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The following illustration is located at: http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2012/december/8121012.html

News That Illustrates: December 10, 2012

Holy and Human—The Real Santa Claus
You'll find some great preachable stories about the real Santa Claus in the new book, The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus, by Professor Adam C. English. Before the guy with the white beard and the red suit, there was a real person named Nicholas, a Christian leader in the city of Myra (modern day Turkey), who was born around 260 A.D. English notes, "His life was a life of faith, to be sure, but it was also one of adventure and honor, justice and charity, goodwill and thick resolve." Specifically, Bishop Nicholas used his entire inheritance to help the poor, sick, and children in need. He gave in secret, expecting nothing in return. He attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. Nicholas saved three young women from slavery, protected sailors, spared innocents from execution, provided grain in a famine, and rescued a kidnapped boy. He fought the paganism of his day not with "visible weapons" but by arming "himself with hope and firm confidence." The real story is even more exciting than modern day Santa Claus tales. (Check out one of the exciting stories about the real Santa Claus at PreachingToday.com.)

PREACHING ANGLES: Christmas; Santa Claus

Our Spiritual $16 Trillion Debt Problem
According to this Wall Street Journal article, the U.S.'s $15.96 trillion national debt problem really does "not begin to tell the story of the federal government's true liabilities." The authors of this article argue that the actual liabilities of the U.S. government (if you add in unfunded liabilities of Medicare, Social Security, and other very real obligations) already exceed $86.8 trillion. In other words, we're not just bankrupt; we need to borrow $86 trillion in order to "achieve" bankruptcy. The folks at the White Horse Inn blog use this as an apt and timely analogy for our spiritual condition apart from Christ.

PREACHING ANGLES: Debt; Justification by Faith; Salvation, need for

A $264,000 Toy Boat and the Unopened Train Set
Another article in The Wall Street Journal listed some nice gifts for people on your gift list who seem to have everything. It's a great way to set up a sermon on greed or consumerism. These are toys that sell for up to six figures. For instance, a 31-inch toy boat, made by a German toy company around 1900, just sold for $264,000. A miniature toy carousel sold for $170,000. But this part of the story could illustrate our refusal to accept God's gifts (either salvation or spiritual gifts): At a November 17th auction in Pennsylvania, someone bought a 1920s train set, still in the original box, for $40,000. Apparently, it belonged to a girl from a wealthy Buenos Aires family. "It was given to [the] little girl, she didn't like it, the family put it in the attic and it was never played with."

PREACHING ANGLES: Christmas; Consumerism; Gifts; Salvation, gift of

Websites Urge Girls to 'Starve for Perfection'
This article highlights some of the pressure faced by young women in our culture (and in our churches). The Independent, a U.K. newspaper, has identified between 400-500 websites that promote anorexia and related eating disorders. [Warning: it's a disturbing article.] Yes, they promote eating disorders. The websites "tell people how to stay thin, promoting diets of 400-500 calories a day (compared with a recommended 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men), backed by coffee, cigarettes and diet pills." They also encourage "starving for perfection" featuring pictures of celebrities such as Keira Knightley and Victoria Beckham.

PREACHING ANGLES: Eating Disorders; Girls; Peer Pressure

Happy Birthday, Text message
On December 3rd, the text message celebrated its 20th birthday. Eric Limer at the Gizmodo blog writes, "On December 3rd 1992, a 22-year-old Canadian test engineer sat down and typed out a very simple message, 'Merry Christmas.' It flew over the Vodafone network to the phone of one Richard Jarvis, and since then, we just haven't been able to stop texting." My, how far we've come (or regressed, depending on how you view it). "In 2010, the world sent over 6.1 trillion messages, or roughly 193,000 per second."

PREACHING ANGLES: Communication; Relationships; Technology

Where Did Those 121 Billion Minutes Go?
Speaking of technology, Nielsen (those TV ratings folks) just released their 2012 annual "Social Media Report." Here's one interesting stat: Americans spent 121 billion minutes on social media—and that was just in one month (July). That comes down to 230,060 years of our collective time on social media. Fortunately, that's only 13 minutes a day—assuming you spread those 121 billion minutes across every living American.

PREACHING ANGLES: Communication; Relationships; Technology

Finally, a Faucet that also Dries Your Hands
We've enabled a man to walk on the moon and we've combined peanut butter and jelly in the same jar. But now, at last, there's finally hope that we'll be able to wash and dry our hands at practically the same time. Yes, you heard that right. Dyson, a British company, has invented a water tap that can also dry your hands. No more waiting in line with dripping hands to use that dryer. According to the U.S. patent application, with this "elegant mechanism … a user can conveniently dry their hands at the sink without having to move." Can life get any better than this?

PREACHING ANGLES: Convenience; Impatience; Luxury; Patience