Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I confess. Cathy and I like to watch Christmas movies. In addition to It's A Wonderful Life, which is pretty much an annual tradition, we enjoy taking the occasional quiet evening during the Christmas season to relax in front of a family-friendly film. Some of them are cheesy, some are funny and some are ridiculous. I was caught off guard, then, by a quite serious and subtly hopeful film called Midnight Clear. Midnight Clear was written and produced by Jerry B. Jenkins, who co-authored the popular Left Behind series of books.

I mention this movie because I found it quite depressing at the start. It seemed as if every character was in emotional, relational pain. Each minute of the story seemed more hopeless than the last. I found myself wondering what would happen to turn this story around. I mean, isn't Christmas suppose to be about hope rather than hopelessness? Isn't hope a big theme in Hollywood? The stories are supposed to drag you to the depths, then give you a fast elevator ride to a hero (at Christmas, it's usually Jesus or Santa) who saves the day, makes you want to cheer and causes an "I'd watch that again!" to escape from your lips.

Midnight Clear didn't do that. Most of the characters were still in significant pain at the end of the story. Why, then, would I take the time to write about this film and even use "subtly hopeful" to describe it? It was only after a few hours of reflection that it hit me: real life isn't like Hollywood movies. Real life is far more about small decisions, subtle changes and stubborn determination to step into pain than it is about some hero flying in to instantly save the day. Real life is about real hope and Midnight Clear is full of it; you just have to look closely to find it.

If nothing else, Midnight Clear will make me look at this week's Christmas services with different eyes. Who will attend with a family member, grasping the last strand of hope that maybe -- just maybe -- their family can be healed? Who will miss because the loss they have suffered is just too overwhelming? Who will do something out of raw obedience and experience the joy of watching God work through it?

Those are the real joys at Christmas. They may not have people lining up to pluck down a small pile of hard-earned dollars at the box office, but I think they are pretty popular on heavenly screens!

This is our 42nd Christmas together and our 28th to share with Stone Ridge Church family. Cathy and I are overwhelmed with gratitude. Merry Christmas! May you experience the fulness of God's tender mercies and the speechless joy of discovering His purposes as you enter 2014.