Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

home-alone-movie-posterNothing says Christmas like a young brat beating up on two criminals.  When you really take a step back and consider the story of Home Alone, it is a bit strange that it has become a holiday classic.  It is an annual tradition in my house, but it’s one I don’t allow the kids to see just yet (I don’t want to get my hand burned on a doorknob or my face smashed with an iron anytime soon).

Why did this movie catch on?  The movie had a $15 million budget and grossed over $285 million at the box office, not to mention the fact that the sequel did pretty well too.  But, why?  Why did so many line up to see an irresponsible family accidentally leave their child at home and pummel two wannabe criminals?

Well, we know Kevin McCallister [Macaulay Culkin] was a tad on the rebellious side.  He did call his mother a dummy and attempt to kill Buzz, his brother, at dinner.  Even though we all might wish evil upon Buzz, the disrespect to the parents is inexcusable.  Instead of Kevin repenting of his rebellion, he embraces it and wishes that his family would disappear.  Even when his mother challenges him, he exclaims, “I never want to see any of you jerks again!”

Little did Kevin know, his wish would be granted.  Lost power, a frantic household, and a misplaced neighbor in a roll call, all led to Kevin being home alone.  At first Kevin rejoices in his newfound freedom.  Screaming through the house, shooting pellets at action figures, eating rubbish and watching junk, with absolutely no one to stop him – this is the life!  Or, so he thought.

The junk he’s watching turns out to be a little unsettling, the basement is a bit on the terrifying side, shopping for the essentials can prove to be challenging, and, if you’re not careful, you can end up becoming a shoplifter.  Not to mention the fact that, two clumsy criminals have their eye on your house.  It turns out, however, that all of Kevin’s pinned-up anger towards his family has found a useful outlet in Marv [Daniel Stern] and Harry [Joe Pesci].

In the end, Kevin learns that his rebellion hasn’t made him any happier.  In fact, those he felt like he could not live with, were the only ones who made life worth living.  And, this is ultimately something we can all identify with.  Not only do the themes of family resonate with each of us, but the theme of rebellion definitely does.

Every human being on the face of this earth is rebellious.  The people who dished out over $285 million at the box office tell us that, as well as, the television networks who air the show each year and those of us who watch it.  We are born with rebellious hearts that can only become hearts of service through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.  What Home Alone teaches us is the fact that we ultimately need our hearts broken.  It isn’t until we taste of our rebellious hearts, that we realize how empty self-service truly is.  And, if the lesson learned by Kevin is never one you can echo, you too will find yourself all alone.

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familyIf you’ve followed this site much at all, you know that The Family Man is a film I watch every year around Christmas time.  I know, I know…Nicholas Cage is the star, but this was before he got to be the Nicholas Cage who stars in Left Behind.  For those of you who’ve only grown up with this Nicholas Cage, I need to remind you that he won an Oscar for Best Actor.  And, I would also say that his acting is good in this film.  Therefore, if you haven’t seen this film, give it a shot.

With that endorsement, however, comes a warning.  There is some questionable content, but I would argue that the content isn’t needless – it’s illustrative of the overall message.  The movie shows the emptiness of worldliness, but it must do so by accurately depicting worldliness.

However, a specific aspect of this film I enjoy is its depiction of marriage.  I was helped to see this through a conversation I had with a friend.  While I was sharing my enjoyment of this film, my friend exclaimed that he didn’t like it.  As I inquired further, I discovered that his dislike was due to the fact that the husband and wife “argued too much.”  I would simply say that this is part of the reason I do appreciate it.  Many Hollywood films sanitize marriage, love, and relationships to such a degree, the audience ends up being lied to – given a false hope for what marriage should be.

Listen to the opening words of Tim & Kathy Keller’s, The Meaning of Marriage:

I’m tired of listening to sentimental talks on marriage.  At weddings, in church, and in Sunday school, much of what I’ve heard on the subject has as much depth as a Hallmark card.  While marriage is many things, it is anything but sentimental.  Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories.  No marriage I know more than a few weeks old could be described as a fairy tale come true.

This is the strong point of The Family Man.  It gives a truthful and glorious picture of marriage.  The exhaustion, the frustration, the joys and the blessings are on full display in this movie.  While husbands and wives can grow in areas of their marriage, marriage is work and TFM is a film that shows this.  However, TFM doesn’t only display the difficulties, but the blessings that come about because of the work.

So, anyone can understand why we long for a sanitized image of marriage.  Scripture tells us that marriage was designed to communicate Christ’s love for his church. (Eph. 5:22-33)  Our desire for the “perfect marriage” will only take place in the new heavens and the new earth.  This, again, is why I appreciate TFM.  It reminds us that marriage will not be heaven on earth.  Yes we get tastes of that, but it reminds us that we still need redemption and – I don’t know about you – but I like films that point us to our need for that.

A Christmas Story

Posted: December 25, 2012 by Josh Kwasny in Comedy, Drama, Family, Seasonal
Tags: , , , , , ,

a christmas story

A Christmas Story (1983) is, no doubt, one of my favorite Christmas films. IMDB.com summarizes the story: “Ralphie has to convince his parents, teachers, and Santa that a Red Ryder B.B. gun really is the perfect gift for the 1940s.” I won’t spill anymore digital ink with a synopsis. If you would like more about the general content, head to IMDB.com.

I love this film for a number of reasons. 1.) Nostalgia. The story is set in Hammond, Indiana – a town very close to where I grew up. The film’s setting feels like home. 2.) Great narration. The film is like a stroll down memory lane as an adult Ralphie recalls Christmas growing up. 3.) Great characters. The list includes Ralphie’s “old man,” local bully Scut Farkus, a dream-busting store Santa, and Flick – the infamous example of why peer pressure is a dangerous thing. 4.) I can watch it again and again. It’s just one of those films.

A Christmas Story is also a great film, because it vividly illustrates the danger of idolatry. The cast of characters unknowingly warns us of the power of an idol.

Perhaps for many, the mention of idolatry brings to mind little golden statues that people in biblical stories worshipped. While that may be accurate to a point, idolatry can be defined more broadly. Idols are things that take the place of God in our lives. Idols rule us. They control us. Idols are the things that we think about more than anything else. Put simply, an idol is often a good thing that has become a God-thing.

We vividly witness two tell-tale signs of idolatry in Ralphie and his “old man.” How can you tell if something is an idol? If either of the two statements below are true, you have an idol in your life.

images-11. I must have it! – It is an understatement to say that Ralphie would like a “Red Rider” BB gun for Christmas. He doesn’t just want it…he needs it! Throughout the film we watch Ralphie’s desperate attempts to ensure that Red Rider is under the tree Christmas morning. From subtle hints to outright manipulation, Ralphie must have that gun.

Idols are “must haves.” You can spot an idol by answering this question. What must I have in order to be happy?

images2. I must keep it! – One of the plot lines of the film follows Ralphie’s “old man,” Frank, who is the grand prize winner of a fish-net stocking-clad leg lamp. This raunchy table lamp, while prized by Mr. Parker is despised by his wife. Frank becomes so obsessed with his lamp, that his wife “accidentally” breaks it while vacuuming.

Idols are “must keeps.” We will do anything to protect an idol. Answer this – What must I never lose in order to be happy?

Although it may be easy to identify the ridiculous obsession of a leg lamp, the idols in our own lives can be difficult to see and/or acknowledge. Idols are deceitful things. They promise us happiness and satisfaction, but soon enslave us – leaving us dissatisfied and wanting more. We find ourselves trapped in sin – unable to get away from our new masters.

We need help destroying what will ultimately destroy us. We need people like Ralphie’s mother who will risk relationship in order to help us to break the chains of our idolatry. We need others in our lives who will help us to destroy the idols that deceive us.

Hebrews 3:12-13 puts it this way…

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from he living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Do you have people in your life who will encourage and challenge you? Do you do this for others?

Let’s heed this Christmas warning and work together to fight idolatry – remembering that satisfaction will only be found in relationship with the true God – Jesus Christ!

We continue our “watch along” guide to A Christmas Carol today.  Use these questions and commentary to guide your family to a thoughtful viewing of this holiday classic!

Does past abuse or neglect cause present sin?  When Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, we gain a window into his upbringing.  We see him being neglected by his peers.  We hear of his abusive father.  We learn of the death of his loving sister during the birth of his nephew.  Suffice it to say, Scrooge did not have a pleasant childhood!  He was most likely severely abused and regularly unloved.  So does this give you compassion for Scrooge, and explain his character development?  A Biblical worldview acknowledges that past suffering does greatly impact our present mental, emotional, and spiritual state.  Yet, the Bible also teaches us that we are always held responsible for our own present sins, even when sinned against by others in the past.

How is greed a form of idolatry?  Contributing to his heartache, Scrooge’s wife divorced him because she was no longer the love of his life.  Somewhere along the line, Scrooge’s heart was stolen by money!  Possibly fueled by his longstanding fear and deep emptiness, Scrooge filled his life with the gold and silver that never satisfies.  This heart idolatry literally consumed Scrooge, stealing his marriage, friendships, and his own soul.  Idolatry always costs us everying in the end, as it demands our total heart worship!

Who is responsible for man’s condition?  During the visit from the Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge views scenes of normal, everyday life–children playing, people going to church, and the daily contrast between abundance for some and poverty for many.  And the spirit shows him the condition of the Cratchetts, especially the crippled Tiny Tim.  Scrooge blames God (or the gods) for man’s seemingly worthless condition, questioning why people should worship a God at all.  The Ghost of Christmas Present verbalizes Dickens’ unitarian theology–don’t blame God, blame man.  “Ignorance” and “want” are man’s children, not God’s.  God is good; it’s man that brings suffering to other men.  Much like the theology of Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, we are to believe that God is impotent to stop man from hurting man.  This conception of God is a Diety that only hurts in our suffering; we humans need to just stop mistreating each other on our own.  So the solution is liberal social justice, where Christians view their primary responsibility as alleviating human suffering at the expense of the gospel!  How does this match up with a Biblical view of man’s condition, and the solution to mankind’s ills?

Is our future pre-destined?  At the end of the visit by the mute Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Scrooge asks the spirit if the vision of his future death was what “may be” or what “will be.”  This changing-of-destiny question has the theme of numerous films over the years, and it is often answered with the assertion that human beings are the masters of their own destinies.  Ebenezer Scrooge certainly longed to believe that a new future could be written!  Most modern filmmakers resist any belief in a predestined future since one of the core tenets of secular humanism in that humans are masters of their own fate!  Of course, the myth in these stories, including in A Christmas Carol, is that a divine being of some sort can accurately tell a human being his/her future, in detail.  Yet the Bible teaches that our destinies are ordained by the LORD and that no one knows his or her future.  The hope we have is in the One who holds our future!

What is the nature of man’s salvation?  The end of the movie always brings tears of joy to my eyes.  Scrooge grabs hold of his second chance at life.  He buys the largest turkey in town for the Cratchits.  He donates money to the poor.  He attends his nephew’s Christmas party.  He vastly improves Bob Cratchit’s working condition.  He becomes Tiny Tim’s benefactor.  Scrooge becomes one of the most joyful humanitarians of his time.  The changes in his life are swift, dramatic, and truly remarkable.  We all applaud and say with Tiny Tim, “God bless us, every one!”

But is this change equivalent with salvation?  Unfortunately, no.  Scrooge was “saved” by looking to himself.  We are saved only by looking to Christ.  Dickens, a professed Unitarian, proclaims the doctrine of the goodness of man who only needs to be emotinally inspired in order to change his own life.  Scrooge was definitely a better man after the appearances of the spirits, but he wasn’t a saved man.  He was now a “good” man, still lost on the path to hell!  True change only comes with true repentance–turning FROM self, TO Christ!

Merry Christmas, and to God be the glory!