The Christmas season is upon us. How do I know this? My email box was overwhelmed with ads for all the sales on this cyber-Monday. This is a season of expectation and hope, especially around our families and friends. For some of us, there is a touch of insanity as we vow this year will be different from past years and we won’t get as stressed, spend more than we have to spend, or ask more from families and our friendships than the relationships can deliver. We talk about remembering the reason for the season, but that’s easier said than done sometimes. I’ve selected four Christmas films that can maybe tease us into consciousness and center us a bit as the forces of the season buffet us around. The films are: Love the Coopers, Christmas with the Kranks, Jingle All The Way, and The Bishop’s Wife.
If you missed the movie, Love the Coopers, you weren’t alone. Great cast—Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Diane Keaton to name a few—but a schmaltzy plot. I happened to catch it on TV one night and was too lazy to change the station so I watched it. It’s about a family falling apart with divorce, alienation, and resentments, but trying to muscle through one last Christmas before things just melt down. As they gather with all the extravagance of the most wonderful Christmas meal, the fighting among them is starting to boil up to the surface when the lights go out. When the lights come back on, Bucky, the patriarch, is face down in the mashed potatoes and is rushed to the hospital.
It’s at the hospital that the much-needed truth telling begins to shift the conversations. Bucky wakes up from his little stroke with a craving for green Jell-O and goes off in search of the cafeteria, IV and pole in tow. He discovers his family being vulnerable and finding new connections, and says to the Haitian orderly standing next to him the line that caused me to jolt from my stupor: “Such a fuss when everything we want is right in front of us the whole time.”
That might sound naïve, but in that moment I remembered that’s essentially the truth Jesus taught about the kingdom of God and the eternal life that wasn’t promised some time in the future—it is present this moment. It is always right in front of us the whole time. Wake up and believe are the imperatives that run through all four gospels. Something amazing is happening right here and now, and you and I are invited to be a part of it.
What do we really want for Christmas? Christmas has a power that casts a spell of hope over us like no other holiday. There are going to be enormous sums of money and incredible energy expended in hope of what, exactly? Do we even know what is we’re seeking? To belong? To know we’re enough? To love and be loved? “Such a fuss when everything we want is right in front of us the whole time.” What am I not seeing in my life and context that God’s Spirit is seeking to reveal to me this Advent season? What are the fears and resulting behaviors that keep me from seeing God’s presence in my life right here, right now?
We’ll watch the clip that ends “Love the Coopers” with a dance, and consider these passages as we ask that God would show us clearly what is right in front of us this moment. And in the process, we might enter into the wonder of Advent 2017, and the truly Good News of Emmanuel…”God with us.”
Now all this happened in order to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet, “A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel” (which means, “God is with us”). (Matthew 1:22-23)
“The right time has come,” he said, “and the Kingdom of God is near! Turn away from your sins and believe the Good News!” Mark 1:15)
“The Kingdom of God does not come in such a way as to be seen. No one will say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’, because the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
I hope to see you Sunday as we start our Advent celebration with lots of music and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.