Today: Thursday, November 21, 2019

God in entertainment: Skipping Christmas    (8/1/2010 1)

Last year, for the first time, my family and I went away for a few days right before Christmas. It was bliss. As a Christian, I love Christmas—but I don’t love the run-up to it. The pressure of feeling I should be making mince pies, mulling wine, cleaning and tidying, entertaining, decorating the house, beautifully wrapping perfect gifts… I get horribly stressed, and I can’t imagine this was what God intended for his son’s birthday.

So I had a lot of sympathy for Nora and Luther Krank, the characters in John Grisham’s book (so unlike his legal thrillers) entitled Skipping Christmas. Their only child goes to work in Peru and won’t be home for Christmas. Dismayed by this, and having calculated that Christmas always costs them over $6,000 and a lot of stress, they decide to ‘skip’ Christmas at home and go on a cruise... to get away from the commercialism, the door-to-door collections by the police and fire department, the carol singers, the drunken office party. To relax and remember what Christmas is really about…

I nodded as I read. I understood.

But the Kranks’ colleagues, friends and neighbours (oh, especially the neighbours) don’t understand at all. They are dumbfounded. Skip Christmas? But what about the parties, the Christmas tree, the (un)healthy competition around who has the best roof decorations? Nora and Luther are subjected to incomprehension, sarcasm and derision, cold shoulders, and even prank calls. It simply affirms their decision to get away.

But then Blair, their daughter, calls unexpectedly: she’s coming home for Christmas after all, and is already en route—with her new fiancé. PANIC STATIONS! With just hours to spare, the cruise is forgotten and the Kranks are forced to lay on a full Christmas for their adored daughter. Unfortunately, the supermarket shelves are bare (not a turkey to be had), there are no gifts, and all their friends and neighbours have already accepted other invitations. Luther is forced to steal a neighbour’s decorated tree, and falls off the roof trying to install ‘Mr Frosty’ up there. The whole thing becomes a hilarious farce.

In the end, it is those very friends and neighbours, so offended by the Kranks’ behaviour yet who have watched Blair grow up and love her, who save the day. Everyone chips in—from donating a turkey to sending a police escort to collect her from the airport, holding up a loaned ‘Mr Frosty’ on the roof, forming a welcome choir, packing the house out with people, and even donating hastily re-wrapped Christmas presents.

This is a wonderful book. The Kranks are seriously flawed characters, as are their friends and neighbours. But it’s about the things which really matter.

It’s about the importance of relationship, which transcends those other things which only seem important—so it’s about love. It’s about community: having to rub along together with other people just because they’re there, not because they’re friends: in other words, loving your neighbour. It’s about putting aside past differences in order to solve one another’s problems, which is about forgiveness. And it’s about kindness and sacrifice to help other people when they need it most—no matter what your differences have been: in other words, it’s about grace.

John Grisham is a Christian. And while this isn’t an overtly Christian book, it has a powerful message. It’s a book everyone should read!

Pray: Lord, in the midst of stress and personal difference, help me to remember what really matters. Remind me daily of the importance of love, grace and forgiveness. Help me to step in for others in need, and to to receive help when I, too, need it most. Amen.

Think about: What does Christmas means to you? Are you so caught up in the commercialism that you forget what it's really about... or do you hate the commercialism so much that, like the Kranks, you try and ignore Christmas? As next Christmas approaches, what will you do to find the right balance?

Challenge: Read a parable (a story Jesus told) from the Bible about being a good neighbour.

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