Time Sensitivity: Sunday Before Christmas, Or special Christmas service, or Sunday Morning after.
NOTE: This is a light Christmas lesson aimed at a whole family experience. It works well advertised to draw in visitors.
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(Deliver in joyous, childlike playful way.) Christmas is a time of hope and positive expectation.
I ask you to think about the most important Christmas that you remember from your childhood. For many of you, the most important memory will be about the best Christmas gift that you ever received in your entire life, a Christmas gift which you received from your parents or some relative who really sacrificed to get a special gift for you. Even though outer conditions were difficult, they saved to get you the gift you wanted for Christmas. As I’m talking, remember that Christmas you had that was so special.
“A Christmas Story” is a story that was written by Jean Shepherd about his childhood. The story takes place in a fictional mill town called Holman, Indiana. The book he wrote was called In God We Trust, All Others Pay cash. It’s become a classic. There is also the classic movie that has been based on this book. It is entitled “A Christmas Story.”
Know that this is a story, not of one little boy in Holman, Indiana, but a story inside all of us; a story of how we can go beyond our outer conditions. It takes place in 1937, and there was a great depression that was sweeping the country. In fact, during that year, the Depression was at its height in Holman, Indiana. But this is not a story of tragedy, rather a story of how people lived with hope and peace in their hearts despite any hardships they faced. In this story the main character goes back to Holman, Indiana and looks upon Cleveland Street, where he lived, he remembers not those hardships, but remembers the message of hope and peace his parents and family life brought him while he was there.
True religion is overcoming outer conditions through inner strength. God does not serve us when placed high on a pedestal. Nor do we serve God by placing God there. We serve God by daily living in God’s ways and by trying to think the way that God would think about ourselves, and about other people.
As you listen to this story, I’d like you to ask yourself a true question of the Advent season: How are we living in the HOPE of God? How are we living in the PEACE of God? How are we expressing the LOVE of God? How are we expressing the JOY of God? Are these just candles on an Advent wreath or are we truly bringing these godly powers into our lives and living it? Yes, the light of these gifts can be created in your life, no matter what is happening in your life. I tell you; you can go above and beyond any outer challenge and problem that is happening.
Let me tell you, first, about Holman, Indiana. It is located in the extreme northwestern corner of the state. The state line ends abruptly with the icy waters of the queen of the Great Lakes – Lake Michigan. It clings to Chicago like a barnacle cling to the bottom of a steamer. From time to time, the echoes of the outside world come into Holman, but they have little effect on the people there.
Holman’s life is a mill town existence. It is a life of furnaces that go 24 hours a day, converters you can hear in the middle of the night, and petroleum distillation plants that you can smell 24 hours a day. Social life in Holman is found in the bowling halls and the union halls, beer halls, dance and pool parlors. This town is in an area of sandy, rolling country. It is more frozen and rigid in the winter by the gales that get their start around the Arctic Circle and come over the icy waters of Lake Michigan and end up in Holman, Indiana.
The trains thunder through Holman, and present a mystery to every child who lives there. They think about the trains that are all going somewhere else, and they wish they could be on them. The sky at night is always lit by the eternal flames of the open hearths and the blast furnaces. Nothing much has changed in Holman, Indiana, least of all the people who live there.
As this man goes back to Holman, Indiana, he finds himself on Cleveland Street and he is remembering. In what seemed like just a few minutes, a thousand little memories pop into his head. First, he remembered what he looked like as a little boy. They called him Ralphie. His most vivid memories were about that special Christmas in 1937.
He remembered: Christmas was coming. A Glorious Christmas on which the entire “kid-year” revolved. Downtown Holman, Indiana, was a bustle with Christmas activity.
The main feature in Holman, Indiana, was Higby’s corner window. It was traditionally a high-water mark of the pre-Christmas season. First niters packed earmuff to earmuff. They jostled in wonderment before a golden, twinkling display of mechanized, electronic joy. Inside the window was the holy grail of Christmas gifts.
There was something in this window that Ralphie wanted so much that he got so close to the window that his nose was smashed down against the glass. It was a Red Rider 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in its stock and a thing that tells time.
For weeks, Ralphie had been screaming to get his mitts on one of these fearsome steel beauties. His fevered brain seethed with the effort of trying to come up with the infinitely subtle suggestions necessary to plant the Red Rider air rifle indelibly into his parents’ subconscious for that Christmas.
For his first attempt to do this, he took a huge ad for the Red Rider and put it into the “LOOK” magazine that had just come to the house. He placed it in the middle of an article about Clark Gable and Loretta Young. He knew that his parents would see that ad. But they never commented on it.
Next, he was sitting at the kitchen table and his mother said, “Well, Ralphie, what would you like for Christmas?” Without thinking, he blurted out, “I want the Red Rider BB gun.’ His mother just shook her head and said, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
He knew that was strike one.
His father was at the table. He was always entering contests. (This was the hope of getting beyond the Depression.) He always entered contests in hope of that serendipity, something special and unexpected coming into his life. Ralphie’s little brother Randy was at the table, too. As most little brothers, Randy wouldn’t eat. The story says he hadn’t eaten voluntarily in over three years. His mother would constantly tell him there were starving people in China.
Preparing to go to school in Holman, Indiana, was like preparing for extended deep sea diving. You had so many clothes on that your arms stuck out at your sides and you couldn’t even move. You looked more like a dressed “T” than a person. Your whole face was covered, so you could hardly see. He remembers his elementary school, (Warren G. Harding Elementary School). He was in the third grade and his teacher was Mrs. Shields.
He remembered one particular time when his friend Flick went outside during recess. Flick was bragging that he knew a lot about things that the other kids didn’t know about. For instance, he said that if you stick out your tongue and put it on a metal light pole, you will freeze instantly to the pole and you wouldn’t be able to move. Well, the kids turned the tables on Flick. One kid said, “Flick, I triple-dog dare you to do it.” Well, this is a dare that a man just could not step away from. So Flick arched his back, stuck his tongue out and put it against the metal pole. Instantly, his tongue froze to the metal pole.
The bell rang, recess was over. The kids didn’t know what to do, so they went back into the classroom. The teacher looked around and said, ‘Where’s Flick?” Everybody just shrugged their shoulders. Finally, one little girl shyly points outside. The teacher looks outside and there is Flick, screaming with his tongue stuck to the pole.
That afternoon Flick was back in the classroom, after the fire department rescued him. The teacher decided she would have the kids write a theme. The subject was “What I Want for Christmas.” Ralphie knew that he was up at bat again. This time, he wrote in eloquent terms about the Red Rider BB gun. He turned it in, knowing that he would get the highest grade in the class. About a week later, he got his theme back and he received a C- for it. Down at the bottom of the paper the teacher wrote: ‘You’ll shoot your eye out.”
This was strike number two.
In December 1937, the highest thing in a kid’s life happened on a Tuesday evening at 6:45pm. Little Orphan Annie was on the radio, brought to the listening audience by rich, chocolaty Ovaltine. Now, Ralphie has spent months drinking Ovaltine to get a secret seal to send into Orphan Annie so he could have a decoder ring. At the end of every broadcast, there was a special code given out for only those who had the decoder ring. 11-Y-36-N-27 … The code went on and on.
This night was a special night because Ralphie had received his decoder ring that afternoon. He was quickly writing down the secret message as it was broadcast. It was so important, (according to Ralphie), that the nation’s welfare depended on his deciphering the message.
He went upstairs and locked himself in the bathroom and slowly deciphered the code. It was one of the biggest disappointments in his life when he looked down and saw what the message was after it was decoded. It said, “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.”
But this is quickly forgotten as he goes downstairs and hears his father screaming, “I won! I won! I won a major award.” The award came later that evening. It was the most hideous lamp you have ever seen. But it was the Depression, and it was serendipity for that family. It didn’t matter how hideous it was it came, it was won, it was unexpected, and it was a blessing to their lives.
The father had one major problem–that was with one of the neighbors. The big problem was that the Bumpuses were, as the family called them “hillbillies,” and they had 27 hound dogs. These dogs would ignore every human being on earth except Ralphie’s father. The minute he drove into the driveway, the hounds would be around him, barking and jumping and becoming a nuisance to him.
That night, Ralphie and his family went downtown to the Christmas Emporium of the Midwest to choose a Christmas tree. There were over 300 trees to choose from. He went in and got the biggest tree that he could possibly get. After they got it home, every time they tried to plug in the lights on it, the fuses would go out.
The family sang Jingle Bells, and it was a time that superseded anything that was happening outside with the economy in our country, it superseded the Depression. It superseded the hardship the family was going through. They had each other and with each other they could create hope, peace, love and joy.
The next day they went downtown to the Christmas Parade. At the end of the parade Santa Claus officially came into town. Santa got off the float and went into Higby’s. He sat upon a mountain where the line formed to see Santa. Ralphie was at the end of the line. He remembers that the line stretched all the way back to Terre Haute.
He finally got up to Santa, and he realized that this was his last chance. He sat on Santa’s lap and said, “I want the Red Rider BB gun.” Santa looked down at him and said, ‘You’ll shoot your eye out.”
Christmas finally came. Snow was falling. Santa had come. Traditionally, the first gift to be opened was the presents from Aunt Clara. Aunt Clara always sent Ralphie something pink. She labored under the delusion that Ralphie was a girl. This year, it was the worst ever. It was a set bunny pajamas – solid pink with big floppy ears and complete with fluffy tail and feet.
All the gifts were opened. Everyone sat in the living room, filled with joy. The father said, “Well, Ralphie, did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?”
Ralphie said, “Well, almost.”
The father said, “Well, there’s always next year.” Then the father looked and said, “Wait a minute. What is “that” behind the tree?” Ralphie looked up and his eyes got big. He went over and got the long box and tore open the paper.
Inside, unknown to his mother, was the Red Rider RB gun.
The father just shrugged his shoulders and said to the mother, “Well, I had one when I was eight.” Ralphie went outside and put the tin target up. He aimed the air rifle and pulled the trigger. The BB hit the tin target and the BB was deflected back and hit Ralphie right under his eye. His glasses went off into the snow and were eventually broken.
Meanwhile, Ralphie’s father was in the kitchen, trying to steal some of the turkey. Mothers are strange creatures. They know from 300 yards what the men are doing in the house. She shouts down from upstairs, “You stay away from that turkey!” Right away, he goes into the living room and sits down with his newspaper. Everything is right with the world. He’s in his favorite easy chair reading his newspaper, smelling his favorite dish, and he hears a sound. He puts down his newspaper and goes into the kitchen. Someone has left the door open and the Bumpuses hounds are in the kitchen and they have devoured the turkey.
The family went out to eat in the only restaurant open in town–The Chop Suey Palace. He remembers this, too, as his favorite Christmas meal because Peking Turkey is duck and they leave the head on it. During the whole meal it was smiling back at Ralphie.
Soon it was Christmas night. All the lights were off. The two boys are in bed sound asleep. Randy is holding his favorite gift and Ralphie is holding his Red Rider BB gun.
Life is real. Sometimes life is tough. Sometimes there are conditions like a depression that and we have to overcome that. Inside of each one of us we are blessed by God with the power to do just that.
Sometimes there are conditions of ill health, or there are conditions that make us feel that we don’t want to celebrate Christmas in our lives, but we are given the power of God’s hope to go beyond this.
I often think about Jesus. We think about Jesus as an adult, but at another time Jesus was an eight-year-old boy. He had a mom and a dad. Mary would have been around 21 years of age and Joseph would have been in his early forties. Think about their home life. It must have been good because He often referred to becoming like a little child again; to see life with eyes of hope and wonderment. How much wonder this Child must have had about the future.
The Bible doesn’t talk much about this, but this is what religion really is. It is daily life. It is how we’re living our life today. Jesus was born and He brought hope, peace of mind, love, and enjoyment into the daily world. Jesus’ teachings brought these ultimate Christmas gifts to you. When you follow His teachings, you can have new hope today in your daily life, no matter what is going on.
Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. When we dwell on His teachings and pray in His manner, we become peaceful. We truly have the Prince of Peace inside of us. As you look back on your life and smile about some of the Christmases that have happened in your life, you don’t remember the gifts as much as the peaceful memories you’ve had. They are something that you wouldn’t exchange for all the money or all the gifts in the world.
In Luke 1:79, before the birth of Jesus Christ, it says: “Jesus is coming to guide our feet into the way of peace.” After the birth, in Luke 2:14 the angels said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’
Those who are watching the spiritual realm know that still greater changes are going on there. Often human-made creeds and dogmas are skeletons in their closets which they do not care to talk about.
In politics and in government the same upheavals are at work. The rights of men and women are no longer theories. They are about to become real conditions in the world of affairs. So, from any plane of observation that may be chosen, we can assert with conviction that the time is here. Something is happening.
All along the line are evidence of the birth of the Prince of Peace. A higher state of consciousness is bursting full-blown upon the whole race. It is everywhere. Those who are most open to its influx are being rewarded. The Power is abroad in the earth, and it calls to men, women and nations to come up higher.
All this is a prelude to a new state of consciousness for the whole of humankind. It is the beginning of the visible reign of the Christ. Every state of consciousness was first planted as a seed idea by some individual. So, Jesus planted the seed thoughts that are now springing up in so many forms and shapes.
It was He who went into all domains of thought and formulated ideas that have waited for people who could comprehend and utilize them. We are that people. The dawn of the new birth is in our keeping. We possess the keys to the gates of the New Jerusalem.
It should not be assumed that this refers to any sect or class. It refers to all people of this great time who are open to its spiritual understanding. The keys are presented to those who come into a perception of true hope, peace, love, and joy.
This is the key that is being entrusted to many in this great day of the Lord. But the possession of the key is not all. A key is FOR USE.
Do not just sit in church learning about God. Put God into your daily life. We may all know the way in which the mind formulates states of consciousness and all about our relation to God. But unless we have made a change in our consciousness and realize in the presence of God in our minds, we are not using the Christmas gifts of the keys.
Theory is one thing, practice is another.”
Where do you turn the key? You turn it in your daily life today. You turn the key to bring those God attributes of hope, peace, love, and joy into your life. That’s when it becomes real to you. That’s when it becomes magic in your life and in the lives of those around you.
This story tells us about the God-given gift of togetherness. It is more powerful than anything in the outer world. It tells us the story of rekindling our hope, our peace, our love for each other, and our joy like a child, to bring the holiday into full manifestation in our life. Then it tells us that we make our own Christmas wherever we go.
Christmas is not with material presents, but with the spiritual presence of God.
I pray that you do so now. Go with God and overcome conditions. Go with God and overcome challenges and problems.
Hope with God and make Christmas real today.
God Bless You!
PRAYER / MEDITATION_______________________
In Romans 8:28 it says, “In everything God works for good for those who love God.” A mighty assurance is contained in these words.
You love God and I love God. We rely upon God’s power to adjust and regulate all things. We realize that Divine adjustment by God is mighty to bring about complete change in all the circumstances of our lives, and to establish perfect order.
Right now, we begin to set our world in order by reforming our thoughts. Let us invoke the Divine wisdom of God to guide our thinking and let us lay hold of and make manifest the great thoughts of God; the ideas that point the way by which we are to establish God’s kingdom.
In this moment, I invite you to discover God within the peace of the silence of prayer.
Rest in the silence of prayer …
God is with us right now. God’s thoughts are accessible to us. God is your guide: your helper in EVERY task you are given to do. God helps you to bring order out of every seemingly perplexing situation that confronts you. When you look to God, your mind is quickened to see the way to take. Your faith is quickened to see how things are working together for good.
New and confusing conditions may loom before you, but you are now undisturbed by them. God gives you the assurance that all is well. You need only to be receptive to God’s wise counsel, obey it unquestioningly and let Divine order work through you. If you are confused as to what you should do, you need not contend with yourself or others.
Declare silently in prayer, that God’s wisdom is your guide and God’s law of harmony is the ruling principle of your life.
Rest in the silence of prayer …
Steadfast and strong, unaffected by outer appearances of disharmony, you shall be equal to every emergency when you know that God is all-powerful and that God is the directive power within God’s Creation. You allow the hope of God to become your hope. You allow the peace of God to become your peace. You allow the love of God to become your love. You allow the joy of God to become your joy.
And you bring that into manifestation now in this time of prayer.
Rest in the silence of prayer …
God is the creator of all things. And all things love their Creator. They seek to work together for good to all who love God. We place our trust totally in God. We depend on God for help in every situation. No matter what our needs might be, God is with us, and is able to meet them fully, wisely and lovingly. God is our light. God is our strength. God is our perfect help. In trusting God, we have at our call the greatest power that is available; a power that is instant, constant and unfailing.
We are confident because we know we are not alone. God is with us. We are capable because we know that we do not rely on ourselves alone but we rely upon God working with us. We are successful because God is always successful. We work with God and God flows through our minds and our bodies. Every movement is directed by the Divine.
We have a knowing, in prayer, that God is working through us. And God working through us is equal to every demand.
No emergency of life can be greater than the power of God in us to cope with it.
THROUGH THE PRESENCE AND THE POWER OF GOD, DIVINE ORDER IS NOW ESTABLISHED IN YOU. PEACE AND STABILITY ARE MANIFEST IN YOUR WORLD.
Rest in the silence of prayer …
These Godly thoughts are accepted inside our human minds. These Divine thoughts are acted upon this week, every day and every moment during our Christmas season.
In the nature of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, we say Amen.
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