Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lifes Lessons From A Third Baseman

I can't think of a better way to end 2010 and encourage you for the New Year which we are about to embark on than with this:

On December 3 Chicago lost a legend in Ron Santo, a 9-time all-star third baseman for the Chicago Cubs. When you mention the name Ron Santo you most likely associate him with the Cubs and with diabetes and his perseverance to survive. Ron Santo for years endured: diabetes, amputation of both legs, heart problems, and bladder cancer, only to succumb to all of this at the age of 70.

How many of us had to have persevere through something this past year? Whether it's a loss of job, an illness,or a death in the family, it is always a struggle to persevere and get through that difficult time. But Ron Santo had a way of dealing with his struggles in a very unique way.

First, he took his diabetes and did something with it:

His Juvenile Walk To Cure Diabetes raised over 250 million dollars alone for diabetes and Santo effortlessly raised more awareness to the disease than anyone else I could ever think of. What he did was take a negative and made a positive out of it.I believe that is the key to living, surviving, and persevering. And whether you are a spiritual person or not, making a positive out of a negative is the way to overcome and bring light into the darkness.

Secondly, Ron Santo never gave up the fight and endured with a light-hearted, winning attitude. Ron Santo was a Chicago Cubs analyst on their radio broadcasts since 1990. In the booth he was somewhat comical at times and his passion and love for the Cubs showed through his enthusiasm on the air. On the day of his passing I heard the following story on the radio from one of his co-workers who worked in the radio booth with him:

During the middle of a game one of Ron's knees was hurting and swelling up. He took off his prosthetic and there was a lot of blood. Ron wrapped it with a towel and continued working until the game ended. His co-worker, named Dave, asked Ron if he could drive him either to the hospital or home and so Ron chose home.

Ron Santo gets into the passenger seat, props his stump on the dashboard, and they begin to chat. On the ride home Dave told Ron about him being his idol growing up and how he wore his number 10 jersey to school everyday. Dave says he can't understand how Ron can handle everything he is going through: going to the doctor three times a week, losing both legs,diabetes injections everyday and being on all sorts of medication.Dave then admits to Ron Santo that he doesn't think he could handle what he goes through on an everyday basis and doesn't feel worthy of wearing Santo's number 10 jersey. Ron's simple reply was,

"Dave,you are bumming me out dude. Why are you so down? Gee wiz,the Cubs won today!"

This story exemplifies what Ron Santo was all about. Though he went through all of these health struggles for years, he kept the right frame of mind, treasured each day as if it were his last, and carried a winning attitude.

Now I could bum you out totally by having you compare your difficulty to Ron Santo's, but I won't. Instead I encourage you to tackle that circumstance you may be going through and start the new year with a more positive outlook and attitude.Take that negative in your life, build on it, and make something good out of it. I believe our attitude is what overcomes our thoughts and fears. Einstein once said,

"Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character."

May we all enter the New Year of 2011 with a: winning attitude,an attitude of gratitude,treasuring each day as if it were our last, and carrying an attitude of praise to whom all praise is due which is Jesus Christ.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Elf: Movie Review

Imagine yourself walking through the downtown streets of Chicago or New York City at Christmas time and you see a 6-foot-three man dressed in an elf costume. Now if it were a much smaller elf your natural instinct would be that he is an assistant to a store front Santa at Macy's. But seeing an elf as tall as a tree walking the streets your instinct would probably be it's a crazy man wandering around. But if you've seen the film Elf and you still believe in Santa, then you would think otherwise.

In this Christmas film which is becoming another cult classic, Will Ferrell plays Buddy the Elf who is in search of who he really is and searching for his real father played by James Caan. Buddy also learns his father is on Santa's naughty list.

As an infant and being raised in an orphanage, Buddy crawls into Santa's bag on Christmas Eve night, and therefore ends up living at the North Pole. As he grows older and learns he is not like all of the other elves, he decides to go search for who he is. Buddy the Elf takes a journey to the magical land of New York City where he encounters a whole new world:

1. Buddy comes face to face with a snarling raccoon in the park and tries to
give it a hug. Big mistake.

"The little furry animals in New York are not as cute and cuddly as the ones
back home."

2. While passing through the streets of downtown Buddy sees a sign that reads:
Worlds Best Cup of Coffee.
He enters the establishment excitedly declaring,
"You did it! Congratulations! Worlds best cup of coffee! Great job everyone! It's great to be here."

3. I love it when Buddy takes a ride through a revolving door, spinning around profusely until he pukes.

Buddy finds the workplace of his father Walter Hobbs and upon entering the large office building he obviously gets quite the stare for wearing an elf costume. When he reaches his father's office, the receptionist thinks Buddy is there to give Walter a singing telegram. Walter Hobbs consciously asks Buddy to go ahead and sing.
(on a side note here, Buddy loves to sing)

Buddy creates a song to sing and stutters through it,

"I'm herre, with my daaad, and we never meeet, and he wants me to siiing him a sooong (ummm...)I was adopted, but you didn't knooow i was booorn. So I am here noow,
I found you daaady! And guess what,I looove you, I looove you!"

Walter doesn't believe that Buddy is his son and has security kick him out. Walter also has the notion that Buddy is just some nut walking around town in an elf costume.

Throughout this film you witness the crazy antics of Buddy and his acting like a little kid in a big person's body. I love his fixation on all foods containing sugar, especially his adding maple syrup to everything from spaghetti to coffee.

When Buddy discovers Gimbles Department Store and finds his way to the toy section and Santa's big chair, he gets mistaken for being an employee,as all of the workers in the toy department are dressed as elves. Buddy is dazzled by the beauty of an elf employee named Jove,to whom he will eventually build a relationship with as well.

The next day when Santa officially makes his grand entrance for the holiday season at Gimbles, Buddy goes banana's with jubilee along with all of the little kids. And then it happens.Buddy sees that Santa doesn't recognize him as one of his actual elves so Buddy reveals to everyone in the store that this Santa is an imposter,

"You smell like beef and cheese, you don't smell like Santa!"

All of the ruckus that Buddy creates lands him in jail, and his one phone call to bail him out is to Walter Hobbs. Walter bails Buddy out and then takes him to a physician to get a DNA test to determine if Buddy is who he says he is, his son.
The test is positive and thus a relationship begins between Buddy and his father, but not without conflict. Buddy's aspirations for adventure with his dad are,

"Today, my dad and I are going to make ginger bread houses, and eat cookie dough, and go ice skating, and maybe even hold hands!"

But Walter is too busy. In fact, the reason why Walter Hobbs is on Santa's naughty list is because he puts his work before his family. So naturally Buddy begins to bond with his neglected new step-son Michael.

Buddy rescues Michael from an ambush of snowballs as he puts together about 50 snowballs in about five seconds. Buddy has a rocket for an arm, and not figuratively speaking I might add, as he retaliates by firing snowballs 50 mph at the other kids. And so the relationship between Michael and his new brother takes a turn for the better,for in the beginning Michael felt the same way as his father did,that Buddy was crazy. Which may have had something to do with Buddy's insisting on being an elf wouldn't you think?

Along with repairing a family torn apart, Buddy also fixes what was missing in New York City: Christmas Spirit.

Walter Hobbs works for a publishing company of children books and faces a deadline of Christmas Eve in coming up with a new idea for a book that will get the company out of the red. When Buddy and Walter have an argument stemming from Buddy going toe to toe with a prospective author named Miles Finch, who happens to be a little person(a very funny scene in the film) Buddy runs away on Christmas Eve.

When given the demand to stay at work to finish the project or lose his job, Walter chooses the latter and goes with his son Michael to search for Buddy.

Throughout this film we witness the joy of Christmas through Buddy and the joy he brought to others. Buddy's whole philosophy was,

"The best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing aloud for all to hear!"

In the Hobbs' search for Buddy and Buddy's adventure of running away,they all find each other and in the process run into Santa himself,whose sleigh has crashed into Central Park. The claus-o-meter on the sleigh is broken and the only fuel the sleigh can run on is that of Christmas Spirit, which is lacking in New York City.

And so Michael and his dad gather near a television news reporter, who is reporting on the scene with a large crowd of onlookers, and begin to sing Christmas Carols. Santa's sleigh now has enough Christmas Spirit to fuel the sleigh and he can finish his job of delivering presents.

The message this film delivers is simple:

"Christmas Spirit is about believing not seeing."

So what can we take out of this story in a positive spiritual manner? I believe we need to remember who it is we are celebrating at Christmas:the birth of Jesus. And those of us who are believers in Christ should spread that joy of His birth and everything that God has to offer to those who are lost or hurting.

May we all find that Christmas Spirit and spread it throughout the world 365 days a year.

Have a Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Christmas Carol: Movie Review

A Christmas Carol was written in 1843 by Charles Dickens in Britain. It was at a time when the real meaning of Christmas was being forgotten and Christmas trees and greeting cards were first introduced. This story still stands as one of the greatest influences in rejuvenating the Christmas Spirit in England.

Although there have been many versions made of this classic tale, this 1951 original film remains true to form with the book of the same title and stars Alastair Sim as the callous miser Scrooge. Anyone who is familiar with the name Scrooge and it's many references to someone as being: cranky, cold-hearted, or just plain mean,knows the story well. It is the story of how one can change the future by revisiting their past. Though many of us know the story, I still find the case study of how Scrooge changed through the years interesting. It was the choices he made in life that turned him from being a simple man into a man who's life revolved around money.

Ebenezer Scrooge was a shrewed, hard-nose, callous business man. In today's culture he would be known as a one-man, big box corporation all by himself. His all business and and no fun personality comes out in the very beginning when he exclaims,
"Christmas has a habit of keeping man from business. Humbug on Christmas!"

And so when his assistant Bob Kratchet, who appears in a joyful holiday mood, asks Scrooge to have Christmas Day off from work, Ebenezer just laughs. Scrooge is so mean he puts down Kratchet for being so happy at Christmas when yet earning such small wages; as if happiness were only depended upon money.

So what happened to Scrooge to make him into this monster and to be known as the most hated man in town? This is what's revealed to us when Ebenezer is visited by 3 ghosts on Christmas Eve.

One of the more frightening scenes in this film is when Scrooge is first confronted by the ghost of Jacob Marley, his one-time assistant for 18 years. The ghost of Marley appears in chains which are a reflection of the business callousness forced upon him by Scrooge. Marley warns Scrooge that at the stroke of midnight he will be met by the first of three spirits. And so this is where the story begins of how Ebenezer, a once happy man and in love, turns into a stingy, cranky old miser known as Scrooge.

At the stroke of midnight the first ghost, known as the ghost of Christmas Past, appears to Scrooge to remind him of shadows of the things that had been. The ghost takes Scrooge on a journey back to his childhood where he was just like any other child growing up with dreams and aspirations.Ebenezer confronts the ghost for a reason why he was chosen to visit him. The ghost's simple reply,
"It is for your welfare."

Upon revisiting his childhood, Ebenezer learns that his father, who lost his wife after giving birth to Ebenezer, actually blamed his son for her death. Though his father never vocally expressed this to him, it was the main reason for the breakdown of their relationship, as it would deteriorate for many years to come. Ebenezer's only love within his family was for his sister Fenn.

We also find out that Ebenezer even fell in love with a girl named Alice. And Scrooge even exclaims to her that he did not care if she were poor. Ebenezer gives her a ring promising to marry her someday, but for the moment he is only interested
in establishing himself in the business world.

In the job market Ebenezer becomes an apprentice at Fezzwig and Company and is taught that there is more to life than money. But when Fezzwig turns down a chance to expand his business with a Mr. Jauking to increase his profits, Scrooge jumps ship and takes a cleric job with Jauking for more money. This is where we see a turn in the attitude of Scrooge as a man. Alice even sees a change in him, noticing his priorities in life were now for financial gain and replacing what had become lost between the two of them was not going to happen. We are now given the solid fact of Ebenezer Scrooge: a golden idol has taken possession within his heart. Alice says goodbye to Ebenezer, "May you be happy with the life you've chosen!"

A few years later Ebenezer's sister Fenn dies. Upon her death bed she asks her brother to promise to always be there for her son. Scrooge asks his sister,the only one in his family that he truly loved, to forgive him for never reuniting with their family. Though we see an emotional side to Ebenezer, it never fully develops within his life. Scrooge, now a cold-hearted business man, gathers up investors to buy out Fezzwig's company and renames it Scrooge and Marley.

Eighteen years later we see how much the harshness of the business world has changed a once young, energetic man who was in love. His faithful assistant Marley is dying and Scrooge refuses to go visit him until closing time of his business. He even coldly remarks that Marley can choose to die now if he wants to, I have a business to run. In other words, I think Scrooge is suggesting here that Marley should wait to die until after business hours when it is more convenient for him to visit his ailing assistant. I believe this speaks volumes into the man that Scrooge has become.

When Scrooge eventually does go to visit his friend, Marley's last words he whispers to his boss are, "Save yourself."

"From what?" Ebenezer asks.

Scrooge's answer wouldn't come until seven years later on Christmas Eve with the visitation of the 3 ghosts.

The second ghost, the Spirit of Christmas Present, first approaches Scrooge with the question, "Is your heart still unmoved, Ebenezer?"

Ebenezer replies, "I am too old to be redeemed! Let me have Christmas the way I want it!"

The ghost explains, "Christmas should be in your heart 365 days a year. The boy that was born in a manger lives in our hearts not just one day a year, but everyday. And you have chosen not to seek Him with your heart. Therefore you will come with me and seek Him through the hearts of men of good will."

And thus their journey begins. Their first stop is at the home of Bob Kratchet his assistant. The family, poor but content and grateful, are also in a celebratory mood. Scrooge takes pity upon their young son Timmy who is sick and is a cripple. And so we see another emotional side to scrooge as he asks the Spirit to let Timmy live. This is a curious event here because we also take note of the fact that the Kratchet's don't care for Ebenezer Scrooge and his negative attitude toward Christmas. Here and the next stop of his journey shows just how unwanted Scrooge is by his family and friends.

The ghost next takes Ebenezer to the home of his nephew,the son of Scrooge's sister who had asked Ebenezer to look out for. During a dinner party we see champagne, music, dancing, laughter, and negative words about the wealthy yet stingy Ebenezer.

The last stop of their journey is a homeless shelter. And within the crowd of the unfortunate is an old, poor in health, Alice. And yet within her dilemma, Alice chooses to remain in a joyful Christmas Spirit. The ghost of Christmas Present asks Scrooge, "Will you profit from what I've shown you?"
A beleaguered and confused Scrooge answers, "I don't know!"

The third ghost to visit Ebenezer is the Spirit of the Future. By now Scrooge has simply had enough and just wants to be left alone.

"I am too old and beyond hope. I cannot change." Scrooge pleads.

The Spirit brings Scrooge to the home of Bob Kratchet where the crippled boy Timmy has passed away. But within their sadness there is still an inner peace and joy found in the home.

The next stop on their adventure is a pawn shop where Ebenezer's servant Mrs. Dibler is found hocking some of his possessions, as we also learn of Scrooge's death.

Another chilling moment in this story is at the grave site of Ebenezer Scrooge. Ebenezer has revisited family and friends to see their reaction to his death and views just how harsh a man he had become toward all of them. This brings Scrooge to his knees at his tombstone as he asks the Spirit,

"Are these the shadows of things that must be? Or the shadows of things that might be?"

Scrooge lies beside his grave screaming,"Tell me I am not dead! Tell me I am not dead!"

Scrooge bows to the Spirit in repentance, "I am not the man I was! Spirit, I am not the man I was!"

Ebenezer Scrooge wakes up in his own bed with those repenting words flowing from his lips. He is overjoyed as he discovers he is alive and it is Christmas Day. Scrooge scares the wits out of Mrs. Dibler with his dancing in jubilation and within his craziness vows to give her a raise.

Scrooge has been transformed as he becomes ecstatic at the sound of church bells ringing. He sticks his head out the window and fetches a passing boy on the street and sends him to the butcher to have a large turkey sent to the house of Kratchet.

Ebenezer surprises his nephew Fred with a visit to his home and asks for forgiveness for being a pig-headed old fool.

The next day Ebenezer gives his assistant Kratchet a raise and vows to help his family in any way that he can. Scrooge would also become a second father to Timmy, who would get well and live.

If there were ever a time to revisit this story and learn a lesson from the choices Scrooge unwisely made, it would be today. For in it we see the value of not wealth or possessions, but the destruction that worldliness can bring to the soul.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Christmas Story: Movie Review

Some of the most recognizable lines in film history come from this story. Lines such as; "You'll shoot your eye out!" and "I triple-dog-dare you!" will forever be in the hearts and minds of both young and old.

Believe it or not this movie was not a big hit at the box-office when it came out in 1983. In fact it was considered a blockbuster dud. But today it is the most watched Christmas film on television, replacing It's A Wonderful Life as the cult classic everyone has to watch at Christmas time. And our thank you's for this should be directed at the cable channel TBS which has been showing the film since 1997 on Christmas Eve night and running it nonstop for 24 straight hours. Each year there will be over 44 million people who will have viewed it at one point or another during this 24 hour marathon.

A Christmas Story is the adaptation of Jean Shepherd's novel based on his childhood in rural Indiana. The movie is narrated by the author and features the nostalgia of Christmas through the eyes of a nine-year old wide-eyed, imaginative boy named Ralphie.

The film takes place in the 1940's when kids were not distracted by electronics such as television or video games. This was an innocent time for children when books, radio, and imagination were all they had to escape from reality. Oh, and there was Christmas too.
Back in this era a child's whole year revolved around Christmas and what gifts they were going to find nestled under the Christmas tree. And in Ralphie's case it was a genuine Red Ryder 200-shot carbine action rifle.

In between all the calamities Ralphie's family faced on this particular Christmas, Ralphie also had the devious task of dropping hints to his parents of his wanting the Red Ryder bb-gun. Ralphie's family was a unique bunch of characters:

1. Mom was an overzealous woman, protective of her two sons. When Ralphie suggests to her his wanting the Red Ryder rifle, mom's reply was simple and direct,
"No, you'll shoot your eye out!"

Another scene that best describes mom would be when the youngest son Randy would rather play with his food then actually eat it. She decides to play a game with him and the next thing you know Randy is snorting up his food like a little pig.

They say that a mother's work is never done and this holds true within this story as the narrator explains, "Mother had not had a hot meal for herself in 15 years!"

2. Dad was kind of a softy except when things went awry. I like the narrator's description of his father, "He's a tapestry of obscenities when things go wrong."

Dad also took pride in the car he drove and treated it like a beauty queen. So when the car overheats, the narrator implies,

"Some men are Baptist, some men are Catholic, my old man's an Oldsmobile."

The father also attracted some strange company, in this case it was the neighbor's dogs. Every night after work he would pull into the driveway and be greeted by the Bumpus' hounds.

"The Bumpus', our hillbilly neighbors, had at least 785 smelly dogs and they ignored every human being except my old man."

And then probably the most famous scene involving dad was his winning a contest and the prize: a very risque leg lamp. But he cautiously reminds his neighbors when he proudly displays it in the front picture window for all to see,
"It's a major award!"

3. Ralphie always carried the task of looking out for his kid brother Randy when walking to school. I love it when mom overdresses Randy, packs him tightly into a snow suit and doesn't realize it until her son complains, "I can't move my arms!"
Then we see the two boys headed for school and Randy having trouble standing up, let alone walk.

And then we have the misadventures of Ralphie.Within Ralphie's strategy of getting the Red Ryder bb-gun for Christmas we see some of his wild dreams, one of which is:

When Ralphie's teacher assigns the class to write a theme on what they want for Christmas, Ralphie envisions himself of not just getting an A for his composition on wanting a Red Ryder action rifle, but an A with an emphatic amount of plus
signs to follow(A+ + + + + + + +).

One of the great themes in this film is the nostalgic look back at what all of us may have went through as children. Everything from being confronted by the school bully to kids daring us to do the unthinkable.

On Ralphie's way home from school each day he and his friends are confronted by a school bully named Scott Fargus. And the narrator suggests,

"A bully, a toey, or a victim, in our world you were either of these."

After many days of being scared and bullied to death by Fargus and his sidekick, Ralphie finally lets him have it. Fargus would nail Ralphie in the face with a snowball and then,

"Something happened. A fuse blew. And I had gotten out of my skull!"

Ralphie tackles Fargus to the ground and begins to wail on him with fist-a-cuffs until blood appears. As the crowd of school children look on in amazement at what Ralphie was doing to Fargus and cheering Ralphie on, Ralphie's mother shows up just in time to pry her son off the school bully who had been wrecking havoc in the lives of every child within a five mile radius.

Later that evening Ralphie lies in his bedroom awaiting the wrath of his father while brother Randy hides under the kitchen sink tearfully exclaiming the inevitable,
"Daddy's gonna kill Ralphie!"

And then the unexpected happens. While eating dinner at the table Ralphie's mother doesn't turn him in to his father. I think this is just another example of mom showing her tender side of trusting her sons and understanding the things they may go through in life's journey as children.

Another memorable scene in this story is the dare game in the school yard. A kid named Shwartz dares Ralphie's friend Frick into sticking his tongue on the frosty flagpole as Frick insists that nothing will happen.

"I triple-dog-dare you!" exclaims Schwartz.

Back in those days you were not allowed to back down from a triple-dog-dare otherwise you would be known as a coward for the rest of your days. So naturally Frick goes ahead and does the unthinkable and as soon as you could say,"Uh,oh", here comes the police and the fire department to rescue him. Frick is now quite the spectacle for all the school to see as his tongue is icicly glued to the flagpole.

One of the adventures I think all kids looked forward to was the great Christmas tree search. But for Ralphie this was one adventure he wished he never would have taken.Upon heading home with a Christmas tree in tow, the family vehicle has a tire blow out.Ralphie assists his father in changing the tire and then it happened; Ralphie drops all the lug nuts in the snow and,

"I slipped out the queen mother of all dirty words,'Oh, fudge!' Only I didn't say fudge."

When they arrive home Ralphie becomes what the narrator describes as,
"A connoisseur of soap in the mouth."

That night Ralphie dreams of placing guilt upon his parents for punishing him with the soap in the mouth routine, as he shows up at their doorstep years later blind,

"Your soap poisoning caused my blindness!" Ralphie declares.

On Christmas morning it is in the heart of every child to expect to receive what they had so gallantly been wishing, hoping, and asking for all year. And the opening of gifts always brings at least one surprise which falls into the category of an
"Oh, gee wiz!" moment. And for Ralphie it was a gift from his Aunt Clara.

"Aunt Clara was under the delusion for years that I was four and a girl!"

Ralphie's mom demands he try on the gift he has just unwrapped from Aunt Clara, and so when he reappears in a pink pajama outfit his father claims,
"He looks like a deranged Easter bunny!"

Despite all of Ralphie's misfortunes, mistakes, and failures throughout the year, Ralphie's father knows his son's heart. And so Ralphie receives the desire of his heart on this particular Christmas, the Red Ryder 200 Shot Carbine Action Rifle.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Bishops Wife: A Christmas Movie Review

Yes, it's that time of year again! I thought I would kick off this holiday season with an original classic. In case you missed any of last year's reviews you can search through the archives column of November and December 2009.

This 1947 classic starring Cary Grant, David Niven, and Loretta Young is one of the forgotten films in the genre of Christmas films. This movie delivers a great message on restoring people's faith and putting others before ourselves. Although the remake of this film, The Preachers Wife , starring Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington is also a good movie, it seems a bit watered down with it's message compared to the original version. What also pops up is too much Hollywood fluff in the remake, so I suggest you watch the original version first.

Most Christmas films deal with the human emotions that we go through at Christmas time and the infamous "loss of Christmas Spirit". In the very first scene Cary Grant, who plays an angel named Dudley, is seen navigating his way through the hustle and bustle of Christmas on some downtown streets. We see: Christmas Carolers, children laughing and smiling in awe of the decorated store window displays, people helping people, and you can feel the spirit of Christmas in the air.

One of the messages this film touches on is that of Pastors and wives who are in ministry together and their struggle to find a balance between both church and family. In this story Henry the Bishop, is tirelessly trying to raise funds to build a new cathedral for his congregation and in the process is neglecting his wife and family. At first glance you get the sense of Henry being a stubborn man: one who is in competition with the other churches in town and wanting what they have which is a great cathedral to worship in.

Throughout this Christmas season Henry has been spending most of his attention toward trying to please Mrs. Hamilton, a widow who has pledged to donate 1 million dollars to the church. Henry's wife Julia obviously feels neglected and is unhappy with Henry's choice of women to direct his attention and affection upon.

But Julia comes across as the strong level-headed one in the family, understands the duty of a Pastor, and stands aside, but not without giving her two-cents worth into the matter.

After making a promise to spend a day with his wife, Henry's church secretary reminds him of fund raising meetings that have already been scheduled. While in his study, Henry pleads with God for help because he knows this is taking a toll on his relationship with his wife. All of a sudden Dudley the angel appears and tells Henry that he has been sent there to help him. After some lengthy humorous bantering between the two men, mostly from Henry and his disbelief of Dudley being an angel,Henry gives in to Dudley's offer to help. When Henry introduces Dudley to his wife he leaves out the part of Dudley being an angel. A wise move on Henry's part for the moment!

Dudley works his magic while taking Julia out for an afternoon of fun. A couple of humorous scenes that appear:

1. Dudley helps Henry and Julia's daughter Debbie get selected to join in a snowball fight at the park with some not so friendly children. With Dudley's help Debbie fires
a snowball as fast as a rocket and nails one of the leaders of the pack. Debbie is now the favorite of all the snowballers.

2. When Dudley and Julia meet with a Professor, an acquantance of Henry's, Dudley has a little fun with the guy. Everytime the Professor would take a large sip from his glass Dudley would wave a finger and refill the glass full, causing the Professor to wonder how potent was that drink that he had been drinking.

When they return home and Henry sees the joy upon his wife's face, Henry feels a bit slighted as jealousy begins to settle in. As he and Dudley meet in the study, Dudley explains to Henry he is spending too much time focusing on building a church and not building up peoples lives as a Bishop should be, and the money he is trying to raise to build a cathedral could be better used in the area of food and shelter for those who need it.

On Christmas eve Henry gives his secretary a copy of his Christmas sermon for her to recopy. Dudley sends the secretary off to do some Christmas shopping and promises her that he will recopy the sermon for Henry. Of course you really don't think Dudley would recopy Henry's sermon word for word, do you?

Dudley pays a visit to Mrs. Hamilton and woo's her by playing a harp that is found in the living room of her mansion. He impresses her so much with the composition he plays that Mrs. Hamilton is overwhelmed with joy. When Henry and Julia show up at the mansion to press upon Mrs. Hamilton to proceed quickly with her large donation to the church, the overjoyed woman declares,

"I have changed my mind! I am going to donate the money to help the poor and feed the hungry instead."

An angry and distraught Henry confronts Dudley for meddling in and not helping the situation but making matters worse. Dudley reminds Henry that his prayer that day in the study wasn't for a new cathedral, but a prayer for help and guidance.

I love the powerful ending to this film, just a simple message through a sermon preached by the Bishop but written by an angel:

The Empty Stocking That Isn't Hung

"All of the stockings are full except one. And we've forgotten to hang it up, the stocking for the child lying in a manger. It is His birthday we are celebrating and let us not ever forget that.

Let us ask ourselves,'What would He wish for most?'

And then let each of us put in his share:loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand for tolerance, all the shining gifts that make peace on earth."