Monday, December 31, 2012

My Five Least Favorite Films of 2012

Obviously, there were worse films made this year. I saw an average of a film a week in 2012, but there are still hundreds of films that came out in theaters or straight to streaming I didn’t see. I had good reasons to avoid most of these films. “The Devil Inside” has a 7% rating at and there were news stories at the time it came out about angry audiences throwing things at the conclusion of the film, so it seemed safe to skip and not worry about it showing up on end of the year critic’s lists as the an overlooked classic. Since I try to avoid Katy Perry music videos, I deemed it prudent to not invest in the feature length video, “Katy Perry: Part of Me 3-D”. Of something like “The Guilt Trip”, which features Barbara Streisand as Seth Rogan’s mother I will not see because it features Barbara Streisand as Seth Rogan’s mother.

But these films, for some demented reason, I had hope for. (Except, perhaps, for #4 which I didn’t see by choose.) I also only include films I watched all the way through. You could say that makes “Lola Versus”, a self-indulgent indie comedy, and “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie”, an extremely vulgar indie comedy were worse because I only made it a third of the way through either. But perhaps they became utter genius after I turned them off. So here’s the five that in some way crushed my hopes for entertainment and enlightenment.

5) “Rampart” – This drama about a corrupt LA cop was written in part by James Ellroy author of some of my favorite mystery ficion (“L. A. Confidential”, “The Black Dahlia”.) Woody Harrelson stars, which can be a good thing (say, “Zombieland”) or a bad thing (say, “Edtv”); this time it was a bad thing. Self-indulgent drivel wherein the racist, thieving, drug addicted, alcoholic cop tries to make all of O.J.’s defense team fantasies come true.

4) “Little Brother, Big Trouble: A Christmas Adventure” – This Finnish direct to DVD holiday “treat” I saw at a church baby-sitting event. It is a sequel to 2008’s “The Flight Before Christmas” which I did not see. I’m not sad about this. Niko the reindeer has divorced reindeer parents, and for some reason when she brings home a new reindeer father and a new reindeer little brother, he doesn’t accept them immediately as family. Which the film seems to tell us is a jerk move. Oh, and there’s a eagle that has teamed with a pack of wolves that want revenge on Niko for something that happened in the first film. “Brady Bunch” did better at blended family moral lessons.

3) “The Woman in Black” – So, Harry Potter lost a kid and so now he’s not doing his 19th century lawyering job well because he lost a kid and is all ill-shaven. So his boss sends him out in the country to deal with a legal situation which is actually a ghost situation. The ghosts aren’t nice. Everybody makes stupid horror movie choices. Twist ending. Boring.

2) “Act of Valor” - I loved the idea of using an elite team of Navy seals to play navy seals. But as actors, the Navy Seals make not great Navy Seals. The story isn’t difficult to follow, but I found it difficult to bother. At least if there are any military secrets in the film, it seems unlikely that our enemies will stay awake long enough in the film to learn them.

1) “Dark Shadows” – Tim Burton and Jonny Depp must be stopped. They both have done wonderful things in the past, but now it seems that they just get together to do garbage. Burton needs a strong screenplay, not here. Depp seems to need good direction, not here. Now, I loved “Dark Shadows” the soap opera as a kid. I’ve watched it since, and it’s pretty dull. But it at least made sense. This is the kind of fantasy that has rules of magic that seem to change by the moment. And we are expected to cheer for vampire Barnabas Collins (Depp), though he commits several acts of mass murder just to quench his thirst, because he lost his love and is cursed and all. A sequel would be the most frightening curse of all.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Can Someone Who Disagrees With Me Still Be A Christian? (Spielberg's "Lincoln")

Most of us have a pretty solid grip on history. Slavery was evil. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution which ended slavery was most excellent, and you would most certainly have voted for it. And Lincoln was a great guy as can be seen by the fact that he is on mineral and paper money.

One of the marvelous things Steven Spielberg’s film, Lincoln, does is show how difficult some of these choices were a century and a half ago. In April of 1864, the US Senate passed the 13th Amendment with relative ease. The passage of the amendment through the House of Representatives, which was much more of a struggle, is the focus of the film’s action.

I choose the word “action” carefully. If your knowledge of legislation comes from Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill,” you might be surprised by the intrigue, drama and humor that screenwriter Tony Kushner draws from public debate and backroom deals. We’re not presented with clear white and black (or blue and grey) hats to root for or against. We see good, wise and, yes, Christian men pitted in opposition.

Many Republican Representatives looked to Francis Preston Blair (Hal Holbrook) for direction. Blair was concerned that passage of the amendment would endanger peace talks. As great an evil slavery was, he believed, war was a greater evil. Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), a leader of the abolitionist movement, had to downplay the scope and consequences of the legislation to help it pass. This galled the abolitionists, and was even more offensive to those of African descent.

Other Christian men, primarily Democrats, believed that slavery itself wasn’t evil, but was sanctioned by Scripture. Godly men (and women, but they couldn’t vote) claimed to seek God’s will on the issue of slavery and came to opposing positions. They didn’t have history’s hindsight to know what position would have the 21st century stamp of approval.

Abraham Lincoln admitted as much, even in the midst of the great Civil War. In an 1862 memorandum, he wrote, “In great contests, each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.” Throughout the film we see Lincoln (portrayed brilliantly by Daniel Day-Lewis) fighting, sometime even underhandedly, for what he believes is right, all the while acknowledging that he might not be right. He acts boldly, yet with great humility.

If Lincoln could show so much humility in the issues of slavery, war and suffrage, perhaps we can show some humility when it comes to such issues as abortion, marriage, and immigration. There are great dangers we face as Christians, and especially as a church, when we delve into issues the world views as political.

Jesus confronted one such danger when approached on tax policy (Matthew 22: 17 – 21). Jesus said some realms belonged to God and some to Caesar. We need to discern which things are sacred and which are secular, but we must avoid two other great dangers: we must not ascribe ignorance, evil or incompetence to others, just because they disagree with our moral or political points of view, and we must not abandon great issues to the world just because they are controversial.

The church played a great role in ending legal slavery in the Western World (don’t think slavery itself is dead). The church helped secure civil rights and fought racial prejudice. There are many other moral battles that must be waged, but we must walk in the Lord’s footsteps, being as wise as serpents, yet as gentle as doves.

(Lincoln is rated PG-13 for graphic battlefield violence and vulgar language, some of it escaping the lips of the 16th President.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

"Closing Christmasland" This Year's Christmas Program and Today's Long Post

CLOSING CHRISTMASLAND a Christmas play by Dean Anderson
Tiffany the Tour Guide
Dad (Frank)
Mom (Nancy)
English guy
Tiny Tim
Clarence Beige
Popcorn Kids Choir
Dickens Choir, Popcorn Choir, Manger Choir

Scene: An Amusement Park

(Tiffany leads family to site)

Tiffany: Welcome, folks, to our special V.I.P. tour of Christmasland!

Dad: Does V.I.P. stand for Very Increased Prices?

Mom: Hush, Frank, I want to hear her.

Tiffany: Silly, V.I.P. stands for Very Important Persons, which you all are, which is why you’re getting this special pre-hours tour on this very special day in the life of Christmasland!

Chad: You mean on the death of Christmasland!

Tiffany: Well, this day does mark a very special time of transition! After today, Christmasland will be transforming into an even more magical place, Holidayworld!
We will begin the tour today by visiting several of the beloved attractions that will be making their final bows before giving way to what I’m sure will be even more beloved attractions!

Chad: Before you kill them.

Tiffany: And here we are at this very special attraction that opened over forty years ago in 1971, the Dickens District! Welcome to the world of Scrooge, Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim! Let’s see if any of the residents of this special place come out to see us!

Mom: This was my very favorite as a little girl! I loved A Christmas Carol and it was magical to see it come to life!

(Group dressed in Victorian garb comes out.)

Scrooge: Bah-humbug! Every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas” on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.

English guy: Pip Pip Cheerio! Blimey, here comes Father Christmas!

Tiny Tim: God bless us everyone!

Tiffany: Ooooooh! I feel like we’ve gone through a time machine!

Chloe: One of your ancient Englanders has an I-Phone in his pocket.

Chad: I’m glad they’re killing this thing.

Tiffany: Perhaps the residents of the Dickens District will favor us with a song?

(More Victorian dressed folks come out and sing, “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen,” then the singers depart. Guide and family walk in place as if “moving” to a different part of the park)

Tiffany: What a delightful song with an unfortunate sprinkling of sexism from that period. This cherished attraction will be transformed in the newly imagined Holidayworld into Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in our salute to Groundhog’s Day! Every day of the year you’ll be able to visit that lovable groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil!

Dad: Wow, Mickey Mouse must be shaking in his boots at the competition.

Chad: Can we just move on to Reindeer Rampage to go on the roller coasters? I want to go on Rudolph’s Revenge and Dasher’s Dive and Comet’s Vomit!

Tiffany: This tour is of Christmasland attractions that will be no more. I’m delighted to say that all of the rides in the Reindeer Rampage section will continue to be a part of Holidayworld!

Chloe: So you’ll be keeping Santa Claus sections of Christmasland in Holidayworld?

Tiffany: Oh yes! We’ll still have 3D interactive presentations of The Santa Clause Part 5! We’ll still have Santa’s Toy Shop where a wide variety of delightful products for purchase will still be available. Every day down Holiday Avenue there will still be a recreation of the Macy’s Parade from Miracle on 34th Street complete with the drunken Santa!

Chloe: So you’ll just be closing all the parts of the park that touch on the real meaning of Christmas.

Tiffany: The real meaning of Christmas? Oh, we’ll certainly still focus on the real meaning of Christmas…Family…The Joy of Children…Gift giving…All of that wonderful stuff! Now here we are at another attraction that will still live on in our commemorative DVD, Salute to Christmasland! now at half price.

Chloe: I don’t think you have any idea of the real meaning of Christmas. But I’ll give you a clue, think of the first syllable of the word.

Mom: Kids, you’ll love this one. This attraction brings to life that comic strip you loved as kids. You know, ‘Popcorn’, with that lovable loser Clarence Beige and his friend, Lionel with his Safety Quilt.

Tiffany: That’s right! And ever since 1987 we’ve brought to life this magic moment from that heartwarming special, It’s Christmas Time, You Idiot! Let’s watch!

(Clarence Beige, Lionel and Louise come out, with other kids.)

Louise: Clarence Beige, you’ve ruined Christmas! Christmas is all about getting good presents! And doing a great Christmas show! And especially putting up a glamorous Christmas tree covered with lights and glitter and tinsel!

Clarence: I’m sorry, Louise. But is that what Christmas is really all about?

Lionel: That’s not what Christmas is all about. It’s about this:
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
That’s what Christmas is all about, Clarence Beige.

(‘Popcorn’ kids then sing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” and exit.)

Tiffany: I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear that this space will be used for a new Christmas attraction; from Home Alone we’ll have Kevin’s Violent Burglar Fun House.

Chad: That does sound awesome.

Chloe: So you’re getting rid of an attraction where the real Christmas story was read to make way for people getting hit on the head with boards and paint cans.

Tiffany: I’m sure it will all be quite tasteful.

Dad: And expensive. Will you have Kevin Sabotaging Sets in the gift shops?

Tiffany: We do still have Lionel Safety Quilts for a great price on our gift shops!

Dad: Shouldn’t we be moving along before the sensible people who didn’t pay twice the price are let in through the gates?

Tiffany: Yes, but remember V.I.P.s do go to the front of the line at all rides and attractions. Because you are Very Important People to all of us at Christmasland soon to be Holidayworld (trademark pending).

Chloe: So we’re more important because we spent more money. You people really do have no idea about what this holiday is about.

Tiffany: Here we come to the very first attraction built on this land. Joshua Noel, the late and dearly missed founder of Christmasland, built this attraction. Actually, what you see here is just part of the first attraction built. Mr. Noel brought various parts of the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible to life. I’m sure you may remember some of those sections have been done away with over the years.

Mother: Yes, wasn’t there a section that told the story of John the Baptist’s birth?

Tiffany: Yes, the attraction that showed John’s father seeing an angel in the temple made way for Rudolph’s Revenge years ago.

Mother: And weren’t there displays that showed the Angel visiting Mary and the shepherds in the field and the three kings traveling?

Tiffany: Yes, but there was a need to make room for The Grouch Who Stole X-Mas stage show as well as our Elf Toy Emporium. But we still have our manger scene with the little drummer boy. This attraction will remain a part of Holidayworld, but it will be refurbished. Let’s give it a look for the last time in this form.

(Manger scene with children’s choir singing “The Little Drummer Boy”.)

Tiffany: The manger scene will be completely refurbished. This tacky little shack will be replaced with a giant structure which will be visible throughout the quad state area. We’ll have animatronic figures for the humans and animals built to ten times human scale. The robot drummer will be heard not only throughout the park but also in all the neighboring counties. The brand new spectacular manger scene will open in a year and be a highlight of Holidayworld.

Chloe: You just don’t get it, do you? The amazing thing about Christmas is that so much of it wasn’t amazing. To the eyes of the most everyone in Bethlehem, it was just the birth of an ordinary child in horrendous conditions. But it was really God entering our world. And He didn’t come to some vacation world; He came into our world to live with us.

Chad: But there was an angel choir when He was born. That must have been sweet.

Mother: And He was visited by strangers from the east bearing precious minerals and perfumes, that wasn’t ordinary.

Chloe: Yeah, but then He lived decades after that as an ordinary man, before His ministry days with miracles and His death and resurrection. Those are very important days as well. Is your new Holidayworld going to have a Good Friday Day with an animatronic crucifixion? And a open tomb for Easterland in 3-D?

Tiffany: Oh, no, we won’t have any of those things.

Father: That crucifixion scene would probably be a deal breaker for most tourists.

Tiffany: You must remember this is a special place that people visit in order to forget their everyday lives.

Chloe: I guess that’s okay. But it’s not Christmas. Some people treat Christmas that way. As a fantasy day, a getaway from real life; but Jesus came into the world to save our whole lives, not just a day.

Tiffany: Well, I’m afraid this concludes our tour. I trust you’ll join us again when the most joyous land on earth becomes the most joyous world in the universe!

Chad: Alright, let’s go to the roller coasters!

Father: I’m hungry; I’d even be willing to pay whatever amount of gold, frankincense, or myrrh they’re charging for a burger.

Mother: Chloe, would you like to join me and hit the shops?

Chloe: No, I think I’d go back to the real world. Jesus loves the real world. He gave up His life to save it. He wants to use us to make the real world the most joyous place in the universe.

Tiffany: You know I’ve never heard Christmas described in that way. Do you think later you could tell me about the real meaning of Christmas?

Chloe: I’d love too. I’d like to give you tour of Christmas in the Scripture.

Tiffany: That’d be great! Is this good news for everyone?

Chloe: Absolutely, Tiffany. That’s the great news about Christmas. God entered the world as a baby in the manger because He considers each of us a Very Important Person.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Top Ten Favorite TV Shows of 2012ish

Maybe I shouldn’t do this list, since I watch my TV via Netflix, Hulu, and DVD, so it’s not all exactly up to date. My rules are, the show had to air in 2012 (even if I haven’t seen the latest episodes.)

10) “The Walking Dead” - I’m only up to through Season 2, a season many on the interwebs hated. But I liked it. And the interwebs seem to like Season 3 a lot better. I cared about characters in the show and got to see zombies as well. Who could ask for more.

9) “Raising Hope” – “Modern Family” almost took this slot. Both are very funny family comedies. I went with “Hope” because it offers it. The Dunphys on “MF” are well to do, well educated and functional. The Chances of “RH” are none of these things. But they are regular church goers, which is much more unusual in TV world, than the real world. Voted for Red State over Blue.

8) “Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23” – The only show on the list that was new this year. At times the show has a nasty sense of humor. Chloe, the title B, is a pill popping, heavy drinking, trampy narcissist, who can’t even care for a goldfish. But she may be more functional than James Van Der Beek, played by “Dawson Creek” star James Van Der Beek.

7) “Community” – I think this show is still alive, NBC seems to have forgotten. But it did play a bit in 2012 and it has a sharp idea for parodies of movies and other TV shows.

6) “30 Rock” – The final season of this classic to be. I love how this season is mocking TV shows in their last seasons.

5) “Sherlock” – Three episodes? Come on BBC! But we did get the modern day Holmes confronting the modern day Moriarty, which was rather, very awesome.

4) “Parks and Recreation” – Most TV shows get worse. They go from bad to awful or wretched to putrid. Occasionally from good to bad. This show started with a bland pilot and first season and just kept getting better. Something else unique about this show is the characters are actually nice. You wouldn't mind them as your Indiana friends and neighbors.

3) “Breaking Bad”- Now the characters of this show you would not want as your friends and neighbors. Unless you’re a meth addict, and I don’t think you are. The creator of the show said he wanted to show Mr. Chips become Scarface, and now the transformation is almost complete. Not always fun, but always compelling.

2) “Mad Men” – Probably the most acclaimed show on television (the show right above is close.) I've read that advertising execs from the time say it doesn't really get it right. But do you really care if they’re accurate in say… Westerns or cop shows? They've build a fascinating world with subtle character choices and moral dilemmas. It works.

1) “Justified” – Raylan Givens is my favorite character in television. This modern Matt Dillon has some troubles in Kentucky, not the least being a man named Boyd with quite the angel and devil on each shoulder. In 2012 I saw the shows from 2011 and I’m looking forward to 2012 in 2013.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Final Day of Advent Skit-A-Day Week



(Church service, tired woman in pew or seat, pastor at pulpit)

Pastor: “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David and the son of Abraham; Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers..” (continues to mouth the words of Matthew 1: 1 – 17 but becomes silent)

Julie: (head drooping, obviously nodding off, bobs up and down a couple of times and goes down for the count) Snores.

Vision: Hey Julie, you’re sleeping.

Julie: Oh, I’m sorry, um, thanks for waking me.

Vision: I didn’t.

Julie: Didn’t?

Vision: Didn’t wake you. You’re still asleep.

Julie: What are you talking about?

Vision: You fell asleep right in the middle of the genealogy and you’re still asleep.

Julie: So you’re just a dream?

Vision: You could say that, but I prefer to call myself a vision.

Julie: What are you talking about? Why are you bothering me?

Vision: Well, you were the one that fell asleep during the service.

Julie: Don’t blame me for that. If you knew what my last week was like. In order to take Christmas week off I had to do two weeks’ work in one. I had to wrap all Ben’s family’s presents and get them shipped. I had to pack for this trip, for the both of us, of course. Our flight didn‘t arrive till 3 AM and we were welcomed my sister Linda’s baby was crying through the night in the room next door, and then my mother insisted we leave first thing in the morning for an all-day shopping trip at the mall. Then after rushing down some festive Kentucky Fried Chicken, my father dragged us off to church just to hear who begat who begat who and of course I fell asleep. Sometimes I think Christmas could be so much more peaceful without families.

Vision: Families can be trying. And I don’t blame you for falling asleep. Church is a place for rest. But don’t belittle the begats.

Julie: What do you mean?

Vision: The who begat who’s help remind us that Jesus was part of a family.

Julie: Well, he wasn’t part of a family like mine. For instance my Uncle William is in town, former corporate vice president, future San Quentin resident. For several months we had to keep the TV remote at the ready so the kids wouldn’t have to hear his former employees talking about how he cheated them out of their life savings.

Vision: Well, if you weren’t sleeping through the Scripture passage, you might hear about interesting branches in his family tree. There was Jacob, a con man who cheated his own brother out of a blessing.

Julie: Then of course, my cousin Sky will be coming. I hope her new boyfriend doesn’t rummage through the purses for drug money like the last one.

Vision: Again, if you were listening to the list being read about Jesus’ ancestors you’d note it includes drunkards, prostitutes and murderers. His would be quite the family reunion.

Julie: Maybe his distant relatives were like that. But Jesus’ immediate family…Well, if you look at the pictures on the Christmas cards, it’s halos all around.

Vision: So you don’t think Jesus had family issues?

Julie: Well, not like I’ll be faced the next few days. My parents will drill my husband about why he hasn’t gotten a promotion. My brothers will continue a feud they started in high school. And my sister Linda is waiting for the results of a biopsy. It won’t exactly be Joy to the World in my house this Christmas.

Vision: So you think Jesus never dealt with anything like a death in the family?

Julie: Well yes, since you never hear more about Joseph, I guess I assumed he died, and Jesus had to deal with that.

Vision: Or sibling rivalry?

Julie: I suppose if Jesus was perfect, that fact probably wasn’t appreciated by his brothers.

Vision: In fact, during Jesus‘ ministry, his brothers said Jesus was insane. During his ministry, Jesus had to do things that he knew would bring his mother great grief.

Julie: I can’t imagine what it would have been like for Mary to watch Jesus on the cross. Or for Jesus, to watch His mother watch Him die.

Vision: Jesus came into a family when He came as a baby that first Christmas. He knew the same trials we all know living with a family. But He chose that life. So that He could live as we do, to show us how to live. That’s part of what God becoming a man is about.

Julie: You’re right. I guess God does know something about families, even mine.

Vision: Yes. In fact, Jesus came so you could be a part of His family, with God as your heavenly Father. But you really should be waking up now.

Julie: You’re right. Do you think anyone has noticed that I nodded off?

Vision: Just your father. Did you know you drool when you sleep?

Julie: I know, I know.

Vision: Have a Merry Christmas, Julie.

Julie: You know, I think I will.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

6th Day of Advent Skit-A-Day Week


By Dean Anderson

Cast: Man, Husband, Wife

(Husband and wife talk to each other. Man stands beside them or off to the side.)

Man: I’m planning a simple Christmas this year.

Husband: That’s what I say every year, but it never stays simple. For instance, this year I was just going to hang a simple string of colored lights around the house. But Peggy bought a life-size Santa.

Wife: It was such a sale. I couldn’t pass it up.

Husband: And you can’t have a Santa by it itself, so I had to get the sleigh and the reindeer and the elves.

Wife: But we didn’t want to leave out the religious part of Christmas so we put up a manger scene.

Husband: With talking animals. But we’ll do less next year.

Wife: I suppose we have no choice after getting that threatening letter from the homeowners association for violating the luminary regulations.

Husband: I guess we could do without those “Home Alone” decorations.

Wife: The animatronic Kevin that hits the burglars on the head? But the kids love it.

Man: My Father put a single light in the sky, to lead to the light of the world.

Wife: And then, of course, there’s the food. I have a mother-in-law who thinks I can’t cook. And she’s coming to our house for Christmas dinner.

Husband: Just because she brings her own entrée doesn’t mean she doesn’t think you can cook.

Wife: But I’ll be ready this year. We’ll start with a salad of white crane greens with herbs, marinated summer beans and champagne vinaigrette. We’ll have a side dish of hobbs bacon with black truffle crusted veal shortbreads. Then we’ll have the delicata squash soup with toasted seeds and crème fraiche.

Husband: That sounds like a bit much.

Wife: No, that’s just the beginning. We’ll then have pan seared halibut with flash cooked pepper puree. Along with the roasted roulade of turkey with traditional trimmings. For dessert I’m thinking of offering a choice of cranberry claffoutti with toasted walnut brittle or Verona chocolate cake terrine with raspberry compote.

Husband: When are you going to have time to make all that?

Wife: I’m not. I’ve hired a caterer. But you better not tell your mother.
Husband: Mums the word, along with yum.

Man: I offer bread and water. I am the bread, whoever eats of me will not hunger. Whoever drinks of my living water will not thirst.

Husband: Of course, the most complicating factor of Christmas is the shopping. I had to camp out at the toy store at 6 AM to get that Perfect Atomic Tommy action figure for Max.

Wife: I had to go to twelve different children’s clothing stores till I could find the line of My Little Tramp blouses Winnie wanted.

Husband: I doubt that was half the time it took to track down that first edition Stephen King novel your brother was asking for.

Wife: An elementary assignment compared to finding that teapot that matched your mother’s china. Let alone shopping for you.

Husband: How can you compare that to shopping for you?

Man: I offer the same gift to anyone who will receive it. Life, abundant life.

Wife: Did we get anything for your Aunt Trudy?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

5th Day of Advent Skit-A-Day Week

Board Chairperson
Board Secretary
Board Member
Marcus Annoyingus
Inn Keeper
Inn Keeper’s Wife
Neighbor 1
Neighbor 2

Chairperson: The Bethlehem City Council Meeting is now called to order. Secretary, could you please read the minutes of our last meeting.

Secretary: Minutes for the meeting of March 24th, 1 BC. There was discussion of renaming the main well in honor of our city’s founder, King David. An objection was raised about alleged business fraud at Levi’s Used Camel Lot. And there was discussion of the then upcoming Roman Census. The Chairperson at that time referred to the Romans as low-down, power-mad, thieving…

Chairperson: That’s enough of the minutes. We would like to welcome our special guest, graciously monitoring this meeting on behalf of our glorious ruler, Caesar Augustus, the good centurion Marcus Annoyingus.

Marcus: I’m sure that the spirit of respect and fear of the empire will continue throughout this meeting. That is, if you wish to continue meeting.

Chairperson: Do we have any new business? Yes, you there!

Neighbor 1: Thank you, Chairperson. I would like to bring before the council some problems that came up during the recent census.

(Marcus coughs)

Neighbor 1: Not that any of the problems were the fault of the empire. But you see, I live next to the Bethlehem Inn. And I have reason to believe there may have been a variety of zoning violations.

Innkeeper: We’ve done no such thing.

Chairperson: That is a serious accusation.

Neighbor 1: And a true one. According to the zoning ordinances, the inn can only use their stable for animals, and during the census they allowed people to stay there.

Innkeeper’s Wife: It was a man with his pregnant wife. They had no where else to go!

Neighbor 2: But it wasn’t just the woman giving birth in that stall. It was all those visitors in the middle of the night! I’m sure they were violating the noise ordinances!

Neighbor 1: Those shepherds! I think they were violating the smell ordinances.

Board Member: We have no smell ordinances.

Neighbor 1: Well, we should.

Innkeeper: That man and woman had no choice but to come to Bethlehem for the census on Caesar’s command. I would have given them a room, but we were full.

Innkeeper’s Wife: So we let them use the stable. And then something amazing happened. The shepherds came to our door and asked if we knew where they could find a baby in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Innkeeper: They told us they had been told about the baby by a host of angels that appeared on the hill top. They had told us that this baby is the Christ who had come to bring the world joy and peace.

Neighbor 2: I know. They went knocking on all the doors spreading the news.

Marcus: Only the empire brings peace.

Chairperson: But not much joy.

Marcus: What was that?

Chairperson: I said, “A baby boy?”

Innkeeper’s Wife: Yes, a baby boy. I believe grow to be the Messiah.

Neighbor 1: But they weren’t respecting the city ordinances.

Neighbor 2: Or the neighborhood’s peace and quiet.

Marcus: Or the empire!

Chairperson: Absolutely. From now on, when someone comes to your inn in need, you must consider what is really important.

Innkeeper: It was that night that I learned what is really important.

Chairperson: That will be all, meeting adjourned.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fourth Day of Skit-a-Day Week for the First Week of Advent

I've run posted this skit before on this blog, but it fits the week:

FIREWORKS DAY (a skit) first performed at Felton Bible Church

The Smith Family (Bill, the father; Betty, the mother; Katie, the daughter and Ingmar, a foreign exchange student)
The Jones Family (Joe, the father; Judy, the mother and Fred, the son)
Setting: two families with picnic baskets and coolers, all dressed for picnic, though exchange student may be oddly dressed

BILL: Hey Joe! Happy Fireworks Day!

JOE: Happy Fireworks Day right back at you!

(Everyone wishes everyone else a “Happy Fireworks Day!”)

KATIE: Joe, Judy, Fred, I’d like to introduce you to our new foreign exchange student, Ingmar.

(Jones all greet Ingmar, “Good to meet you”, “Welcome to our country”, etc.)

BETTY: It’s wonderful that you could get together with us for this Fireworks Day Picnic. Ingmar, being from a foreign country, has never celebrated Fireworks Day, so maybe you could help us explain to him what it’s all about.

JOE: Well, first of all, the important thing about Fireworks Day, is that you get the day off work.

FRED: And I get out of stupid summer school.

JUDY: If you had done your math homework like I told you, you wouldn’t need to be in summer school.

BILL: But Fireworks Day is much more than about getting our school and work. For instance, there are all the great traditions.

JUDY: Yes, every year we get together with friends and family and have a big picnic, because holidays are all about family.

FRED: Don’t listen to them, Ingmar. The really cool thing about Fireworks Day is the fireworks. You’ve got to love the explosions and noise. Really loud noise!

KATIE: And when you watch the fireworks, you have to sit there and say, “Ohhhhh”, then “Ahhhhhhhh” and then “Ohhhhhhh” again.

INGMAR: I must admit, I am confused. In my school back home, we learned about this day, July 4, and that it was called Independence Day. And that today was the day when you celebrated the beginnings of your nation. That today you took time to remember your freedom and liberty and those who made great sacrifices to obtain it.

KATIE: Yeah, I hear that’s what we used to do. But it’s boring to spend time on that history stuff.

BILL: And some people have different opinions on freedom, liberty and all that stuff.
JOE: And nothing brings down a holiday like politics.

JUDY: Except maybe religion.

BETTY: That reminds me of something I’m looking forward to. This year we can show Ingmar how we celebrate all of our holidays, like Turkey Day and Bunny Day and even my favorite holiday.

INGMAR: What holiday would that be?

BETTY: Why Presents Under the Tree Day, of course.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Third Day of Advent Skit-a-Day Week

Christmas Fashions (First performed at Healdsburg Community Church)
Leader Jill
Designer #1
Designer #2
Designer #3
Designer #4 Swaddling cloth
Model #1 Christmas tree dress decorated in hearts
Model #2 Outfit covered with diamonds, dollar signs and jewels. Maybe coins?
Model #3 Santa outfit

Leader: This is exciting. We’ve narrowed our choice of themes for the Christmas fashion show to two choices: “Christmas in Love” or…. “Love in Christmas.”

Designer 1: Why don’t we take it to a vote?

Leader: All right… Everyone for “Christmas in Love” raise your hands. Now hands for “Love in Christmas” (All hands go up.). “Love in Christmas” it is. Let’s see what designs you’ve come up with. Does anyone have anything that will work with this theme?

Designer 2: Yeah, like, okay, I have something that so drips in the “Love in Christmas” theme. Model One, come on out! Model One!

(Model one comes out sheepishly. Her dress looks like a Christmas tree decorated with hearts.)

Designer 3: I don’t know, that just seems a bit… I don’t know… Obvious.

Designer 2: Do you have something better?

Designer 3: I think so. I think I’ve done something that captures the spirit of the age. Model Two! Come on out!

(Model Two struts, wearing a dress decorated with diamonds, jewels and dollar signs)

Designer 1: I don’t get it. What does this have to do with love or Christmas?

Designer 3: That’s how you show love at Christmas. You give nice stuff, you get nice stuff. That’s what Christmas is all about.

Designer 1: Oh really?

Leader: I do think I could sell this.

Designer 3: Oh yeah. Think about it. Think of what the letters in love stand for. ‘Lots Of Very Expensive Stuff.”

Designer 2 (counting on fingers): Isn’t that an extra letter?

Designer 3: “Love” or “Loves”. Whatever. People are going to have this dress on their Christmas list.

Leader: I don’t either of these quite captures “love” or “Christmas”. But I do think we could market it.

Designer 1: What about this one? Christmas is all about family. (Next model comes in.) This design has Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, Santa Junior and a puppy and a baby reindeer. That’s what Christmas is all about.

Leader: Stores are always excited about Santa.

Designer 4: I don’t think any of these captures the theme as much as this. (Holds up rags.) These are swaddling clothes.

Designer 2: Dude, like, I just don’t get it.

Designer 4: These are the clothes Jesus wore as a baby. In the Bible, in Luke 2 it says:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
God showed His love in Christmas by sending His son as a baby to save us all. That baby, God’s Son, wore clothes like this!

Leader: I think we definitely have a winner. I just have no idea how we’ll ever market it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Second Day of Advent Skit-A-Day Week

At the Wayside Inn

Restaurant Staff:


(The host’s stand is to one side of the stage, while a table with four plates, four glasses and a water pitcher is center. The magi are dressed in robes, while the host and waitress can be in modern restaurant uniforms or in biblical attire)

(Magi talking as they approach the restaurant host)

Bela: I tell you, we should have turned right after Emmaus. This is going to add a day to our trip.

Sachnar: I still don’t see why we couldn’t have taken the same route we took to get here.

Melindus: We have gone over that again and again. Now remember, during the meal, do not mention Bethlehem or the Child.

Sachnar: You’re paranoid, Melindus. Herod does not have spies here.

Host: That will be a table for four?

Melindus: Yes, a table for four. Just four wise…I mean, business people from the East. But not the Far East. Just on a typical little trip, you know, a little sight-seeing, a little…

Host: Hands washed or unwashed seating?

Bela: Either would be fine.
Host: This way, please.

Sachnar: If only we had kept something so we could eat in a decent place. Did we have to give away all our gold, frankincense and myrrh?

Hatkova: I still am amazed at what we have seen and heard. I tell you the world will not be the same since…

Melindus: Hush, here comes the waitress.

Waitress: Here are your menus; notice we do have a bread and fish special tonight.

(Magi look at menus)

Sachnar: What kind of choices are these? What I’d give for a ham sandwich!

(Waitress looks shocked)

Melindus: As if our clothes and camels don’t draw enough attention to us… do be quiet, Sachnar.

Bela: Just bring us all the bread and fish special.

Waitress: Yes, sir.

Bela: We must stop this bickering. Melindus, you could worry a little less. But we must be prudent. I was foolish to take us to see King Herod in Jerusalem. But I thought if anyone could tell us where the Star was leading, it would be someone in the capital, Jerusalem.

Hatkova: It was a wise choice, Bela. Their priests did give us the words of their prophets, “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means the least among the leaders of Judah, for out of you shall come forth a ruler, who will shepherd my people Israel.” But I think He will rule more than Israel.

Melindus: Then Herod told us to go to Bethlehem to find the Child, and then told us to report back to him so that he too could worship the Child. But the liar just wanted to know where the new King was so he could kill Him.

Sachnar: Now how do you know he wanted to kill the Child?
Melindus: Because of the dream. I know you had the same dream, Sachnar, that I had, and that Hatkova and Bela had. The voice of God told us in the dream not to go back to Herod and to go home a different way.

Sachnar: Maybe it wasn’t the voice of God. Maybe we had the dreams because of bad fish.

Hatkova: You know better than that, Sachnar. We have heard the voice of God. And we have seen God in the face of that Child.

Sachnar: And that’s another thing. Do you really believe that little Boy we saw was a King, let alone God? He looked like any other child, cried when hungry like any other child, needed his diaper changed like any other child….

Hatkova: But don’t you see, that’s the wonder of it all! If what his mother and father say is true, and I believe it, then this Child is like any other and unlike any other. The woman said she had known no man, and that God Himself is the Father of the Child. Therefore the Child is God Himself, living among us.

Waitress: (with plates of food) Your orders, sirs. And excuse me, sir, but I could not help but overhear you earlier. Do you have word about the Messiah?

Sachnar: Don’t worry, we were just joking here.

Hatkova: It is not a joke. We have wonderful news.

Melindus: We know nothing about your Messiah, and you can go back to your master, Herod, and tell him we found nothing and we will never disturb him again.

Bela: Quiet, you fool. This is not a spy. Why, young lady, do you want to know?

Waitress: My people have been waiting for generations for the Messiah to save us from the Romans and tyrants like Herod. Do you think He may have come to save my people?

Bela: Yes, dear girl. But if my friend Hatkova is right, this Child Jesus will not just save your people. If, indeed, the true God who made all things now lives among us, then He is here to save all people. So spread the word among your people. And we will return to our land to share the good news with our people.

Waitress: Thank you, thank you, sir. I will tell my family. Thank you for sharing the wonderful news. (She leaves)

Melindus: Are you sure we are safe sharing this news?

Sachnar: And telling people back home…what if they think we’re mad?

Hatkova: God has allowed us to hear His voice and see His face. I don’t think it would be safe or sane to keep this news to ourselves.

Bela: Yes, Hatkova. This is wonderful news we have. And it wouldn’t be right to keep it to ourselves. Everyone who knows about Jesus should share this joy with the world.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Christmas Skit a Day for the First Week of Advent

“Who’s Who in Whoville?” (Performed at Felton Bible Church)

Setting: A High School Study Group in someone's living room

Cast: Shawn, Beth, Joel, Biff and little girl

Joel: OK, let’s get down to work. As we approach this book, we need to answer the important questions. The “What’s” and “Why’s” of this book. I assume we have all read the book.

Biff: I haven’t completely got through it. I did read the jacket cover.

Shawn: I’ve been pretty busy with the Christmas shopping.

Beth: You guys haven’t had time to read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas?”

Biff: I saw the movie.

Shawn: I saw the movie and the cartoon too, and we all know the basic story. This ugly green guy steals these people‘s, or Who’s, or whatever’s Christmas stuff, but they still sing “Bah-hoo Doray” anyway.

Joel: OK. Let’s start with the theme. What do you think Dr. Seuss, or more properly, Theodore Geisel, was trying to convey with this story. I believe it is an assault on consumerism and the rampant commercialization of the holidays.

Beth: Why do you say “holidays”? The book is not called “How the Grinch Stole the Holidays”?

Joel: Well, I don’t want to offend anyone.

Shawn: I myself am offended to have to do this stupid project just before vacation.

Biff: I’m offended there’s nothing to eat here.

Joel: Could we please get back to the subject. What do you think is the point of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”?

Biff: Is it that Jim Carrey is funny?

Shawn: I think the point is that he isn’t funny. Or is it that you shouldn’t trust people dressed Santa?

Joel: Beth, do you have anything intelligent to add to the conversation?

Beth: If you don’t mind, I’ve got someone who could help us out on this.

(Very small girl enters in nightgown and hair up like a Who from the Seuss book.)

Joel: Say... That’s not who I think it is, is it?

Beth: Yes, I’d like you to meet Cindy Lou Who, who is now more than two.

Cindy Lou: But not much more than two.

Biff: If you’re really Cindy Lou Who, than tell us… Is Jim Carrey as funny off screen as he is onscreen?

Beth: Cindy Lou, could us why Whos could still celebrate even though the Grinch stole your Christmas things?

Cindy Lou: ‘Cause it was Christmas. The Grinch could take the other presents, but he couldn’t take the most important thing about Christmas, Jesus Christ entering the world.

Joel: Now wait a minute here. The book never said anything about Jesus.

Biff: Neither did the movie.

Shawn: Or even the cartoon.

Cindy Lou: Yes, the networks and children’s publishers were all concerned about getting complaints. But the day is Christmas; it is about Christ. He is the gift no one can steal away.

Joel: I don’t know if we can write that in a report for school. As I said we need to answer the “What’s” and “Why’s” of Christmas.

Cindy Lou: But don’t you see? Christmas isn’t about the what’s of Christmas, like presents. Or even so much about the whys. Back in Whoville, it’s always about the whos. And the most important Who, is Jesus.

Joel: But is that something we can put in a report?

Beth: We better. I think what I’ve learned is that the Grinchest thing we can do is to leave Christ out of Christmas.