First off, here's wishing all of my readers a very Merry Christmas! I pray for God's blessings upon you and your loved ones, as we celebrate the turning point in history, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Just some random thoughts about Christmas time:
*I recently read a good commentary about the three great Christmas movies that came out in 1946. You definitely know It's a Wonderful Life (unless you live in a cave on an uninhabited island) and also Miracle on 34th Street, starring little Natalie Wood. But the OTHER movie that isn't as well known is also worth a viewing: The Bishop's Wife with Cary Grant as the angel Dudley and David Niven as the troubled bishop (the 90s remake The Preacher's Wife was okay, but you can't top the original). The best scene is when Dudley (with a typewriter that typed with unseen hands) dictates a sermon for the bishop, about the One who ususally DOESN'T have a Christmas gift under the tree every December 25. That scene alone is worth watching the entire movie.
*Many Bible readers have yawned their way through the numerous names in Jesus' geneological trees recorded in Matthew (his step-father Joseph's side) and Luke (Mary's family line). And yet (as I found out in a wonderful message yesterday by my former pastor), there are very powerful truths God is speaking through those parts of scripture, if we would only take a look. For example, look at the four women listed in Matthew's list (three of them, by the way, were Gentile): one acted like a prostitute in desperation (Tamar); one WAS a prostitute (Rahab) who saved the Israeli spies at Jericho; one was from a people,the Moabites, that the Jews were forbidden to intermingle with (Ruth), and the last was an adulteress (Bathsheba). And yet, all four are in the holy scripture as part of the line of Jesus Christ!
The lessons: 1) God doesn't focus on what you've done, but what you can become; 2) the wonderous Christmas story comes to us through horribly inperfect people; 3) As Pastor Gray illustrated, every instrument in God's orchestra matters to Him! What a lesson of hope for us all!
*I'll end this with my list of favorite Christmas movies:
Best all time: It's a Wonderful Life.
Best Christmas Carol version: A Christmas Carol, the 1951 English version.
Best innovation on Santa Claus: Ernest Saves Christmas. You read that right. It's the first Christmas movie I can remember with a "renewable" line of Santas (The Santa Clause came out several years later). And yes, the movie IS hilarious.
Best TV Christmas movie: A Christmas Memory with Truman Capote (PBS), funny and tear-jerking at the same time (Capote's narration of his classic gives it extra impact). A Child's Christmas in Wales (also PBS, based on the Dylan Thomas classic story), comes in a close second.
Best Christmas cartoon: a four-way tie between A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (all released in the 60s). The kids STILL drop everything to watch them. They just don't make them like that anymore.
Best modern Christmas classic: A Christmas Story, complete with kids getting their tongues frozen on poles and a turncoat store Santa: "A BB gun? You'll put your eye out!"
Best underrated Christmas movie: The Nativity Story, which got a ton less publicity than it deserved.