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Christmas - Now What?

     Now that Christmas is over, how do you feel?  In the United States advertisements were  plentiful - all urging us to spend money on must-have presents.  Large screen TV with no interest until 2011!  One time sale! etc. etc.  There was so much hype.  Even before Thanksgiving Christmas decorations were in the stores.  The music, such as Holiday Rock, Jingle Bells, and I am Dreaming of a White Christmas blared incessantly.  You have to buy a Christmas tree, decorate the tree and the house, put up all the ornaments, break out from the attic the Christmas decorations, and then the big day arrives.  Phone calls to relatives - perhaps even a video phone call.  Lots of opening of presents and a big dinner.  For some in the north and west of our country, shoveling snow and more snow.  And then two days after Christmas, it is all over - the bills come in, the presents have been enjoyed, the family disperses to the far corners of the earth - in our case one son going to South Africa on a missions trip and one son going back to college in Iowa.  So the question is:  "What is Christmas all about?"
     Christmas should be the beginning of the year - celebrating the birth of Christ the King.  Then this will lead to why He really came - celebrating His sacrifice on Good Friday and conquering death on Easter.  Then we celebrate Ascension Day when He rose to be with His Father, and then Pentecost when we celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit.  All this is in preparation of His return in majesty.
    So instead of having gloomy thoughts, now is the time to celebrate the real Christmas.  Christ is King, and has surely as He has come once, He will come again in majesty and power as a righteous judge.  Will you be ready?  Unlike the Christmas that we celebrate now, the date of His Second Coming is not known.  Unlike the Christmas that we celebrate now, His Second Coming will be one of judgment.  Are you ready for His Second Coming?

SuDoKu and God

"Pride goeth before the fall" is what King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 16:18.  I was thinking of that the other day as I was working on a SuDoKu puzzle.  I felt that I was getting better and I was tackling harder and harder ones more successfully.  And then bam, I got stumped.  And then I thought, here I am working on a puzzle and sometimes it takes me a half-hour to do a hard one. I thought of God and how He would be able to fill in all of them in a twinkling of an eye.  He is omniscient (fancy word for all knowing) and we are not.  Everytime I do a puzzle, I am reminded of my frailities and God's omniscience.  Wow - what a God we serve.

Moview Review: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is one of the most powerful films that my wife and I have ever seen.  You need to go see this film as well.  It is the story of a German family whose father/husband becomes a concentration camp commandant.  The story is of the family's reaction to the camp - the father doing his duty, the mother trying to support her husband until she understands what is going on, the twelve-year old daughter idolizing the German soldier and accepting the Nazi propaganda, and the eight-year old boy who ends up befriending some of the prisoners.  The dialogue is superb.  For example, the Jewish eight-year old boy says that he is proud of his father and then looks at the German and says "Aren't you proud of your father?"  The Nazi SS officer stating that the Jews stink alive and even worse when they are dead (referencing the crematorium). 
   While the depiction of the camp is simplistic (the boys being able to talk to each other and being close to the fence, the ease in which the tunnel under the wire is dug, these do not detract from this exceptionally powerful story.  While Schindler's List is graphic in the violence, The Boy in Striped Pyjamas  tells the story even more powerfully as it is seen through the eyes of eight year-olds and their innocence.
   Evil dominates this film, and this is not a film to take children to.  We did not take our 12 year old to it - it is too gruesome.  The violence is all off-screen, but there is no question of the intensity of the violence.  Having said that, it is well worth watching.  "Would we have acted differently?" 

Movie Review: Quantum of Solace

The latest James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, is no James Bond film, and certainly not worthy of your money or your time.  Quantum means quantity or gross quantity, bulk.  And solace means alleviation of grief, source of relief or consolation.  In the previous film, his girl friend had died and this film depicts James Bond's revenge.  He tried to console his grief by killing and killing and then killing some more.  Dead bodies are strewn throughout the film.  His heart is so full of revenge and hatred, he can not be consoled.  The Heidelberg Catechism, a document written in 1563, states:
Question 105. What does God require in the sixth commandment?
Answer: That neither in thoughts, nor words, nor gestures, much less in deeds, I dishonor, hate, wound, or kill my neighbor, by myself or by another: but that I lay aside all desire of revenge . . .
Question 106. But this commandment seems only to speak of murder?
Answer: In forbidding murder, God teaches us, that he abhors the causes thereof, such as envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge; and that he accounts all these as murder.

    The problem with the film is that James Bond is so full of revenge that he murders all with whom he comes into contact.  He willfully and deliberately choses to commit murder.  For example, in the end, his antagonist has no weapon, is in the desert with a wounded leg.  James Bond leaves him there to die.  James Bond is so full of revenge that he murders, and murdering reduces James Bond to a thug.  Instead of helping and reaching out to his opponent who no longer is a threat, he just murders him in cold blood.  Was he consoled by this?  No as his heart is full of hatred.  You do not see James Bond being released from his anger, his hatred.  In the end, he is no different than his enemy - full of hate, revenge, murder with blood stained hands.
    The Heidelberg Catechism states that God "abhors envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge."  As Jesus Christ commanded us, we must love our neighbors as ourselves.  James Bond did not do that, but we must. So skip Quantum of Solace and go watch a good movie, e.g., Fireproof your Marriage where hatred and anger are turned into love.