Category Archives: Christmas

(podcast) with Dr. Timothy Keller: Christmas Message

Christmas Message (click here)

Since we are deep into the Christmas season, this is the third of four podcasts imgresI’m sharing (see November 28 and December 5 for the previous two), one each week, from Dr Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

If you click on the audio above, it will not only take you to some fascinating content but some excellent resources as well.

Enjoy.

***You can now access, download and/or subscribe to all of our podcasts through itunes. Just go to the itunes store. In the horizontal menu toward the top, click podcasts. Then type into the search box johnnypricemindfield. Click and there you are. Thanks, again, for checking it out.

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Christmas, Jesus, Podcast, Podcasts, Religion

(podcast) with Dr. Tim Keller: The Meaning of Christmas

The Meaning of Christmas

Having entered the Christmas season, I’m sharing four podcasts (see Novemberimgres 28 for the previous one), one each week, from Dr Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

If you click on the audio above, it will not only take you to some fascinating content but some excellent resources as well.

Enjoy.

***You can now access, download and/or subscribe to all of our podcasts through itunes. Just go to the itunes store. In the horizontal menu toward the top, click podcasts. Then type into the search box johnnypricemindfield. Click and there you are. Thanks, again, for checking it out.

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Ralphie vs. George Bailey

This morning James Emery White sent out an insightful blog concerning two movie favorites. I thought I’d share it with you. AND … your thoughts are always welcome. -J. P.

A couple of years ago a film crew from our church hit the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina, to produce a “person on the street” video asking people “What comes to your mind when you think of the Christmas story?”

Number one answer?

“The movie.”ralphie-head-logo

Yep, the 1983 “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid” tale from 1940’s Indiana of a nine-year-old boy’s desire for a Red-Ryder Carbon-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle BB-Gun (and, lest we forget, with a compass in the stock).

An intriguing editorial in Time magazine at around the same time noted how A Christmas Story had become the quintessential American film for Christmas, replacing It’s a Wonderful Life. Titled “Generation X-Mas,” it chronicled how an “upstart film became a holiday icon for the post-boomer set.”

As for George Bailey?thanksx-topper-medium

“Not so into him anymore.”

Those from older generations stayed with Bedford Falls, along with Macy’s (Miracle on 34th Street) as their favorite film destinations. But respondents a bit younger, from 18 to 41 years old, granted the “major award” to Scott Fargas, Flick and the Bumpus’ dogs.

Time suggested this as one of the “pop-cultural shifts” such as football overtaking baseball, or salsa defeating ketchup, that “signal bigger changes.”

Perhaps because A Christmas Story is everything It’s a Wonderful Life is not – “satiric and myth-deflating, down to the cranky store Santa kicking Ralphie down a slide.”

Or perhaps it is because of the changing relationship between the community and the individual. Whereas the older films position Christmas as that which “uplifts the suicidal, raises every voice in Whoville, [and] renders peace between Macy and Gimbel,” A Christmas Story “inverts the moral.”

Now it’s the individual Christmas experience that matters. Getting the BB-gun, instead of protecting the local Savings and Loan for the poor, is the point. Or as Time put it, “It’s the individual Christmas that matters. Bedford Falls can take a hike…[it’s not about] angels’ getting their wings. Christmas is about the kids getting their due.”

But perhaps we can go where Time could not.

The great divide between It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story is more than just the radical individualism that marks our day, but what has spawned such individualism. The real divide between the two films is that one retains the idea that Christmas is about the birth of the Christ child, and one does not.

Unless I have missed it, A Christmas Story does not have a single reference, symbol, picture or event that would suggest Christmas is about the birth of Christ, or has religious significance of any kind. A brief snippet of “Go Tell It on the Mountain” is revealed in a downtown scene, but that’s about it. No nativity scenes, no church services, no Christian music – even the department store, Higbees, honors the season not with shepherds or wise men, but with characters from The Wizard of Oz.

It’s a Wonderful Life, on the other hand, was rich in Christian idea and ethos, from traditional Christmas songs celebrating the birth of Christ (the climax of the movie is marked by the spontaneous outburst of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”) to the central character of an angel.

Yet this reflects more than the choice of one movie over another.

An analysis of 48,000 hours of programming by the NRB (National Religious Broadcasters) found that 90 percent of holiday programming did not have a significant spiritual theme; 7 percent had a religious or spiritual theme, but did not refer to Jesus or the biblical story of His birth.

Jesus was the focus of only 3 percent of all Christmas programming.

I’ll confess that A Christmas Story has become one of my favorite movies. The nostalgia of the time, and the way it reveals how Christmas often “works,” runs deep and familiar.

But when I watch it, along with millions of others, I remind myself that while it is Christmas story,

…it is not the Christmas story.

For a taste of that, I need to go back to Bedford Falls.

For a full course meal, I need to go all the way back to Bethlehem.

James Emery White

Sources

Adapted from James Emery White, The Church in An Age of Crisis (Baker).

“Generation X-Mas: How an upstart film became a holiday icon for the post-boomer set,” James Poniewozik, Time, December 10, 2007, p. 90. Read the article online.

National Religious Broadcasters analysis can be found in the Winter 2004 edition of Enrichment, and also on the website of Preaching Today (a service of Christianity Today magazine). The website for the NRB is www.nrb.org.

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

 

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Filed under Christmas, Film analyses, Jesus, Johnny Price Mindfield, Media, Religion

(podcast) with Dr. Tim Keller: Who is this Jesus?- Open Forum

Who is this Jesus- – Open Forum (click here)

Now that we’ve entered the Christmas season, I want to share four podcasts over the  (you guessed it), four weeks leading up to the Big Day from Dr Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

If you click on the audio above, it will not only take you to some fascinating content but some excellent resources as well.

Enjoy.

***You can now access, download and/or subscribe to all of our podcasts through itunes. Just go to the itunes store. In the horizontal menu toward the top, click podcasts. Then type into the search box johnnypricemindfield. Click and there you are. Thanks, again, for checking it out.

Leave a comment

Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Christmas, Islam, Jesus, Johnny Price Mindfield, Podcast, Podcasts, Religion

Needs vs. Desires

There are needs and then there are desires.  We do well if we keep the two separate and distinct in our minds.

Needs are essentials. Desires are extras that we long for.

Needs are universal. Desires vary from person to person; some legitimate, some not.

When we take a desire for a need we’re likely to begin to think we deserve what we desire; that it’s not fair that we should do without.

We begin to focus more and more on what we want, losing sight and appreciation for what we have.

For example, you may look at your floor and say, “I need a new carpet.” Well, no, you don’t. You may want one. You may desire one. But nobody needs a new carpet. Nobody needs a carpet, period.

I would suggest that there are only six things a person actually needs:

  • God
  • Loving relationships
  • Meaningful work
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Shelter

Beyond these, everything else is “gravy”.  Extra blessings.

To the extent we are willing to embrace this, we’ll begin to relax about what we lack, appreciate more the abundance of blessings we have – and be better equipped to survive this season that does more than any other to confuse our desires with our needs.

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What Was It With The Wise Men?

Illustration: Theodor van Loon’s Adoration of the Magi

Here’s an opportunity to impress your friends: You’re at a New Year’s Eve party, when there’s the inevitable awkward lag in conversation. You take another sip of your wine, or another chug of your beer – or, ok, maybe you pour some more coke in your glass – and you say, rather casually:

“You know, of course, if the first Christmas had taken place on December 25 (which we know, of course, that isn’t the case) that the Magi we often refer to as the Wise Men would, at best, just now be packed up for their trip to Jerusalem in search of the Christ child. We don’t know that there were three of them; the Bible doesn’t tell us. We just know there was more than one.

“Anyway… they didn’t see the star they followed until after Jesus was born… And it’s puzzled me for a long time [here you might want to stroke your chin, or if you’re a lady gently tap you index finger thoughtfully on your lips]… that since the Magi were astrologers… and astrology – looking to the stars and planets, i.e., the creation, to foretell the future – is forbidden by the Creator himself way back in the Old Testament… like  [clearing your throat] in Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10; and Isaiah 8:19… why would God have used a star to guide the Magi?

“But then I was reading how the star was used to announce the birth of Christ, not to foretell this event.

“Anyway… who knows how long it took them to get to Jerusalem and see King Herod – who, of course, realized that something of a divine nature was behind this birth because he told the Magi to report back to him once they had found the child – so he could go worship him. Worship him. Yeah. Right. Of course. [You might want to inject a derisive “Ha!” right here.]

“Then the trip really got cranking. But did you know that by the time they finally encountered the child, now named Jesus, he was in a house (Matthew 2:11) and approximately two years old? (See, the Magi  didn’t show up at the stable in Bethlehem after all, despite what you’ve seen in nativity scenes.)

“Well the Magi were then warned, in a dream, not to return to Herod. (I wonder, did they all have the same dream?) [Insert ‘hmmm…’ here] So they, of course, headed home by another route.

“When Herod figures out he’s been outwitted by the Magi, well, of course, he’s really pissed. [You might want to edit here according to your audience.] So he then puts out one of the most horrifying edicts recorded in the Bible (or anywhere else): ‘To kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and younger.’ (Matthew 2:16)”

“Mary and Joseph are warned they must flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s slaughter, a trip which was certainly financed by the gifts from the Magi: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

“But one thing that really strikes me: two years those Wise Men traveled to find the Christ child. You gotta love it when people are determined they will not stop until they find The Truth.”

Now if you want to make this contribution to the conversation just a bit more impressive, quit saying “of course” so many times.

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What Was It With The Shepherds?

(Illustration: Annunciation to the The Shepherds, Rembrandt van Rijn)

The first proclamation of the coming of the Messiah, the Christ child, was made to a bunch of shepherds out in a field in the middle of the night. Why?

Some think it was because Jesus was eventually to be referred to as The Great Shepherd, so there was bit of creative foreshadowing. Others have suggested, perhaps somewhat facetiously, that with all the busyness of people’s everyday lives, not to mention the bustle surrounding the census, that the shepherds were the only ones in a position and in place quiet enough to hear a proclamation – even from angels. (There’s some insight there.)

But the answer actually lies in the fact that shepherds, as a group, had fallen into horrible ill-repute.

It wasn’t that way during the years of the Old Testament. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David were all shepherds. One of the best loved of the Jewish psalms began “The Lord is my Shepherd…”

The late Joachim Jeremias, a German Lutheran theologian, cites Rabbinic sources to the effect that “most of the time they were dishonest and thieving; they led their herds onto other people’s land and pilfered the produce of the land.”

Because they were often months at a time without supervision, they were often accused of stealing some of the increase of the flock. Consequently, people were warned not to buy wool, milk, or kids from shepherds on the assumption that it was stolen property. Shepherds were not allowed to fulfill a judicial office or be admitted in court as witnesses.

A midrash on Psalm 23:2 reads, “There is no more disreputable occupation than that of a shepherd.’

So why was this first proclamation made to such people?

Because the shepherds represented both literally and figuratively the very type of people that Jesus came to save: People like you and me.

Think about it.

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