one special bonus), but that doesn't mean there aren't more that I enjoy.
3. You can agree or disagree on my choices or my brief summations, but be nice about it. After all, you wouldn't want a lump of coal in your stocking.
4. As in all pop-culture offerings, I urge folks to use caution. Parents, watch and discuss these with your children. In some cases (most notably Christmas Vacation), you may want to watch the "edited for tv" version instead, as it removes some of the more unsavory elements.

And away we go.....
Charlie Brown Christmas
"And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." Poor Charlie Brown can't catch a break, even at Christmas time. What is so memorable about this holiday favorite is the clear, unapologetic declaration from the gospel of Luke about the true significance of the season. I don't know of too many secular shows today that could get away with that.

Jingle All the Way
"It's Turbo time!" The governor of California on the hunt for a Turbo Man action figure on Christmas Eve. Yup, it's a commentary on the insanity of marketing and merchandising. Of course, it casts a nod and a wink at the madness of Christmas Eve shopping. No, the characters don't behave very nicely. But at its heart is a touching parable of being a father and keeping promises.

A Christmas Story
"You'll shoot your eye out, kid." A slice of nostalgia featuring young Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun. Although set at a time before I was born, I still recognize a lot of elements from Christmas' past.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
"Later, dudes." The idealism of Gus Griswold verses a cynical universe. I can relate to Gus' desire to have a picture perfect Christmas, as well as the frustration of nothing going the way I pictured it.

Miracle on 34th Street
"I believe." Okay, it's not rocket-science, but the "trial of Santa" is still one of the most enduring images of the holiday season, with just enough element of "is he or isn't he?" to keep me on the edge of my seat. Wow...what would John Grisham have done with this plot? (side note: much maligned and not as gripping, the modern remake is still worth a look...a remarkably innocent and faithful treatment).

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
"I'm cued, she said I'm cued!" I struggle with this tale every seems that everyone is a little hard on Rudolph. But the songs are classic and the Bumble steals the show (trivia point: why does the head elf's voice suddenly change? 1000 Teacher Tim points to the first person who has a good answer).

Frosty the Snowman
"Happy Birthday!" Another classic with a memorable story line (for the record, I cannot stand the sequels).

The Santa Clause
"Did you just growl at me?" Tim Allen in a fun story of a sales rep who becomes the big guy. It is hilarious watching his gradual transformation and attempts to explain them to this family and co-workers. The sequels were good, but I did not like them as well.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
"Hey! Unto you a child is born!" This is mandatory viewing for all children's ministers and others involved in putting on Christmas programs. The horrible Herdmans take over the church Christmas pageant and it's up to Loretta Swit (from MASH) to ride herd. Very touching and emotional ending.

Home Alone
"Ahhhhhhggghhhh!" The highly improbable story of a kid who defends his home against a pair of burglars after being left behind by his family. This is a live action cartoon, with very creative injuries being inflicted upon the bad guys that would hospitalize a real person. But the touching reunion at the end is good, with the importance of family being reaffirmed.

In a category by itself: It's A Wonderful Life
"Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings." Some movies rise above lists. This is one of them.

Friday, November 21, 2008


A speaker once remarked, "We are never closer to imitating God then when we forgive someone."

That is a profound statement, but I have had people challenge it. "After all, God is love," they say, "and so it is when we love others that we are most like our Creator."

Well,yes. Overall, grandly, love is or should be the defining characteristic of the Christian. Jesus said it is the key identifying sign that we are His disciples. All other virtues flow from that. So yes, let us agree that "the greatest of these is love."

Having established that, I am forced to ask the question, "what's easier to say: 'I love you' or 'I forgive you'?" I'm reminded of the time Jesus saw the paralyzed man in Matthew 9. He said to him, "Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven." I can imagine the paralyzed man thinking, "uhhh..thank you for the sentiment." The religious leaders had a different reaction: "Blasphemy!" Their logic was sound: only God can forgive sins, so for Jesus to claim to forgive sins, He must be claiming to be God!

Jesus then asked, "What's easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven' or 'rise up and walk'?" Technically speaking, neither is easy, because a mere mortal can not do either one. But has far as just saying it, obviously, "your sins are forgiven you" is much easier to say, because no one can see that happening. Unless we can devise a way to peer into the spiritual heart of a human being, we just don't know.

But in order to demonstrate His authority, Jesus then went on to heal the paralyzed man! Again, using simple reasoning, if Jesus could do something that was obvious and observable (healing), then he must also possess the power to do the hidden work of the heart (forgiving sins).

"Okay, Teacher Tim, I know this story and the theological implications therein. What's your point?" I'm glad you asked.

I contend that it is far easier to say, "I love you" than to say "I forgive you." When I say I love someone, nobody can really see it. Besides, I can qualify my statement in such a way as it gets me "off the hook." For example, I can say, "I love her, but I don't really like her." Or that great Christian pious cop out: "I love you in the Lord" (translation: "there is no way I'll spend Thanksgiving with you because I think you're despicable, but (deep breath) I love you in the Lord."). It's just so easy to let the words roll off our tongue.

But "I forgive you"---that's a different story. You see, when you say you forgive someone, everyone is watching you. And if you slip up and bring up the past offense, or display indignation about the trespass, or (perish the thought) continue to hold a grudge, the witnesses to your "forgiveness" will shake their heads and say, "I knew he didn't/couldn't/wouldn't forgive." Never mind that we are all fallible human beings with weaknesses and faults. Never mind that even the most godly of Christians stumble at times. As far as the eyewitnesses are concerned, unforgiveness is just another sign of hypocrisy. That's why forgiveness is so hard.

But if we can forgive as Christ forgave us, if we can demonstrate the God-kind of forgiveness (the obvious work), then it bolsters our claim to love (the hidden work). It becomes a manifestation of love.

Easy? No. Needed? Yes. Impossible without God? Absolutely.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


A brother and colleague from the Chicago area wrote a blog entry about the recently completed presidential election. It sums up many of my thoughts so well, that I wanted to point everyone to it.
Praise the Lord for the freedom we have as American citizens. I would hope and pray that the Christian community, the conservative community, the Republican community, etc. will treat our new President with more respect and honor than the other side did President Bush. As another one of my online friends said: "it's time to pray for our President, not against him."