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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

feeling Christmas

Christmas is over and we’re all looking to usher in 2012. While people may be reflecting on the year as of late, I’ve been thinking a lot more about how Christmas has been this year.

With it being an end of year celebration, how good Christmas feels tends to be dependant on how good a year its been. On a global scale it wasn’t great with numerous natural disasters, economic political problems in Europe, and uprisings in the middle east, which are still on going as it is. There wasn’t much to be joyful about, that’s for sure.

Malaysia hasn’t been lost out on troubles of its own, and for me even as November came about (the time Christmas rings a bell), I was actually quite indifferent about the 25th. While I knew it was coming, I couldn’t help thinking it would be just another day, and the weeks before simply a typical year end consumer fest.

I had decided to spend Christmas with my family, so I took my leave and got them a couple of presents. While shopping for gifts, I noticed the malls were decorated Christmas-like as always but it didn’t feel much more than ordinary. Christmas decorations were less than previous years and some shops were dressed for the lunar new year instead.

All this indifference, the seemingly non-existence of a Christmas ‘spirit’ got to me, and I resigned to expecting a casual holiday that wouldn’t bring much meaning. As I’m a Christian, I know perfectly well that Christmas is hardly about presents, friends, or even family for that matter. Its about the birth of Jesus Christ, but that failed to sink in somehow.

Christmas day finally arrived, and there wasn’t any sudden magic that made it all better. I woke up no different from any other Sunday, and went to church that morning. As I sat down before the service began, listening to Michael Buble renditions of Christmas tunes playing over the speakers, I hoped something would happen in church that would give me back that reason for the season.

The worship band led the church in a number of Christmas themed songs before presenting a special item. It was an inaudible sketch with the band playing a song in the background, much like a music video. Contrary to popular assumption, it had nothing to do with the nativity scene, the birth of Jesus and all that.

Details be spared, it was mainly about a person growing up, being taught in His ways at the beginning but distracted and caught up in so many other things afterwards. Eventually trapped and entangled by the situations of her own life, she cries out to God for mercy and He rescues her, paying the ransom for her sins.

Then, Pastor Paul came on the stage to deliver his sermon. He spoke, with reference to a few things from the sketch. As human beings, we all seek acceptance and contentment in life, albeit in different forms. Romances carry the passion of the heart, money buys a convenient lifestyle, while alcohol and cigarettes give freedom from the worries of living. Eventually, problems come when you crave for more and it is not enough to satisfy the soul or to overcome a time of trouble. If anything, anyone with common sense would agree that over indulgence in any of these things would lead to more problems.

As the pastor said, “Money can buy a good bed, but it cannot buy a good night’s sleep. Money can buy a great meal, but it cannot buy a good appetite.”

He went on to preach, pointing out that how our needs are more of a spiritual than a physical nature. He began to share several testimonies of how God has been good and taken care of the needs of those who love Him. He closed his sermon by asking those who wanted to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and saviour, who wanted to be free, who wanted to be healed to come towards the stage as a statement of faith, where people would come and pray for them.

Many people walked up to the front, many who probably had come to church for the first time or those who come only during Christmas time. I saw many people being prayed for at the front, and then Pastor Chew came on the stage to close the service, but before that, he shared something that happened while people were being prayed for.

He said, “You know, while I was down there, someone was telling me; you know pastor, I’ve been praying for my family for 10 years, and I’m so happy that all five of them are here in front with me today.”

Just then, everything clicked. That’s when I realised that Christmas isn’t merely a reminder of the birth of baby Jesus. Its actually a time to remember when real hope arrived for us on earth. It was because of this hope, that turned into blessing, then into a ransom for the sin of mankind that true freedom and peace is available to anyone if they just embrace it.

That’s what it’s really about, the freedom He’s given through His love for us. It’s no wonder when someone sees his or her family turn to Christ they become joyful. It’s because they’re finally free. I guess it’s not wrong to say Christmas is about presents, because it is about the best gift of all.

Friday, December 09, 2011

movie Tintin

Its been a pretty long while since I’ve blogged, but I’m a little out of ideas about what to write lately. Then, I remembered my most anticipated movie of the year ever since I knew it was coming out. I just couldn’t help it when I heard both Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg were working together on what would be my favourite comic to film adaptation, Tintin!

While probably unfortunately irrelevant to most kids and teenagers today, Tintin comics were certainly among the fond memories of my childhood and it just so happens that I have the entire collection! A young British reporter with an appetite for adventure gave a lot of room for Herge to write so many different stories in so many different places, both fictional and real.

I’d watched a 2D Tintin animated film (that followed the comic art to the letter) many years before, but up until now no one really made a big film on a global scale. After more than an entire decade of reading the comics, it has finally arrived.

It felt great to know that the movie would be based on my two favourites of the comic series, ‘The Secret of the Unicorn’ and ‘Red Rackham’s Treasure’! I remember reading them over and over so I couldn’t wait to see it on the big screen.

The opening credits reminded me a lot of the way that the last two James Bond movies have been opening with, except there was a lot more context to it and plenty of references to many of the different comics in the series, hinting at future sequels, which Steven Spielberg confirms there are already plans for one.

Anyway, the opening scene was excellent! They really unravelled Tintin bit by bit, a real treat to fans who were anticipating his look and voice on the big screen, not to mention the ever iconic Snowy as well.

Graphics in this movie were fantastic, a combination of realistic detail, combined with some cartoon type art that would remind you that you were watching an 3D Tintin cartoon, not a live action film. That’s exactly the way I would’ve wanted it to be. 

The characters felt just the same as they did in the comics, Tintin being a smart, young and brave reporter with a curious head and Captain Haddock, the drunkard, hahaha! The Thompson brothers are a lot chubbier than they were in the comics, but just as clueless.

There was plenty of action to go around, gunfire, car chases, swordfights and the like. Excitement wasn’t lacking. You could say it got a little overboard even, when Captain Haddock got hold of a bazooka, not something you’ll find in any of the comics.

Still, one of the things I felt about the movie was that it tried to do too much. There were so many scenes and so many different characters, that it was too difficult to showcase all of them within the given time frame. In a way, the vast number of scenes made the movie look as if it was all over the place. In the end, the movie suffered from the lack of time given for the main characters to really shine. 

Nonetheless, I give it a three star rating for the debut of an adaptation of a classic comic. The nature of all the characters were well done and pay due respect to Tintin’s author. Its always great to see movies that stay true to their inspirations. A sequel to this first film would be well worth it. If Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg can avoid an overcomplicated storyboard on the next one, it’ll be well on its way to a five star rating. 

Don’t you just love Snowy? Hope to see him again soon. =)

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