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Taking ‘Elf’ off the shelf: Discipleship in the Buddy system

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It seems like we got cheated this holiday season. Thanksgiving fell as late as is possible, and therefore, the normal marker of when “the holidays” begin was as late as possible.

Am I the only one who has had that feeling that Christmas just sneaked up on me? I mean, I barely got a pittance of the normal decorations up at my house, and just this past week was finally going to get around to putting up the halo of lights that surround the outside of my house.

The entire production is akin to a Griswold Christmas extravaganza which nightly lights up the neighborhood and provides alternative runway lighting for Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. However, seeing as I have waited so long, a number of people pointed out that I would just be putting lights up to only be taking them down in a couple of weeks (thanks to the folks at Duke Energy and our local ER for their advice).

But how can anyone get in the mood for Christmas celebrations when it seems like the timeline has been truncated? The Christmas music hasn’t had enough time to become annoying everywhere you go. The shopping and sales that always are telling you that you better hurry because there are only so many days left to shop are for once kind of helpful. And even those annual delicacies for “sweet tooths” have not had the chance to be overindulged (I’ve still got half of the 10-pound fruitcake I’ve been working on left).

So to help everyone get in the mood, you may think I’m heading toward my yearly invitation for everyone to come to a Christmas Eve service (the one at my congregation is at 9 p.m.). But rather, I’m heading toward that visual version of the Christmas carol in the form of those classic Christmas movies and TV shows.

To be honest, you’re not going to get any more gut-wrenching than the classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Then there are some great nostalgia visuals from Rudolph, The Grinch, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story.”

But then there are some newer movies that fall into that realm of Christmas classic because of how they resonate — and I’m not just talking about “Die Hard.”

Just the other night, I watched Jim Carrey’s version of The Grinch in the background while I was working. I still refer to that as the “new” one even though Dr. Strange voiced a version about a year ago. I was shocked to see that the “new” version I was watching was 19 years old: a classic indeed.

And where Charlie Brown at least had Linus read the Christmas story from Luke, many classics like The Grinch have to rely on message alone and the faith of the viewer to make a real Christmas connection.

Pastor Zach Harris has been an ordained minister for 28 years and currently serves Ascension Lutheran Church in Wilson. His column, “Through a Lutheran Lens: A Pastor’s Perspective,” appears weekly in The Wilson Times. Previous columns are available at