Matthew 1:18-25 CEB
Oh my, it's the fourth week of Advent already? Where has the time gone. Advent is the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Each Sunday has it's own theme to focus on. The themes are Hope, Peace, Joy & Love. Finally, after weeks of meditations we are near the end. Today we talk about love.
What is there to say about love that hasn't already been said? Even I feel like I am sometimes beating a dead horse when I want to talk about the subject. I am sure we could all Google 'love' and find a wide range of discussions on the subject ranging from Christian to 'get your kids out of the room, that's not what I meant to Google.'
Today, I think there is space to talk about love as the act of giving up power. Both Frosty and Joseph show what love is through this loss of power. For Frosty, most of the journey didn't need Karen accompanying him. His survival was hindered by her presence. Think about it: If she had stayed at the train station, and never joined Frosty on his trip to the North Pole, what would have happened? Frosty would have taken the train all the way to the North Pole. With Karen, Frosty is given, on two occasions, an opportunity to be selfish or selfless. In both cases Frosty puts Karen's needs above his own and shows what selfless love looks like.
Joseph, as well, was given an opportunity to be selfish or selfless. His actions following the visit from the angel, was completely counter-productive to his place in society. As I mentioned last week, quietly divorcing Mary might have been better than being stoned to death, but it would have left Mary an outcast with a child for the rest of her life. It would have socially hindered Joseph to stay with Mary. He gave up power for the sake of love.
This is where we are today. Are we willing to sacrifice, even a little, for the sake of love? I am reminded of a blog I read months ago and was inspired to respond to:
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has communion every time they gather as a worshipping body. Anderson Campbell hit the nail on the head. Every time we sit at the table we have a hierarchy, whether spoken or not. The point is, love is not easy. Love requires sacrifice from all sides. We want love that doesn't hurt or require us to change but that kind of love just doesn't exist. It never has. Jesus showed us sacrificial love to an extreme. We will get to during Lent. So we end Advent with the promise of love. What should you do with this? Our world is a fractured mess. Find someone to connect with and sacrifice for. Reconnect love this Christmas season.
This is the conclusion to an ongoing series on Advent.
Advent Goes to the Movies
Christmas Hope: It's a Wonderful Life
Christmas Peace: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Christmas Joy: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
There will be no meditation next Thursday. Enjoy your Christmas and see you again in the new year!
Luke 1:46b-55 CEB
Here we are at the third week in Advent. Advent is part of the Christian Calendar. It is the four weeks leading up to Christmas, and each week symbolizes a different theme to draw us closer to the birth of Jesus. The themes are hope, peace, joy, and love. This week, it is all about joy. What better Christmas movie to help us understand joy than Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
There is a reason hope comes first in Advent. When the world is at it's darkest hope is the light that shines to begin highlighting peace, joy and love. Hope will always comes first.There is also a reason why joy is introduced the week before we learn about love. One might think that love takes root and joy erupts from it, but both Rudolph and Mary teach us otherwise.
In Rudolph's Shiny New Year, we learn Rudolph's nose glows because he is joyful and his joy cannot be contained. From the moment he was born his nose would glow. In Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer what we see is the absence of love, trying to cover over joy. First, there is Donner, the bad parent. He is more concerned with social edict than protecting and standing up for his son. Second, there is Santa, the poor symbol of the Christmas spirit. He can't say thank you to elves, who have prepared a musical number just for him. He can't even consider a reindeer who looks a little different, even though he is an excellent flyer. Really, the female characters quietly redeem this movie from being terrible. That's another meditation for another time.
Mary was ostracized too. I have read and heard many a sermon focused on the dangers Mary would face as an unmarried woman. Her future husband could have her stoned. If he chose to divorce her quietly, which he planned to do, she would be shunned by her family and forced to glean fields for leftovers. She had no skillset. There was no job she would be able to do for money. From all appearances she would be living out the remainder of her life, alone, attempting to raise and feed a child.
What is talked about a whole lot less is the mythology that surrounded women and angels during the time of Mary. Angels were bad omens when they came to females. There were local legends of angels who came and brought bad tidings of great torment. This, along with the previous point, would have been forefront in Mary's mind as the angel talked to her.
Yet, what does she do? The scripture above is called the Magnificat, or Mary's song! Joy bursts out. She cannot contain it.
The point is, with both this week's Christmas movie, and Mary, there is always something to be depressed about. At the same time, there is always something to sing for joy! If you plant hope, and prepare it with peace. If you shine joy upon it, Love will come.
This is part of an Advent movie series:
Advent Goes to the Movies
Christmas Hope: It's A Wonderful Life
Christmas Peace: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Matthew 3:1-12 CEB
As I mentioned last week, this is an Advent movie series. Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas. Each week, in traditional churches, they light a candle on an advent wreath. The four weeks represent Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Last week we looked at how It's a Wonderful Life represents the hope of Christmas. Believe it or not, this week we are going to make the connections between peace and Christmas Vacation.
It is my opinion, in a really good comedy everything falls to pieces and nothing really is at peace. Then, some sort of 'ah ha' moment happens and peace is found before the curtain closes. Even Life of Brian, which ends with everyone hanging on a crucifix, ends peacefully because of the closing song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Shakespeare's, Much Ado About Nothing, is full of ado until the end when the everyone realizes miscommunication was the culprit in their pain. Then, at the end, everyone is at peace. I think the only exception to this rule would be the book form of The Princess Bride. I am sure William Goldman, I mean [clear throat] S. Morgenstern, thought it would be hilarious to take all our favorite characters and end where they all could meet their doom. I give the book a pass, because it is pretending, I mean [clear throat again] is actually a lost history book. History books can end tragically and chaotically. Comedy must end in peace.
Which leads me to our movie, National Lampoons: Christmas Vacation. Now I would never use this movie to show what hope looks like, because Clark acts into false hope throughout. Nor would this be a good movie to show Christian joy, but I guess I will get into that in a coming week. This movie, is actually one of those comedies that highlight peace in a good and proper way.
I can already imagine a few of you laughing outloud at your tablet or PC at the thought of anything National Lampoon signifying peace. I mean, this is the same movie where icicles destroy super expensive CD players, killer squirrels leap from Christmas trees, a cat is obliterated by faulty tree lights, an uncle is singed by lighting a cigar near methan, a boss is stolen by a crazy brother-in-law... need I go on? I can. This movie seems to be about anything but peace. Yet here it is, in a meditation focused on the subject.
OK, put your snickers away. The answer lies in the scripture. A word often tied to this week is 'Prepare.' The advent scripture even says it, "Prepare the way of the Lord." Peace isn't something that naturally exists. We were created from the chaos and have a natural tendency to return it. Peace take work. Peace takes preparation. It's a constant, lifetime effort.
Let me put it another way. War does not magically happen because two or more parties decide they no longer want to be at peace. War is the result of an actions years, decades, maybe even centuries before. That event builds. And through that time it could be solved peacefully with little conflict. Yet, the more the situation is ignored, the more discord is produced and the more work it will take to bring peace back. I believe there comes a point where war is the only option. War eventually becomes the only option to bringing peace back. This is why there is no just war. Every war, whether the good guys and gals won or not, could have been stopped years before by proactive actions. By seeking peace early.
Bringing it back to the movie. Clark wants to build a pool. He acts out of his perceived knowledge and assumes he is going to get a Christmas bonus, just as he had in the years before. Only this would be the year the boss decided to cut bonuses and give the jelly of the month club. (It's the gift that keeps on giving.) Shenanigans ensue, when Eddie gives Clark the Christmas gift of his boss with a big red bow on his head. It's only when the boss gets to talk it through with one of his employees, does the chaos finally is resolved and peace is brought to the finale of the movie.
I loosely use this term on this movie: Good conflict had to be initiated to bring about peace. That is the point of peace this season. We have to prepare for it. We can't magically have it. Perhaps we can meditate our way to it. Perhaps we have to initiate some healthy conflict to find it. Either way, we need to look at ourselves and find out what we need to cross off our list to find peace on Christmas morning. Our hope cannot be fulfilled without it. So this season, prepare for peace.