It's that time of year again! Yep that's right, get the popcorn out, make the hot chocolate, and start the fire as you put on a classic Christmas movie. There's not much better than watching the movies we have seen over and over again which still evoke memories and emotions connecting us to the Christmas season. Christmas movies help us remember our loved ones both past and present in our lives and focus us on the true meaning of the holiday. The movies also give us spiritual messages to incorporate in our lives.
So let's look closer at the 6 best Christmas movies and the spiritual messages we can receive from them this holiday season.
#6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Dr. Seuss)
Of course we start here! What better story than how the Grinch found love for himself and others. This realization helps us all know that ultimately its not about us this Christmas season. Selfishness and greed are very real parts of the world. We must evaluate our thoughts and motives to make sure they are what's best for the community, not just ourselves.
There is a purpose behind the holiday that brings us together as a community to sing, laugh, and give thanks. The Who's accepted the Grinch with loving arms without reservation. And so are we called to this season to be inclusive with those around us inviting them to experience the living Christ in their lives. The Grinch was able to change because this radical love that persisted over his desire for material things.
Message: Focusing on others, not yourself brings joy
#5. Miracle on 34th St.
This classic always makes the top list because of its positive, uplifting message. It makes us check our greedy thoughts at the door and reminds us there is something greater than ourselves. Faith is inextricably linked to belief. This film helps us recognize that believing can make all the difference in our lives. Believing opens our heart to possibilities and the mystery of the divine. So believe and know there is something more than meets the eye. The birth of Jesus gives us all something to believe in this season.
Message: Faith makes miracles possible
This newer Christmas classic keeps you smiling throughout the film. It evokes happiness and joy as we laugh at the goofy idea and antics of Will Ferrell's character. In todays fast paced world this movie strikes home telling us to be aware of how we are investing our time. Our focus on obligations and responsibilities pulls us away from the real things that matter in this world. Elf tells us its ok to say no as we turn our time and focus to what really matters. Figuring that out is the challenge left for you.
Message: Find what matters in life to you and hold it close
#3. The Christmas Story
"I just won a major award!" The Christmas Story is either a movie you love or hate. Either way the movie takes you through the life of a boy named Ralphie who faces many dilemmas, challenges, and situations throughout the flick. The hilarious experiences Ralphie goes through gives him an array of emotions to which he has to manage. I believe this film speaks to how there is so much to learn in life through experience. Experiences shape who we are and who we are to be. We learn and become wiser as we live through the decisions we make in life. Through all of this God is always with us. We are never separated from the divine presence.
Message: Life is to be experienced, go out and enjoy it
#2. Christmas Vacation
Clark Griswold's perfect Christmas is shredded to pieces with the unusual and unfortunate events that transpire. However in the end he recognized the gift of truly being with family or those you care about despite all else. The Christmas season is meant to be shared with others. Whether its sledding, decorating lights, or drinking eggnog this movie reminds us how important it is to spend the holidays with people. So go be with someone you care about or invite them to do something.
Message: Share the holiday season by being with others
#1. It's a Wonderful Life
The angel Clarence says to George Bailey, "Each man's life touches so many other lives, and when he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" This classic takes us on a roller coaster as we learn how a life can impact another's. George Bailey needed this experience to help him see the meaning behind his life. I hope all of us can find that meaning and purpose in our lives. Believing we have a purpose creates hope even if we don't know what it is. It helps us search spiritually to continually find where God is placing me and what God is asking me to do. We create meaning by loving others and doing what is needed in the moment. I hope this Christmas season you find meaning through your love of others.
Message: By loving others we impact their life in unforeseen ways
Merry Christmas! I pray that you all find the divine in your life this Christmas season!
This week watch your favorite Christmas Movie!
“To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God ... Christians go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to Rome, and also to Compostela… to strengthen their spirit with the witness of faith and love.”
- Pope Francis
Pilgrimages have been around for millenniums and are critical parts of most religious traditions. Human kind has an internal desire to find the divine in unique locations that provide meaning to our lives. Often these locations come from our heritage and the stories we hear of God becoming real and present to our ancestors. We hold a view that in these sacred places the bridge between our world and God is closer and more accessible than the settings we find ourselves in each day.
Pilgrimages are about the search for God and/or moral significance in our life. Many times the upheld locations call us forward to meet the creator however the journey there is what shapes us and connects us with who we are and what God is calling us to be in this world.
Pilgrimage is an attempt to align our lives with what is right. To find peace, make spiritual progress, and encounter the divine. It's about living simply and moving toward what is sacred in our lives. Since it is a journey of physically going to a sacred space so does our hearts and souls. It is a journey both inward and outward with respect for the past and the present.
Community of Christ Heritage
As part of the greater christian community, Community of Christ joins with those in journeying to find God in their life from the sacred places of the past. Here is a list of the "6 Top Christian Pilgrimages" brought to you by lightworkers. com for you to check out.
With this churches unique heritage it provides additional sacred spaces to which we travel with the hope to find the divine. Let's look closer at these places represented in this tradition.
1. Kirtland Temple - During the early years of the latter day saints movement the Kirtland Temple was built by a community of believers. It was a place of community life anchored by the church and its beliefs. It was at this sacred space where many people felt the presence of God moving within their hearts and souls. To learn more about the Kirtland Temple and other historic sites please go to the Historic Sites Foundation.
2. Sacred Grove - In Palmyra, NY in this sacred grove is where a young Joseph Smith, Jr. had an encounter with God speaking into him a message of community through the love of Jesus that was unlike the other messages at this time. It was through this encounter where Joseph moved forward in creating this movement. Please check out this Sacred Grove link if you would like to learn more.
3. Nauvoo - Built along the Illinois banks of the Mississippi River Joseph Smith established another place for people to gather in community. It is here where Joseph Smith and his family lived out their lives. Though there are some difficult topics and practices that came from this time in the church the site remains as part of our heritage despite our current beliefs.
4. The Plano Stone Church - This church in Plano, Illinois was built and served as this denominations headquarters in the mid 19th century. Joseph Smith III started his trek as President in this area causing this to be an important piece of this denominations history.
5. Liberty Hall - Liberty Hall is located in Lamoni, IA and was the home of President Joseph Smith III. It also served as the headquarters for the RLDS now Community of Christ during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
6. The Temple and Auditorium - Located in Independence, MO this now serves as the headquarters for Community of Christ. Across the street they stand together creating a beautiful area for people to gather. Both are open to the public and the Temple is dedicated to the pursuit of peace. Fill free to stop in and tour both facilities as you walk the worshippers path.
Where are you going? What is your destination? Where is God calling you to pilgrimage? Go, look, search, and find for your place in this world.
I encourage all of you to journey to the places that are sacred in your life. Reflect and ponder on what has conspired and yet what is to come. Where do you find peace and significance? Where is the divine guiding you?
Thank you all for those sharing the blog. This week I challenge you to share the blog on Facebook with your friends.
This week really think about how pilgrimage could impact your life.
In November 2018 we had a post about gratitude titled "Spiritual Gratitude." It focused on the science of gratitude, how it rewires our brain, and how it enhances our spiritual life.
This week we are exploring gratitude once again because it is such an important part of happiness and spirituality.
Expressing Your Gratitude
Research has found being thankful increases our level of happiness. They have also found that expressing that gratitude with others shows even larger increases. In the video below they did a gratitude experiment with expressing their thankfulness to another person. Check it out and I encourage you to even give it a try.
The Benefits of Gratitude
The blog Daily Greatness states there are both intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of gratitude. Intrinsically our perspectives can change and our senses become heightened. Extrinsically thankfulness can positively impact our social connections with others just by showing appreciation for them. It enhances our focus and allows for more openness in our communication.
Amy Morin writes about the "7 scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude That Will Motivate You to Give Thanks Year-Round." These 7 benefits highlight how being thankful positively impacts our mind, body, and spirit. Enjoy the read!
What Are You Thankful For?
So the question is who and what are you thankful for? Is it your best friend, the coffee you had this morning, your neighbor, the birds chirping, the song you are listening to on the radio, or maybe the comfy shoes you are wearing. Identifying the things in our life that we are grateful for changes our perception.
I encourage you start making a list. Maybe you can quickly come up with 25 things or maybe you can start a journal and do five each day. The key is to practice thankfulness and allow it to be a bigger and bigger part of your daily life. If you are struggling with coming up with things check out Kid President. He has a list of 25 things he is thankful for.
What characteristics do I appreciate specifically about someone else?
What in my life makes my life better?
How has someone positively impacted me in the past and present?
What in my life can I not do without?
Where do I want to spend my time doing right now?
Be thankful for whatever responses come to these questions.
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You to all those sharing and supporting the blog.
Answer the questions above and be thankful for those things in your life.
Why do I have so many questions along my faith journey? Shouldn't I know the answers or just be told what they are? Am I the only one with the questions? Does this mean my faith is not strong enough? Am I missing something everyone else is? What does it even mean to have a faith? Is it belief in God, Jesus, or is it just a belief in the mysterious spark of life?
What if others know I have questions? Will they judge me for not believing everything I hear and read? Will I be allowed to still be apart of their group? What does this mean for my faith journey? Can I even still be considered faithful?
Where do I even start with these questions?
Questions About Disconnection With God
Why do I feel so disconnected at times from God in my life? Is it me or is it God just not wanting to be with me? Did I do something that God turned away from me? How do I stay steady spiritually when I don't even know where I am most days?
Why do I hear all these amazing testimonies from others but I have none for myself? Couldn't God just talk into my life and make this easier? How often do most people pray? Is it ok to fall asleep why you are praying? How do people stay focused in prayer without their minds wandering?
Questions About Scripture
I mean did Jonah really get eaten by a whale and survive? Or is it just a myth that provides ways for us to find faith? How long can you survive if you are eaten by something anyways?
Did the whole city of Jericho really come crashing down because the army walked around it? Was it just poorly built or was there some weird shift in the foundation?
How does evolution work with the creation story? Was it literally 7 days or is that just a worldview that has been passed through generations? How do dinosaurs fit into the stories from scripture?
How is it these are the only writings in time that make up the word of God? Doesn't God act throughout time making the Bible just part of it? Does God still speak today? And if God did how would that become scripture?
Questions About Jesus
Did Jesus really walk on water as that seems impossible? And why wouldn't he do it all the time if he could? Does this mean Jesus could also fly? Was he really born from a Virgin or did God just act within the world events that transpired?
Was Jesus born as the Son of God or did he become someone we look to as divine because of his life and message? Was he always kind, or did he ever show other extreme emotions? How was Jesus during his teenage and young adult life? Did he ever make any bad choices?
What would Jesus think about society today? Who would he be a champion for now? What about his message still speaks to me? What would he think about social media? And how would he use it to carry about his works? How would he change church today? What would be his primary focus of ministry?
I wonder how people will take a whole blog post of questions?
Maybe this will cause others to question things in their faith this week?
Our guest blogger this week is Caleb Brian! Caleb is a self-sustaining seventy in Community of Christ who lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with his wife Tiffany and dog Ramona. They attend the St. Paul Community of Christ. He works as a Product Development Specialist at 3m (think Post-It® Notes and Scotch™ Tape). He has a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin and an undergraduate degree from Graceland University. Caleb spends his free time playing summer softball and winter volleyball. He also manages a vegetable garden and goes hiking as much as he can. Again we are very thankful for Caleb bringing his thoughts with us this week.
I’ve often begun to wonder when the conversation changed from science and religion to science vs religion. When did it become one or the other, with people in both camps deciding that the other must possess some fallacy that makes it seemingly incorrect or unworthy of exploration? Shouldn’t both be about the questions, about the search for answers, and about understanding that there are so many incredible forces at work in the world today that we fail to comprehend?
Growing up my parents started multiple iterations of house churches all while tackling the questions of embracing science and religion, seeing as my dad is a 70 and a biochemist, and my mom is a high priest and a recently retired nurse practitioner. My entire life has been a combination of the two, from searching for dinosaurs under rocks in our back yard to chemistry experiments in our basement in high school to actively participating in church youth groups growing up.
At Graceland I studied Chemistry and got a minor in church leadership. At the University of Wisconsin where I received my doctorate in Chemistry I spent just as much time with people in the local Community of Christ congregation to live and imagine what a community of believers could really do if we had the time and resources (age old question, right?). Now we live within a half mile of the St. Paul, MN congregation, and it is fantastic to be a part of the neighborhood that surrounds the church, understanding the intricacies of this community and being a part of it.
So where to dig in? Where to offer a small piece of my mind into the ongoing struggle of science and religion that can be captured in this guest opportunity. I think I’ll start here:
“Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot
explain who sets the planets in motion.” - Isaac Newton
The beginning of time seems to always come up as a hot topic in the “war” between science and religion. A reading of Genesis 1 would posit that God spoke the universe into being, created contrasting pieces, and worked out all the small details within it. It’s a beautifully written creation story that reflected some sense of understanding of who we are in the vastness of space. Science on the other hand would say that the beginning of the universe took place via the Big Bang and that all matter that at one moment that had been highly compressed into a single dot erupted due to some unknown event to grow and swirl and splinter into the universe we observe today. It’s a compelling theory that reflects some sense of understanding of the visible universe around us. And why do the two have to compete?
13.8 billion year ago (give or take a few) something happened that caused a chain of events that led to Earth that led to organisms that led to humans. I believe that God could be in that space and watching over that expansion in ways that we still do not comprehend. Intriguing enough, it was a Roman Catholic Priest, Monsignor Georges Lemaitre, who is credited with the idea of the expanding universe that came to be referred to as the Big Bang theory.
At the same time, I wonder why we spend so much time arguing between the circles of science and religion about something like the beginning of time when I don’t know that either should have a bearing on our interactions in this time and place. Whether God spoke the universe into being from simply nothing or compelled enough energy into a single massive particle to cause it to explode into everything we see and more should not be our driving force for interacting with the world today. There are countless new discoveries on a daily basis that will change the way we interact with the world more than arguing over how the universe began in the first place. This is where I think the new horizon of the intersection of science and religion must exist.
For example, I was sitting in a discussion about recycling today. How, in the 1950s, consumerism shifted from durable materials to disposable materials and our rate of consumption has only increased from there. I’m constantly tempted to get the newest phone, but the one I have now is working just fine for what I need it to do. I look in my closet often at the vast array of shirts I have that I can wear to work and get bored sometimes because they are the same shirts I’ve worn for a few years now.
A stunning statistic in our discussion this morning was that in the 1930’s women would have maybe bought two pieces of clothing a year and kept it for 5 years. Today the amount of clothing items purchased has jumped to 65 a year, and they’ll only be worn on average 3 times. Now, some could argue that is the increased purchase power we’ve gained in the last 80 years, but at the same time the science of clothing has changed in such a way that these goods are no longer made to last or at least to hold interest for long periods of time.
But Caleb, this is supposed to be a discussion on science and religion, and now you’re talking about clothes?
You’re right. I believe that our faith comes into action when we begin to consider the best use of our resources and the planet’s resources when we gain the increased purchase power that science has provided. For me, in Community of Christ we are called to value the Sacredness of Creation and to make Responsible Choices. Additionally:
“The earth, lovingly created as an environment for life to flourish, shudders in distress because creation’s natural and living systems are becoming exhausted from carrying the burden of human greed and conflict. Humankind must awaken from its illusion of independence and unrestrained consumption without lasting consequences.”
- Doctrine and Covenants 163:4b
I would say that our faith calls us to more responsibly choose the clothing that we wear, how often we purchase it and from where, and then what do we do when that clothing has lost its ability to function or to “spark joy”. This then frees us up to step out of the silo of religion to begin to partner with organizations that are looking to use science to properly reduce the resource burden of our fashion (or other industries) on the planet.
Indeed, there is great work looking at how to take old clothing and deconstruct it in such a way that it can be used as thread for new clothing (so cool!). To me, this facet of science then has no negative bearing on my understanding of God, rather it further highlights the incredible complexity in the universe that exists in God. I could go into a whole post about how amazing Organic or Analytical Chemistry are in terms of some of the minute details that take place in complex chemical reactions point to a facet of God in nature.
My final example for this post is this. As the future of the church continues to feel uncertain and undefined, the church has much to learn from the freedom to ask questions which is present in science. When we allow ourselves the openness to explore our faith and understand the things that we believe and why we believe them I feel that makes us stronger. If cell biology had stopped when Robert Hooke first described cork cells in the 1600s we wouldn’t have many of the medical advances that we have today.
The same is true of our faith, of our growth as Christians, in understanding a God who deeply loves us and yearns for the wellness of creation. No longer is our faith “just because” but it begins to move and breath with a deeper sense of life about it. This deeper sense of life has the added benefit of making our faith community more relevant to our friends and neighbors who are searching for spiritual homes even if they too don’t know how to define them.
We could imagine a question such as “How would you reconcile the creation story in Genesis 1 with the current understanding of the Big Bang theory?” We could invite them in, and offer to talk about that. About how a complex and undefinable God is present both in our faith and our scientific traditions. Then we could set about the task of understanding how the two can successfully interact in the world today to preserve what has been created.
From humans to hippos, from sequoias to sunflowers, from paper to plastic, and many things in between. There is still much complexity left to explore in the universe and it’s my belief that it will take all kinds of religious and scientific believers to help us continue to push the boundaries of understanding while seeing the complexity and intimacy of God. This is what excites me about sitting at the intersection of science and religion on a daily basis.
A big thank you to Caleb for being our guest blogger and helping us work through this difficult subject!
This week ask yourself how science impacts your faith and vice versa.
Craig Hidy like the majority of ministers in Community of Christ is a bi-vocational, self sustaining ordained minister. He is a member of the Midlands Mission Center Emporia Team and an ordained Seventy. He and his family, live in Topeka, Kansas.
What is a Seventy?
The Seventy carry out missionary work for the church in close association with other missionary leaders. They represent Christ primarily as ministers of evangelism through witnessing, inviting, and church planting. They especially proclaim and promote Jesus Christ’s invitation to faithful discipleship through vibrant witness, and train individuals and congregations in witness and invitation. They particularly minister with seekers, individually and in groups, to share the gospel in relevant ways and to invite response. They support sacramental ministries by preparing people for baptism and/or confirmation, presiding at sacramental services, and performing most sacraments. They promote community by inviting individuals, households, and families to respond to Christ’s call to discipleship. They promote justice and peacemaking by inviting people to experience all aspects of Christ’s peace through active discipleship. They create ministry partnerships with mission center officers, apostles, elders, and evangelists.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.