“Ho, ho, but no matter. Christmas was on its way. Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas, upon which the entire kid year revolved.” A Christmas Story
Please don’t tell my daughter, but I’m thankful for sappy Christmas movies. Charity has our DVR programmed to record zillions of them during the holidays (Okay, it’s not zillions but it’s a lot). I Googled how many sappy Christmas movies there actually are…I think I may have broken Google. For the most part, I don’t actually watch them. Yet, as I’m working on something in the room when they’re on, I’ll sometimes catch a few moments. Apparently, I’m allergic to them because my eyes often water. Yes, they’re very formulaic. I just appreciate that they always have happy endings. We need a few more happy endings in this world.
There’s only one true Christmas story. It’s the historical account we find in Scripture, God sending Jesus to be our Savior. It probably didn’t happen in December. That’s just tradition. December 25th was chosen by church leaders in the early 300’s. From what we can ascertain from the historical background, it’s more likely that Jesus was born in late September.
Yet, in the many stories and movies that have risen around Christmas, there are often redemptive elements we wouldn’t have without the Incarnation. Apart from Jesus coming, this world would be a horrible, perpetual “Bad Santa” place (And no, I haven’t seen it nor do I desire to).
My favorite Christmas movie when I was a child, was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. With great anticipation, I looked forward to seeing it each year. It’s a story about misfits. Rudolph is a misfit. Hermey the elf is a misfit. Ultimately, Rudolph and Hermey team up and their journey leads them to an island of misfit toys. Apart from God’s grace, we’re all just a bunch of misfits because of sin. No one measures up. Wonderfully, in Rudolph all of the misfits are rescued. That’s why Jesus came – to rescue misfits like us – “to save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Though released in 1946, It’s a Wonderful Life, is still a classic. It asks a powerful question: What if someone had never been born? What if Jesus had never been born? The film shows the horror of what would have happened if George Bailey hadn’t been born. Multiply that horror a million times a million if Jesus had never been born. It was because of Jesus that slavery was abolished. Both women and children were given value and status as God intended, instead of being property or vassals. Nearly every college first began as a Christian one. Hospitals, orphanages, soup kitchens, ministries for addicts and the poor and countless others were started by Christians seeking to demonstrate God’s love that He first demonstrated to us by the gift of His Son.
A Charlie Brown Christmas almost never happened, at least not the one that was the final product. Charlie Brown is seeking the true meaning of Christmas. The author, Charles Schulz, battled with Network executives because he insisted on including part of Luke 2. The network executives were death on having Linus reciting the story of the birth of Christ from the Bible. Network orthodoxy assumed that viewers wouldn’t want to sit through passages of Scripture. There was a major standoff, but Schulz wouldn’t back down. Because of tight production schedule and CBS’s prior promotion of it, network executives aired it as Schulz intended it. But they were certain they had a flop on their hands. Charles Schulz knew the biblical account from Luke 2 was the soul of the story. So as Charlie Brown sinks into a state of deep despair, trying to find the true meaning of Christmas, Linus quietly saves the day. Walking to the center of the stage where the Peanuts characters have gathered, under a narrow spotlight, he quotes Luke 2:8-14. It’s the power of God’s Word!
Even Christmas with the Kranks has redemptive elements. It confronts the narcissism, hedonism and self-absorption of the contemporary Christmas. Luther Krank is determined to take care of himself. It’s only when he’s forced to “repent” because his daughter, Blair, is coming home for Christmas that he finally capitulates. So he’s desperate. And his community, even though Luther has been a brat, is a model of grace as they kindly rally to rescue him. That’s what the local church is to be – a community that forgives, helps and seeks to be a blessing…even for the undeserving…because each of us is so undeserving. Even then, Luther doesn’t get it until he gives away his prized possession of a Carribbean cruise to an elderly couple where the wife is dying of cancer. It’s only when he sacrifices for someone else that the light begins to dawn.
We, too, though lose by hoarding and only gain by giving. Like Luther, we’ve been given so much, yet we still miss it and too frequently selfishly focus only on ourselves. It’s only when we’re generous as God has been generous with us in the gift of His Son that the light begins to dawn in our hearts and we truly find “peace on earth.”
There are many others. Probably my favorite is a 1986 made for TV movie, Christmas Eve. It’s the story of a wealthy elderly lady, who gives to the homeless and volunteers her time with children. When she learns she has an incurable illness, she wants desperately to reunite her three now grown grandchildren who’ve scattered across the country, with their estranged father, her son. She hires a private detective to search for them and attempt to get everyone together on Christmas Eve. It seems impossible and hopeless, but in the end it all comes together. There is re-uniting and restoration. It’s a message of hope, forgiveness and restoration.
Isn’t that one of the powerful messages of Christmas? Hope. God through His Son restored us to Himself. We’re forgiven! Because of His grace, we can be restored to each other. What often seems so hopeless – broken lives, marriages, families and a broken world can be restored because of the Cross, His first coming. As dark as it all may seem, there is still hope!
So enjoy some sappy Christmas movies. Remember though that the true story isn’t sappy, it’s true and it’s life changing: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
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