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December 27, 2018

December 27, 2017

Dear Friends,


I have a holiday confession to make.


In a moment of weakness (actually multiple moments of weakness), Mary Ann and I broke down and watched a couple of Hallmark Christmas movies this year.


Three actually.


And we also watched the two Hallmark movie clones on Netflix.


Don’t judge us.


For those who are wondering, we watched the one where Candice Cameron Bure plays a set of twins who switch places for the holidays.  We watched Dermot Mulroney rekindle an old romance on a train ride from the east coast to LA.  We saw the one where the young reporter falls in love with a real prince.  And the one where the rich heiress learns the real meaning of Christmas.


Not that the plots of these movies really matter all that much.  As you know if you’ve allowed your remote control to lead you into Hallmarkland anytime between November 1 and the start of the new year, the endless cycle of holiday movies all have a lot of common, predictable elements.


And you may also know that the channel is a big hit.  These movies are drawing tons of viewers.  Leaving a lot of people scratching their heads.  In the middle of what many people see as the new golden age of television, what’s so appealing about these formula driven rom-coms?


Why are we tuning in to watch D-list actors and actresses falling in love in fictional small towns that are covered with snow, drowning in Christmas decorations and awash with carolers?


John Brummett, who writes a regular column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has a theory.  He believes Americans are seeking refuge from the current political climate.  While it may be that more and more of us are trying to escape the constant rancor and outrage on the cable news channels, the Hallmark phenomenon is entirely bi-partisan.  People have been increasingly tuning in to these movies during both Democrat and Republican administrations.


I think the appeal of the Hallmark Christmas movies share a common thread with the movies that were directed so many years ago by Frank Capra.  Capra’s films celebrated the virtue and integrity of common people who faced adversity and temptation to compromise their values.  A string of characters, from Mr. Deeds to Mr. Smith to George Bailey all refused to be corrupted by money, power or sex.


Critics dismissed Capra’s films, labeling them “Capra-corn,” and criticizing their Pollyanna plot lines.  “More of the heartfelt than is good for the stomach,” one Capra critic commented.


But it seems to me that the public affection for It’s a Wonderful Life (an affection I enthusiastically share) taps the same vein that the Hallmark films tap – the longing in each one of us for a place where people are nice to one another, noble and virtuous.  A yearning for relationships to work out, for love to triumph and for hearts to unite.


Mary Ann and I laughed several times at how the Hallmark films have characters meeting a week before Christmas and proposing marriage before the new year is rung in.  And none of their family or friends seem at all concerned by the rush to the altar.


Real life is more morally complex than any Hallmark plotline.  It’s more complicated than the twists invented by the screen writers.


But the filmmakers know that there is in each of us a wish that we lived in a place where people do the right thing and care about one another.


The idyllic small towns in the Hallmark movies are not heaven.  Not by a long shot.  But I think the longing the movies tap into are the longing for heaven that is in the heart of every human being.  It’s a longing for home – our real home.


The real 2017 didn’t feel much like a Hallmark move.  And here’s an easy prediction:  2018 won’t either.  As strangers and aliens in this world, we live with a powerful hope that life might be lived on earth as it is in heaven.  But we also live with the knowledge that this sinful, broken world is not our real home.


So forgive me for indulging my longings for a more perfect world a few hours at a time during the Christmas season.  And join me in praying that 2018 might be a little more heavenly – more noble – than the last few years have been


Please continue to pray for Beckett and Violet White, and for their parents and grandparents.  Their lives are fragile, and each day is a roller coaster of emotions.  Pray for their lungs, their hearts and their brain development.


Many you have asked about providing meals or other kinds of support for Kendall and Laura White as they continue to care for their newborn twins.  Because their schedule for the next several weeks will include regular trips to Baptist Medical Center, we’re asking folks in lieu of providing meals to consider giving the Whites gift cards to restaurants nearby the hospital.


Here are some suggestions for local restaurant gift cards:
Tacos for life
Visa gift card
Jason's deli
Chick fil a


Abby Elkins will be collecting the gift cards to pass on to the Whites.  You can either give them to her on Sunday or contact her at 501-690-4776 if you can't bring a card with you to church.


And once the twins are home, you can sign up to be part of a more traditional meal train.


All of our children gave Mary Ann and me a precious gift this year for Christmas.  We asked each of them to write for us a personal reflection on how they have grown in grace in the past year.  We wanted to know what events or passages of scripture or sermons or books God had used in their lives to help conform each of them more into the image of Christ.


It’s a good and healthy discipline for us to pause and reflect and consider the people and events and circumstances God has used in our lives.  And it’s a good discipline for us to express our gratitude both to God and to those people or ministries God has used.


One way for us to express that gratitude is for us to say thank you by giving financially to support the people or ministries.  Year end giving is a good practice.


And it’s a practice many of you have embraced this year.  I know that because in the past two weeks, we not only received a $10,000 pledge offered to us on the condition that the gift be matched by other gifts, but we also saw and additional $23,000+ given to enable us to receive the matching funds.


Your generosity is humbling.  You have no idea how encouraging it is for me and for all who serve in leadership to know that you see God at work in our midst and want to see the ministry continue to grow.  That’s my prayer as well.


This week, one of my sons passed along to me a quote from CS Lewis that had a significant impact on how he and his wife think about giving.  Here’s the quote:


“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”


Thank you for being a generous church.  Thank you for your financial gifts over the past 10 years.  Your giving is a big part of what has made our church possible.


If you’re still thinking about year end giving, and if God has used and is using Redeemer in your life, your children’s lives, or if you see God at work in the lives of others through Redeemer, you can still give a year end gift on Sunday and the donation will qualify for a 2017 tax deduction.


And if you’re interested in giving appreciated stock or securities to Redeemer, contact Tim Friesen and he can help you with the transaction.


The new year is also a time to think about new patterns, new habits, new ways of thinking and acting as a follower of Jesus.


We’ll talk about all things new this Sunday.


See you in church!


Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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