E-pistle December 4

Three Short Takes
1. I am using the Advent devotions from the booklet provided by our Adult Ministries program. The daily meditations in “A Grand Miracle” are based on a verse of Scripture and short reading from Christian writer C.S. Lewis and then a paragraph or two by compiler of the book himself. I find devotions to be insightful and helpful in these early days of our journey to Bethlehem’s manger. There are still copies available in the Chapel and Sanctuary and it’s not too late to make “A Grand Miracle” part of your Advent preparations.
And speaking of devotions, I am planning to offer some recommendations for those looking to begin the discipline of daily devotions or who are looking for new devotional resources for the new year.  If you have found a particular source – online or hard copy – the be helpful, would you please let me know.  Author and title should be enough.  You can respond by using the contact form (click here).
2. Last weekend Becky and I saw the new film “The Blind Side,” the movie version of the book by the same name, the true story of Baltimore Ravens rookie right tackle Michael Oher.  In many ways it is just one more feel-good, kid from the projects succeeds, movie. But it stands out from among the others in that it is not fiction, and, especially for its depiction of everyday Christians trying to live out their faith.  And while it is true that the screenplay does not play up the deep faith of the story’s real players, it cannot hide it either.
Here is an article (click here) that gets behind the film and another (click here) that looks at the making of the film. Notice how the witness of a real-life Christian impacted the film’s star, Sandra Bullock. ("I now have faith in those who say they represent a faith," Bullock commented. "I finally met people who walk the walk." What would a non-Christian who spent time with you or me have to say?)

The movie has been rated PG-13 and I would respect the rating as far as younger children are concerned, but it is a movie I recommend to you.
3.  Becky’s airplane book for our Thanksgiving trip to Memphis was Olive Kitteridge, the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner by Elizabeth Strout. It was my airplane book for the trip home. It is a story without a plot or maybe no story at all.  It is a series of snapshots of the lives of the residents of a small town on the coast of Maine. Strout paints compelling portraits of the people whose comings and goings sometimes intersect and sometimes don’t. Those of us who have lived in small towns will find that the pictures Strout shows us are accurate reflections of the characters we have known.
The Pulitzer panel did not make a mistake in awarding Olive Kitteridge the prize for best fiction.
In the world Strout creates, or reflects, however, there are no happy people, no people at peace with themselves and with the Creator who gave them the rugged beauty of the Maine coast or the Redeemer who calls them to abide in him through all the complicated seasons of their lives.  A few of the characters go to church, but it seems a dreary practice and a dreary place and in the end has no power to make sense of their dreary lives. 
We Christians often live our lives in a bubble of church relationships and our own Christian ghettos.  In many ways our lives are not so dreary as the lives of those who do not yet know the loving embrace of the God who creates, redeems and sustains – and in other ways we “in the circle” have just gotten very good at hiding the dreariness, and our weariness with it. 
Each year we need to be reminded that Christmas is not about gifts and parties, it is about God taking on human flesh that he might save us from sin – sin, which occasionally is exciting and invigorating, no doubt about it, but is usually, and always in the end, a very dreary thing.  He saves us to a whole new way of living that is never dreary. 

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!