Monthly Archives: December 2013

12.15.13 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at in Sermon Archives)

Joy: It’s a Wonderful Life

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.


Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

George Bailey contrasted his father’s life and “wealth” with Mr. Potter’s, saying, “Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!” Potter was wealthy, but he attained his wealth at the expense of others. George’s father and George lived lives full of ups and downs, helping and serving others. When we view life in the light of eternity, George was right. Ecclesiastes said thousands of years ago that God has “placed eternity” in human hearts, that God means for us to live in the light of eternity.



Luke 12:23-34

Jesus spoke these words to both a man who apparently wanted even more than he already had (cf. Luke 12:13) and to his disciples (cf. Luke 12:21), who were not among Israel’s wealthier citizens. He urged both rich and poor to worry less about earthly wealth, but to give priority to “treasure in heaven.” It’s a Wonderful Life posed, on film, the question: are Jesus’ words naïve nonsense or eternal truth?



Proverbs 14:31, 31:8-9, Psalm 82:1-4

Israel’s wisdom urged everyone to speak up for the voiceless, to care for those who couldn’t care for themselves. Many people echo Mr. Potter’s profit-driven contempt for the poor. At one point, he referred to Ernie Bishop, a Building and Loan client, as “that fellow that sits around all day on his brains in his taxi.” Scripture’s call was not to ridicule such people, but to treat them with dignity, generosity and compassion.



Acts 5:17–20; 12:1–11; 27:21-26

In It’s a Wonderful Life, we (and George Bailey) meet a charming, unusual character: “Clarence Odbody, Angel second class.” Clarence gets a very serious task: to help George see his life’s value clearly, so that he doesn’t give up. What’s interesting is that, without the theatrical touches, things like that really happen. Acts records at least three key times when divine messengers freed or saved an apostle facing prison or death.



John 10:7-15

Jesus said he came “so that they could live life to the fullest.” Sometimes we picture a life lived according to God’s principles as dreary, dutiful, devoid of joy. That’s how it began to seem to George Bailey, until Clarence showed him what his town would be like if he had never lived. In Clarence’s words, “Each man’s life touches so many other lives….You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life”—the kind of “life to the fullest” Jesus promised.



Isaiah 9:2-7

Israel faced dark times of defeat and exile. Isaiah warned them of that—but also told them the darkness was not the end of the story: “On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.” The light dawned at the world-changing event we remember at Christmas: “A child is born to us, a son is given to us.” That light dawned for George Bailey. He embraced his new sense of his life’s value, and cried joyfully, “Hello, Bedford Falls! Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan! Hey! Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter!”



To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from



Lord Jesus, we thank you for engraving your instructions on our hearts and look forward to ways you will continue to mold us. Enable us to live more and more in your goodness, your grace. Grow your generous spirit within us and in us an ever bigger heart, filled with gratitude for your many blessings. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Do you love all the Christmas music or does it bother you? When do you tend to enjoy the music the most and when does it tend to bother you?



 Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-11. This well-known passage begins “There’s a season for everything.” Do you think that means all of the things listed (e.g. dying, mourning, killing) are things God wanted, or just that all these things occur in the course of life in this broken world? When verse 11 said that God “has also placed eternity in their hearts,” did that point to our inner yearning for a better order of life in God’s eternal kingdom? What are some of the mysteries that cause you to agree with Ecclesiastes that God has not enabled us “to discover what God has done from beginning to end”? Does your faith in eternity lead you to trust in the face of those mysteries, or do they challenge and even disturb your faith?

 Read Luke 12:23-34. In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey cried, “You sit around here and spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money! Well, it doesn’t, Mr. Potter!” To what extent do you agree with Jesus and George Bailey that, in fact, the whole world does not revolve around money? When you need to deal with paying bills, does that make it easier or harder for you to agree with that perspective? What do you hold in your heart as the main measures of how significant your life is?

 Read Proverbs 14:31, 31:8-9, Psalm 82:1-4. Do you agree with these Bible passages, or do you think they are out of date or unrealistic? When was the last time you had a chance to speak up for a person (or group of people) who is poor, powerless or looked down on by others? What did you do in that situation? What do you as a group know about the idea of “microfinance”? Resurrection’s Missions ministry is taking the lead in facilitating microfinance opportunities, starting with people in Malawi and Mexico. Go to, and consider as a group joining together to make one or more microloans that you can track together.

 Read Acts 5:17–20; 12:1–11; 27:21-26. Would you say you are a big believer in angels, a bit of a skeptic about claims of having met or heard from an angel, or somewhere in between? Have you ever heard someone claim that an angel acted in a way that doesn’t fit with angels being God’s messengers, doing what God wanted them to do? When has an angel, human or otherwise, turned your life from going down into darkness and toward God’s light?

 Read John 10:7-15. Jesus contrasted his role as the good Shepherd with influences he called “the thief.” What are some of the ideas or people who have influenced you in ways that, in the long run, robbed you of life rather than enriching it? When has following Jesus brought you experiences that have made you feel deeply, fully alive? How can you as a group encourage and support each other in finding the fullness of life Jesus promised?

 Read Isaiah 9:2-7. In what ways can you relate your walk with Christ to Isaiah’s words: “On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned”? What are the things, large or small, that can make life seem dark to you? In what ways can you tap into the presence and power of Christ to bring light back into your life at those times?

From last week: Were you able to find one way you’ll honor Christmas differently, to better live out Paul’s counsel that “it works out best to defeat evil with good”? Share with the group what it was like to wrestle with the question, and any answers you found.



From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, December 15, 2013:

The main plot of It’s a Wonderful Life takes place on a Christmas Eve. George Bailey’s Uncle Billy misplaces a major deposit of the Building and Loan’s money–$8,000, about $100,000 in today’s dollars. This is enough to sink the Building and Loan. George will lose everything if he can’t come up with the money. He does everything he can think of with no success. It feels like his world is crashing in. He realizes that he is worth more dead than alive due to his life insurance. Desperate, George goes to a bridge and prepares to jump into the river.

This situation strikes close to home for so many. This week the 36-year-old son of a friend of mine in Florida took his own life. In the last year I’ve preached the funerals of three people I cared deeply about who took their own lives. A couple of weeks ago, one night, I was having conversations with two people on Facebook who were wrestling with suicidal thoughts. Some of you know my grandmother took her life before I was born. George Bailey was a remarkably good man, but the situation he was in felt so hopeless, and his drive to fix the problem leads him to a very bad solution. His perspective is skewed, and what he needs is a change of perspective. He can’t see the pain he’s about to inflict upon his children. He doesn’t realize that his life insurance will not pay in the event of suicide. And he can’t see that there is always another, better way out.

Even in the Bible we find people so discouraged they want to die. Moses prayed to God to die when he was in the wilderness. So did Elijah. David’s Psalms make clear that he was often walking in dark places where the whole world seemed against him. And the writer of Lamentations describes the overwhelming sorrow he’s walking through. We’ll all be the discouraged George Bailey at some time in our lives….

At the bridge, as George contemplates jumping, we meet Clarence. Clarence is an angel who is trying to earn his wings. He’s been sent by God to help George on this Christmas Eve night….Recently I read each scripture in the Bible that mentions angels. As I’ve mentioned before, in the Bible angels are not winged creatures. The Hebrew and Greek words for angel both mean “messenger.” In the Bible angels are sent to bring messages, sometimes messages of encouragement, sometimes messages of good news of some great thing God is doing. They appear as humans, which is why the writer of Hebrews tells us: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

Angels in scripture appear when someone is low or discouraged to bring encouragement. Remember that an angel of the Lord came to Hagar in the wilderness, and to Elijah as well in our last sermon series. In Acts an angel came to release the apostles from prison and stood with Paul when he was struggling. Angels were with Jesus when he was tempted in the wilderness, and being tested in the Garden of Gethsemane.

But angels also come announcing good news, usually something astounding, unbelievable and essential to God’s plans. Angels announce to both Mary and Joseph that Mary will bear the Christ-child. They announce the birth of the Savior to the shepherds on Christmas night. They are also present at Christ’s tomb following the Resurrection announcing, “He is not here he is risen!”…

George continues to think the world would be better off without him. Clarence decides to give George his wish, and shows him what would have happened if George had never been born. He takes George into town. Bedford Falls is now called Pottersville after the town slumlord, described as “the richest, meanest man in town.” Since George had never lived, he had not kept the Building and Loan open when his father died, and without the Building and Loan, Potter came to control the town and its people.

Next, Clarence takes George to see the people he knew well and whom he had touched. Without George and the everyday things he did, the druggist George helped as a boy became the town drunkard. The aspiring actress became a stripper. George’s wife never married. Their children were never born….At this point, Clarence utters the line that gave the film its title, saying, “You see George, you really had a wonderful life.” Despite his immediate circumstances, George had a wonderful life. He was not a man of wealth and power, but his life had made a difference. He had saved his little brother, who went on to save an entire ship of men. He had made loans to people building their homes and escaping the slums. He had married a wonderful woman and they had a family together. He came to see, and to trust, that his life had played some part in so many other lives….

The biblical story is a story of hope in the face of adversity, and light that dawns in the midst of our darkness. It is the story of God who promises never to leave us nor forsake us, and who works in surprising ways to see us through. You can’t see right now what God will do in the future. We trust that God will deliver us, and bring light into our darkness, and that we play some part in his plans, and we keep going.

Which leads me back to George’s story. George comes to have a changed perspective. It is the only thing we have—that changed perspective we also call hope. It is believing that things will turn out differently than they presently are….

I love the closing scene of It’s A Wonderful Life. When the town heard that George was in trouble, that without $8,000 the Building and Loan would close, and he’d go to jail, God delivered him through his friends and neighbors, who pitched in money and rallied to his support. The scene illustrates so well the idea that we are God’s angels, and that it is through people that God usually works to sustain and deliver us in our darkest hour. We hear words calling us to be God’s angels throughout the scriptures, words like those of Paul in Galatians: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

George really was the richest man in town, saved by the angels on that Christmas Eve night. Trust God in your hour of darkness. There are no hopeless causes with God.


About It’s A Wonderful Life

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), originally made for Liberty Films, is one of the most popular and heartwarming films ever made by director Frank Capra. Frank Capra regarded this film as his own personal favorite – it was also James Stewart’s favorite of all his feature films.

It was actually a box-office flop at the time of its release, and only became the Christmas movie classic in the 1970s due to repeated television showings at Christmas-time when its copyright protection slipped and it fell into the public domain in 1974 and TV stations could air it for free. [Republic Pictures restored its copyright claim to the film in 1993, with exclusive video rights to it. Currently, it can be shown only on the NBC-TV network, and its distribution rights belong to Paramount Pictures.]

The film’s screenplay (credited as being written by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, and Capra himself, with additional scenes by Jo Swerling) was based on “The Greatest Gift,” an original short story first written on a Christmas card by Philip Van Doren Stern. Uncredited for their work on the script were Dorothy Parker, Dalton Trumbo, and Clifford Odets.

It is actually a dark, bittersweet post-war tale of a savings-and-loan manager who struggles against a greedy banker and his own self-doubting nature in a small town. Earnest do-gooder George Bailey (James Stewart) recognizes his life as wonderful and truly rich, even in its humdrum and bleak nature, only after suffering many hardships, mishaps and fateful trials (including compromised dreams of youth to leave the town and seek fame and fortune, other sacrifices, dismay, losses and the threat of financial ruin, and suicide). He is given encouragement by a whimsical, endearing, trainee-angel named Clarence (Henry Travers).

The story turns Dickensian (similar to A Christmas Carol, although told from Bob Cratchit’s point-of-view rather than from Scrooge’s) when the hysterical, despairing, and melancholy family man is shown what the small town (Bedford Falls, now renamed Pottersville after the town’s evil tycoon) would be like without him. It’s a frightening, nightmarish, noirish view of the world (at Christmas-time) that brings him back from self-destruction. He returns to the idyllic, small-town world that he left, with renewed faith and confidence in life itself. Hence, the film’s title: It’s a Wonderful Life.



Final application:

This week identify as many things as possible that have made your life wonderful. Plan to share your lists the next time your group meets, and also with family and friends as part of your Christmas celebration.



12.8.13 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at in Sermon Archives)

Peace: How Christmas Changed the Grinch

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.


Romans 7:14-25, 1 John 1:8-2:2

In the Grinch, Dr. Seuss created a character that reminds us that there is evil in our world, and in each of our own hearts. The Grinch is fun, but evil is serious business. Paul told the Romans plainly that he found the line between good and evil cutting through his own heart. Just resolving to do better, he said, didn’t produce the results he sought. John, too, wrote about the darkness within us, and our profound need for Christ’s light in our lives.



Mark 7:14-23

Dr. Seuss said the Grinch most likely hated Christmas because “his heart was two sizes too small.” Jesus agreed. Ancient Jewish culture was extremely strict about purity laws, especially food laws. Jesus said it’s not what goes into a person’s body that is bad; it is what comes from within a person. The most hurtful stuff comes from inside, from the human heart.



Luke 1:57-75

There were no presents, no trees—but no matter. The Whos still welcomed Christmas with a song of joy. They showed the same spirit as Luke’s Christmas story, which was full of songs. Today we read of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s joy, and that of their friends and neighbors, when their miraculous boy was born. Zechariah first praised the “rising sun”—not his own son, but the saving King for whom his son would prepare the way.



Luke 6:27-36

Is this passage even about Christmas? Yes—if we understand that it’s about the heavenly purpose for Christmas, which was to open before us a whole different way of living. Jesus taught his followers how to live with his peace and joy. As the Whos sang in the Dr. Seuss story, “Christmas Day is in our grasp so long as we have hands to clasp….Welcome, Christmas, while we stand heart to heart, and hand in hand.”



Romans 12:14-21

Eventually, we all find ourselves dealing with a “grinch.” When that happens, we’re tempted to “give them a dose of their own medicine,” to be as mean (or meaner) to them as they’ve been to us. But, like the Whos who sang their joyous song rather than ranting and raging at the Grinch, Paul knew that in the end, it works out best to defeat evil with good.



Jeremiah 31:31-34

The prophets promised that God can deliver us from the kind of “heart trouble” that causes us to act like grinches. Dr. Seuss wrote that when the Grinch finally “got” the meaning of Christmas, “In Who-ville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!” Jeremiah’s said that God pledged to “engrave” his instructions on each heart that’s open to God’s love. The prophet Ezekiel, in a similar image, quoted God as saying, “I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one” (Ezekiel 36:26).

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from



Lord Jesus, we thank you for engraving your instructions on our hearts and look forward to ways you will continue to mold us. Enable us to live more and more in your goodness, your grace. Grow your generous spirit within us and in us an ever bigger heart, filled with gratitude for your many blessings. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Do you love all the Christmas music or does it bother you? When do you tend to enjoy the music the most and when does it tend to bother you?



• Read Romans 7:14-25, 1 John 1:8-2:2. In his letter to the Romans, was Paul trying to duck responsibility for his own actions? Do you think he was rationalizing our evil nature, or just recognizing it? How do you feel about Paul’s comments? Are they helpful to you? How important are the comments of Paul and John to the growth of our individual faith? How often do Christians find themselves facing the same kind of dilemma that Paul described? Do most Christians KNOW they sometimes do things that are evil and sinful? Can we be honest with ourselves and with God about the flaws and struggles?

• Read Mark 7:14-23. What helps you to focus your primary energy and concern on the state of your heart, rather than on just trying to make your outward behaviors look good? We would probably all agree that the Holy Spirit can bring about significant change in us, but does significant change happen without our collaboration? What’s required of us for this change to come about? How can we help others struggling with making changes in their lives? What mistakes should we guard against when trying to help others?

• Read Luke 1:57-75. What was so significant about this baby’s birth and why were all the neighbors “filled with awe”? The baby was named John which means “graced by Yahweh”. Why were names significant to the people of that time? Do names hold any significance today? Do you find it strange that, upon his birth, the people asked what the child would be? Do we speculate about the future of babies today?

• Read Luke 6:27-36. Discuss how the first two verses could also reflect how God treats us. How do these verses reflect the “spirit of Christmas”? Jesus was teaching people how to act differently than they have acted in the past. How do we tend to act differently during the Christmas season? These verses speak to the concept of generosity. What is it that works to cause people to be more generous during Christmas? Verse 31 invokes the “Golden Rule”. In what situations do you find it hardest for you to treat others as you’d wish to be treated? How can Jesus’ teaching help you discern how to live out the Golden Rule in ways that bless others while you maintain healthy boundaries and self-care?

• Read Romans 12:14-21. Do you believe the statement, “it works out best to defeat evil with good”? Is that how you have dealt with every “grinch” in your life? What prevented you from dealing with some of them in this way? What helped you to deal with some of them in this way? Dr. Seuss wrote, “’Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more.’” How do Paul’s words remind you of the true meaning of Christmas? When have you seen enemies brought together, in your own life or in world affairs, because one side acted with kindness rather than hatred or contempt?

• Read Jeremiah 31:31-34. Jeremiah said that God pledged to “engrave” his instructions on each heart that’s open to God’s love. Has that been fulfilled today? What signs do you see of God at work in our world and in the hearts of the people of today? Where do you see signs of God at work in your life? In terms of God working in your heart and life, what do you still look forward to?

From last week: Did you honor the beginning of the Advent season by committing to some form of community service in Christ’s name? Please share with the group what you experienced and how it affected your Christmas preparations.



From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, December 8, 2013:

Today we turn to a film based upon a Dr. Seuss’ book by the same name, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The book was written in 1957; the animated film, 25 minutes long, was released on CBS in 1966. The book has been named as one of the top 100 picture books of all time by polls of both teachers and librarians. Every year as I was growing up we would look forward to watching this show. It showed on CBS for years, but this year ABC used it to kick off their 25 days of Christmas.

This film has become such a part of our culture that the word Grinch has become embedded in our language. I wonder if you know any Grinches? The Grinch is bitter, resentful, ungracious and unwilling to forgive. He or she assumes the worst of others. Unable to let go of hurts in the past, he chooses to fixate on them and play them over again and again in his head, and each time they become bigger and bigger.

Here’s the question I’d like us to consider for a moment: What made the Grinch the Grinch? Why did he hate the Whos in Who-ville and so resent their happiness? Many of the people I meet who are bitter or angry are so in response to hurt or pain or disappointment in their lives. For some it was a grave injustice that led them to become bitter. For others it was a lifetime of small disappointments, hurts or slights that led them to their resentment and bitterness.

Here’s what I’d like us to remember. We each have a bit of Grinch in us, and we either feed the Grinch within, or we starve it.

On Tuesday, as I was working on this sermon, I felt prompted to pick up Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. I had no idea when I did that he would die on Thursday. I’d read the book years ago and I felt that there was something I had read there that would tie into today’s message.

Long Walk to Freedom describes Nelson Mandela’s life and journey working for racial equality in South Africa. Mandela repeatedly noted in the book that he himself was a Methodist. In 1964 he was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the struggle for human rights as he sought to end apartheid. He would spend 27 years in prison, most of those on Robben Island where he spent years with pick and shovel in the mines. If anyone had a right to be filled with bitterness, resentment and hate, it would have been Nelson Mandela. Mandela once noted, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate.” Mandela refused to hate….

Paul wrote Ephesians to Christians, yet even to those who had chosen to follow Christ struggled with the things they would say to one another and the bitterness they would sometimes feel towards one another. He writes in Ephesians 4:29 and 31:

“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And…put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice.” We’re to leave these things behind, and in verse 32 he tells us what the life of a Christian is meant to look like: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

Grinches hold on to hurts, they magnify them, they allow them to fester and to make them bitter and toxic. Our willingness to let go of the hurts, to pray for those who wrong us, to love our enemies—forgiveness—all of which is captured by the biblical word Grace—saves us.

So I’ll ask you, are you feeding the Grinch, or the person within you that God intends you to be?…

I wondered as I watched this film several times this week, how would we respond if someone broke in on Christmas Eve and stole everything under the tree, down to the food in the refrigerator? Would you still sing carols? Would you still give thanks? Could a thief stop your Christmas from coming? Or what about a Grinch, or an illness? Or some other painful or disappointing situation. Is it not the painful and disappointing situations that point us towards the real meaning of Christmas?

I thought about those who will celebrate Christmas this year having just lost a loved one, or battling illness, or unemployed. I thought about those Christians who will eat at the homeless shelter where some of you will serve, or those who for whatever reason are struggling this year. It is then that we most need the message of Christmas!…

What happens next to the Grinch, as he remembers the real meaning of Christmas, and hears the hope and love of Christ arising from the Whos down in Who-ville, is conversion. God foretold what he would do one day in the hearts of his people in Ezekiel 26:25-27: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean…I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you.” It is this kind of conversion, this heart transformation, that God wishes to do in our lives, to change us from Grinch to gracious servants of Christ.

Dr. Seuss’s book says, “And what happened then…? Well…in Who-ville they say, The Grinch’s small heart Grew three sizes that day!” This is what Christmas, the real Christmas, is meant to do….

We’ve all got a bit of the Grinch in each of us. We’ll either feed him or starve him. Which leads me once more to the words of Paul to the Ephesians: “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

‘Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is a 1966 American animated television special directed by Chuck Jones. It is based on the homonymous children’s book by Dr. Seuss, the story of The Grinch trying to take away Christmas from the townsfolk of Whoville below his mountain hideaway. The special, which is considered a short film as it runs less than an hour, is one of the very few Christmas specials from the 1960s to still be shown regularly on television. Jones and Geisel previously worked together on the Private Snafu training cartoons during World War II.

The 26-minute short was originally telecast on CBS on December 18, 1966. CBS repeated it annually during the Christmas season until 1987. Beginning in 2006, ABC began broadcasting it annually during the Christmas season. It was eventually acquired by Turner Broadcasting System, which now shows it several times between November and December. It has since been broadcast on TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, and The WB Television Network, and ABC Family but with some scenes trimmed to fit more commercial time.

Boris Karloff, in one of his final roles, narrates the film and also provides the speaking voice of The Grinch. (The opening credits state, “The sounds of the Grinch are by Boris Karloff…And read by Boris Karloff too!”) The special was originally produced by The Cat in the Hat Productions in association with the television and animation divisions of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.

The story takes viewers inside a snowflake to Whoville, the magical land of the Whos. But high above this holiday-loving town resides the Grinch, a hateful creature with a heart three sizes too small, who hates Christmas and plots to steal it from the Whos.

Will a greedy Mayor Augustus Maywho or the seductive Martha May Whovier ruin his plans? Or will the loving little Cindy Lou Who be able to teach The Grinch the true meaning of Christmas?

The Voice cast includes June Foray as Cindy Lou Who.

Sources: and


Final application:

This week, identify one way you’ll honor Christmas differently, to better live out Paul’s counsel that it “it works out best to defeat evil with good.” Next week, share with the group what happened to you and what you did about it.


12.1.13 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at in Sermon Archives)

Hope: Miracle on 34th Street

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.


Hebrews 11:1-6

Sometimes we’re tempted to think of people in Jesus’ day as naïve, credulous folks who’d believe any wild story anyone wanted to tell them. The writer to the Hebrews, at the start of the well-known “faith” chapter, made it plain that he had wrestled with the issues of faith and doubt. Verses 1 and 3 described the unseen quality of what we believe in. And verse 6, rather than trying to “prove” God, said believing in God is a faith decision.



Isaiah 9:2-7

Isaiah gave Israel a beautiful prophetic vision. He spoke of a future in which light pierced the world’s darkness, in which peace was so deep-seated that people could burn all the warriors’ garments soaked in blood, in which hope, justice and righteousness reign. All of this (verse 6) because “A child is born to us, a son is given to us.” It was a lovely promise. The question, then and now, is: does it really make sense to believe something so hopeful and intangible?



Luke 1:5-20

As one of perhaps 18,000 priests and Levites, Zechariah knew that being chosen by lot for Temple service was an honor he’d likely have just once. But Gabriel, God’s messenger, brought him a promise, much harder to believe, of a far greater event in which he, his wife Elizabeth (and the son they thought they’d never have) would play a key role.



Luke 1:26-38

To both Zechariah and Mary, God’s messenger promised the birth of a baby, despite the fact that the biological facts ruled pregnancy out (Elizabeth was too old, Mary was a virgin). Like Zechariah, Mary struggled to believe the angel’s words—but she did. Doris Walker in Miracle on 34th Street came to see that “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.” Mary did that, too, knowing we serve a God who sometimes does very uncommon things.



Luke 1:39-45

Miracle on 34th Street includes this exclamation: “I believe…It’s silly, but I believe.” What an amazing “I believe” atmosphere must have enveloped Elizabeth and her young relative Mary as they met and compared notes about their unexpected pregnancies! Elizabeth summed it all up, saying, “Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her” (verse 45).



Matthew 1:18-25

And then there was Joseph, who quite possibly got the news of his fiancée Mary’s pregnancy during her visit to Elizabeth (see Pastor Hamilton’s book The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem). The fact was painful at first; the story she told was unbelievable. He was going, sensibly, “to call off their engagement quietly.” But he didn’t, because he believed a message in a dream. In Miracle on 34th Street, Susan Walker said she believed in Kris Kringle because “He looks like every picture of Santa Claus I’ve ever seen.” Joseph didn’t leave a record of his thoughts, but we can wonder if he trusted his dream because it “looked like” so many Biblical pictures of the kind of thing God would do.

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Lord Jesus, we set aside the voices in the world and in our heads that call you impossible and we ask you to be our Lord and the guide of our lives. Thank you for keeping the promises you have made to us, especially those that seem so impossible. Shine your light on the darker recesses of our lives and help us to bring joy to those around us, especially during this Advent season. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Does all the hoopla and commercialism immediately after Thanksgiving bother you, or do you enjoy the Christmas preparations, despite the commercialism? What do you like and dislike about this?



 Read Hebrews 11:1-6. How would you define “faith”? Why do you have faith when others don’t? Have others ever challenged your faith? Have you ever been belittled because you believe? In Miracle on 34th Street, Kris Kringle said, “If you can’t accept anything on faith, then you’re doomed for a life dominated by doubt.” What do you think this means? How can we “see” beyond our five senses to God’s unseen realities?

 Read Isaiah 9:2-7. What are these verses speaking of? Why would Isaiah have offered this to the ancient Hebrew people? Does it make sense that they would have believed something so hopeful and intangible? Fred Gailey, in Miracle on 34th Street, told the sternly “realistic” Doris, “Those lovely intangibles…are the only things that are worthwhile.” Can you even imagine life without “lovely intangibles” like hope, beauty, purpose, delight, compassion or love? To what extent do you agree with Fred’s sweeping statement that they are “the only things that are worthwhile”? Why does the Bible so often link God with the idea of light?

 Read Luke 1:5-20. Zechariah couldn’t quite believe this incredible prophecy, even though an angel of God was delivering it. Sometimes, things seem just too incredible, childish and foolish to believe. Have you ever been tempted to see faith as childish and foolish? What people of faith have you known who were anything but childish and foolish? How would you describe these people? How does their faith give us faith? Gabriel said to Zechariah, “Do not be afraid.” This Advent, in what part(s) of life do you most need to take in God’s message: “Do not be afraid”?

 Read Luke 1:26-38. Do you believe that “nothing is impossible with God”? Do you believe that miracles can still occur, or are miracles a thing of the past? Once the “end of time” is upon us do you think that that great, overt miracles will be observed like they were in New Testament times? Will faith increase in such times? Why or why not? What kinds of impossibilities might people be wrestling with today that should be trustingly left in God’s hands?

 Read Luke 1:39-45. Do you think that we, like Elizabeth and Mary, are blessed simply because we “believe”? Before Jesus was even born, Elizabeth was the first person recorded as calling him “Lord”. What does this term, “Lord” mean or imply to you? What effect(s) has your acceptance of Jesus as “Lord” had on your life? What did Mary and Elizabeth gain by meeting together while both were pregnant? Do you or have you ever met with someone in similar circumstances and felt strengthened by the meeting? Who was most supportive, you or them, and which one of you gained the most?

 Read Matthew 1:18-25. This tells us that Joseph chose to believe what he had heard in his dream, but how much of the impact of the impending event do you think he really grasped? Joseph and Mary waited expectantly for the birth of the Christ child, just as we, during Advent, expectantly await the celebration of his birth. Why is this season important to you and to your family? During Advent, how can we nurture an ever-stronger faith?

From last week: Did you pause to give thanks every day? Did you take the time to make a written list of your blessings then add to the list each day? Did you pray daily, giving sincere thanks to God for each item and ask for his continued blessings upon you, your family and all those who are in need? Please tell the group what this process meant to you.



From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, November 31, 2013:

Today we’ll ponder the meaning of Christmas with the help of the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street, a film which won five Academy awards. We’ll divide up today’s message into three acts:

Act I: A Loss of Faith

The Miracle on 34th Street story begins at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade of 1947. Doris Walker is divorced, a single mom whose husband left her when her daughter was quite small. Doris, played by Maureen O’Hara, works at Macy’s and is responsible for hiring the year’s Santa for the parade and the giant Macy’s store on 34th Street in New York (which remains, to this day, the largest retail store in the world).

While Doris hires and supervises the Santa at Macy’s, she not a fan of Santa Claus.…For Doris, Santa is a myth that, like all others, must be debunked. But one gets the impression very quickly that Doris’ rejection of Santa Claus is deeper than mere “common sense.” The rejection and abandonment she felt when her husband left her and her daughter has left her jaded. She’s lost faith in what she considers the “silly things” in life—not just Santa, but we sense this also includes things like faith, and hope, romance and love. For Doris whatever doesn’t fit her definition of common sense or realism or what is logical is to be rejected….

When you come to the Christmas story and all you have is logic you may be prone to dismiss it as a silly legend or myth to be set aside by rational people. Your logic and common sense will say, “A child born of a virgin? Impossible!” “God visiting our world as a baby? Preposterous!” In this case Christmas becomes merely a fight on Thanksgiving night in a Wal-mart as you seek to get your piece of a Black Friday deal. But when you experience and know here (in the heart) that God is, that there is more to our lives, and to the universe, than chemical reactions and what our eyes can see, we begin to find the deeper meaning of life. But let’s dig deeper into Miracle on 34th Street:

Act II: Meet Kris Kringle

Let’s meet Kris Kringle….Kris despises the commercialism of Christmas. Kris not only refuses to recommend toys a child doesn’t want, but if Macy’s doesn’t have a toy a child wants, he tells the parents what competitor of Macy’s carries the toy. To Mr. Macy’s shock, this approach of putting the customer first, far from hurting business, actually leads to customer loyalty and more profit. Kris transforms retail in New York, and soon not only Macy’s, but Gimbals and others are choosing to put the customer first.

But very quickly Doris learns that Kris actually believes he is Santa Claus. She grows concerned and insists that Kris be examined by the Macy’s psychologist. Only a someone mentally ill would claim to be Saint Nicholas in the flesh….Kris ends up in the psychiatric ward of Bellevue hospital awaiting a trial to determine if he is mentally ill because he claimed to be Santa. Fred is the attorney who takes up Kris’ case….

To Doris, Fred has given up his job on an “idealistic binge.” I love Fred’s response: “Look Doris, someday you’re going to find out that your way of facing this realistic world just doesn’t work. When you do, don’t overlook those lovely intangibles. You’ll discover they are the only things that are worthwhile.” I wonder if you’ve figured this out yet. For Fred, and I would suggest for all of us, it is the intangibles, the things like faith, hope and love, that ultimately matter most to us as human beings.

Fred’s comment, “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to,” reminds me of that famous passage in Hebrews 11: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Let’s bring this to a close by looking at the question of who, really, is Kris Kringle:

Act III: Who Really is Kris Kringle?

The climax of the film takes place in the New York State Supreme Court where the judge will determine whether Kris Kringle might, in any meaningful sense, actually be Santa Claus, or whether he’s delusional and should be institutionalized….

Santa Claus, as you no doubt remember, is a contraction of Saint Nicholas, the fourth century bishop of Myra in modern day Turkey….Centuries later, Martin Luther the great Protestant reformer, noting that St. Nicholas in his compassion was simply representing Christ, de-emphasized St. Nick in favor of the German Christkindl—what in English became Kris Kringle. Christkindl simply means Christ Child. Kris Kringle, as with Saint Nicholas, was one who represented the Christ Child through tangible demonstrations of compassion and love.

The story of Christmas is the story of God, coming to us in human flesh, through a virgin named Mary, born in stable, in poverty. It is a story that says that there is a God who has come to bring the light of his love into this world, to change us, save us, deliver us, redeem us, and give us hope. I can’t prove the story. I accept it and the testimony of those who knew Christ. And my life is changed because of it. In believing in Christmas, as Christ-followers, we, like Saint Nicholas, like Kris Kringle represent the Christ Child and bring his light and love to the world.


Miracle on 34th Street

Miracle on 34th Street (in the United Kingdom first released as The Big Heart) is a 1947 Christmas film written and directed by George Seaton and based on a story by Valentine Davies. It stars Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn. The story takes place between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day in New York City, and focuses on the impact of a department store Santa Claus who claims to be the real Santa. The film has become a perennial Christmas favorite.

The film won Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Edmund Gwenn), Best Writing, Original Story (Valentine Davies) and Best Writing, Screenplay. It was also nominated for Best Picture, losing to Gentleman’s Agreement. Davies also penned a short novella version of the tale, which was published simultaneously with the film’s release. Miracle on 34th Street was remade twice: once for TV in 1973, and a second time for a 1994 theatrical release, with Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle.

The story: Edmund Gwenn plays Kris Kringle, a bearded old gent who is the living image of Santa Claus. Serving as a last-minute replacement for the drunken Santa who was to have led Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, Kringle is offered a job as a Macy’s toy-department Santa. Supervisor Maureen O’Hara soon begins having second thoughts about hiring Kris: it’s bad enough that he is laboring under the delusion that he’s the genuine Saint Nick; but when he begins advising customers to shop elsewhere for toys that they can’t find at Macy’s, he’s gone too far! Amazingly, Mr. Macy (Harry Antrim) considers Kris’ shopping tips to be an excellent customer-service “gimmick,” and insists that the old fellow keep his job. A resident of a Long Island retirement home, Kris agrees to take a room with lawyer John Payne during the Christmas season. It happens that Payne is sweet on O’HARA, and Kris subliminally hopes he can bring the two together. Kris is also desirous of winning over the divorced O’HARA’s little daughter Natalie Wood, who in her few years on earth has lost a lot of the Christmas spirit. Complications ensue when Porter Hall, Macy’s nasty in-house psychologist, arranges to have Kris locked up in Bellevue as a lunatic. Payne represents Kris at his sanity hearing, rocking the New York judicial system to its foundations by endeavoring to prove in court that Kris is, indeed, the real Santa Claus! We won’t tell you how he does it: suffice to say that there’s a joyous ending for Payne and O’HARA, as well as a wonderful faith-affirming denouement for little Natalie Wood. 72-year-old Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar for his portrayal of the “jolly old elf” Kringle; the rest of the cast is populated by such never-fail pros as Gene Lockhart (as the beleaguered sanity-hearing judge), William Frawley (as a crafty political boss), and an unbilled Thelma Ritter and Jack Albertson.

Primary source:


Final application:

This week, honor the beginning of the Advent season by committing to some form of community service in Christ’s name. Next week, share with the group what you experienced and how it affected your Christmas preparations.