This week, the Third Sunday in Advent, we’ll continue our exploration of the Real Christmas by taking a look at the messages from the movie, Elf, with the first chapter of John and our scripture for this week, Mark 1:14-15.
The place where all these thoughts connect for me is around the word, “believe.”
The root of “believe” has a connection with the root for “beloved;” to believe, at its root, really means “to hold dear” — or to deeply love. In this sense, believing is not just a cognitive or a rational act, but much, much more than that. To believe, in the deeper sense, it not simply a rational ascent to a set of propositions, but a profound trust.
Believe is a favorite word for John. In fact, John’s stated reason for writing is “…so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31) This believing, trusting, holding dear is a means of having life (another favorite word of John’s) in the name of Jesus. In the culture of first century Palestinian Judaism, to do something in the name of another is to act in a way that is consistent with the will, the values, the character and the actions of the other. Life in his name, then, is a life consistent with the will, the values, the character and the actions of Jesus.
Faith and belief are words used often throughout the Christmas Story itself. When we look at Joseph, for example, he’s ready to just divorce Mary quietly; he has to somehow come to a place of belief for himself, beyond Mary’s own acceptance and receptivity we explored last week.
According to the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus began his public ministry, his message was “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;repent, and believe in the good news.” The Common English Bible translation is clearer: “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” (Mark 1:15)
Now, taking a turn here toward the Reel Christmas Story of Elf, the character to focus on is Buddy’s real father, Walter. Early in the movie we see that Walter’s whole attitude and demeanor — and everything he believes in — has to do with work; his family plays second fiddle. When Walter comes to the place where his belief shifts, we see a shift in what is of greatest concern to him. We see a shift in what matters most to him. His heart is changed and life begins to be lived in a different way—a way that is truly living.
I look forward to thinking through with you what this means for our lives when we gather to worship on Sunday!
Grace and Peace,