Christmas At The Movies

As we approach Christmas week some of our annual traditions may be on hold due to rising concerns over the Covid19 Omicron variant but one area that can hopefully remain untouched is the annual intake of Christmas movies! A few Christmas movies from different periods came to mind when thinking of the incarnation and what Christ did and why.

The first two (or six!) were Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Although technically not Christmas movies they did become seasonal because of the release dates. I made a few annual trips to the cinema for these movies and one of the themes that runs through these films is that of the journey.

Whether it’s the group journeying with the ring to Mordor or the group journeying to Smaug’s layer where they’ll face the dragon, in both cases these are journeys made to defeat evil for the sake of others.

Of course when we witness a momentous journey undertaken for the sake of other people we often admire the character of those involved. We see this in the real world not just Middle Earth when we admire people’s tenacity, bravery, love and sacrifice in doing this such as this man that we heard about earlier in the year.

So if we find that attractive it is significant to mention that in the incarnation Jesus journeyed.  It was a different kind of journey but one that took from the heights of heaven to the depths of the earth for the sake of humanity. All the way to Bethlehem and so an even greater journey than Mary and Joseph undertook!

Let’s worship him this Christmas for this reason.

Wikimedia: National Telefilm

Another movie that is more obviously Christmassy is the classic It’s A Wonderful Life. In this much loved film poor George Bailey ends up in a pickle and he becomes desperate to the point of suicide because he is so discouraged. Yet throughout the film you can’t help but admire George.

He’s a guy who starts off with high hopes and big plans for his life but at each stage of the story his ideas are side lined because of needs that come up.  At one point he’s compelled to take over the family business when he’s planning to travel. At another point he steps in to help people in a financial crises as he’s on his way to his honeymoon.

We later find out that many of George Bailey’s small acts would be very significant because if he wasn’t there to do these things and if his plans had turned out totally as he wished other people’s lives would have been ruined. Whilst his friends press ahead George is making one adjustment after another and adapting himself to the circumstances for the sake of others.

However as it turns out this is an attractive aspect of his character. In George there is a natural love for others that causes him to respond and adapt himself to other people’s needs. So if we find this attractive and appealing it is significant to mention that in the incarnation Jesus adapted. It’s an obvious point that we are to adjust our lives to Him but nonetheless He adjusted and accommodated himself to humanity’s needs in the incarnation.

Now obviously the comparison is extremely limited(!) but the point is that if we find those actions appealing in George then how much more in the God of the universe who makes a big adjustment for us in entering our world. We can also point out that if the Son, the second person of the trinity had not made that adjustment we also would be lost and ruined.

Let’s worship him this Christmas for this reason.

The next film is A Christmas Carol. One of my own personal favourites that I watch every year at Christmas. This time it’s Scrooge’s repellent character that captures the audience. He is very much the autonomous, individual man. He does what he wants. He refuses to engage in society. He rejects meaningful partnership and cannot wok in harmony with others. In a Christmas Carol he gradually becomes an island and shuts himself off from others including the love of his life Belle who he rejects and loves less than his money.

The result is that scrooge is a very unattractive person who takes away from life rather than adding to it which is ironic because he spends so much time adding up how much money he has.

Well once again if this is the case it is significant to mention that in the incarnation Jesus is the opposite of this. Jesus surrendered his autonomy (for want of a better term).  As a result he will give life to human beings.

We might point out that God is never really autonomous because there is always interdependence at the heart of the trinity yet in the incarnation Jesus Christ, the one who was involved in creating the universe, the only person who had no need to rely on any human being (or even work with mere mortals) deliberately puts himself in a position where he must be cared for by others and where he must receive help.

Later he works alongside and with other human beings socially and vocationally. He grows in wisdom and stature and learns over time. He chooses to be under the authority of his parents and operates as a citizen of a society. He even chooses to partner with people in establishing His church although this is always because he is including us  not the other way round.

If it’s true that no man is an island then Scrooge is appalling and Jesus is appealing. For human beings to flourish and for the church to flourish we have to rely upon one another and work with one another.  It is ingrained in human existence and Jesus not only sets that up but honours it in the incarnation and it is the means through which he will change lives.

Let’s worship him this Christmas for this reason.

Another film that springs to mind is the Family Man which is not as well known and was released in the year 2000 as a modern take on It’s A Wonderful Life.

Set at Christmas this film is about a high flying wall street banker who finds his life changing overnight when he wakes up one morning to discover that he’s now married to his childhood sweetheart who he’s not seen for years. Instead of living the fast life he now finds himself living in a small suburban house raising a family struggling to make ends meat.

As you would imagine initially he has real problems with this having been familiar with his status as a banker with a mansion in Manhatten and plenty of money. He struggles to let go of the status and riches of his real life for this simple family life and at first he grasps after his other real life.

However as the film progresses his thinking shifts and eventually he wants the relationship with his wife and family. He ends up back in his real life as a rich banker and as it turns out his childhood sweetheart is also a rich lawyer and then the Christmas magic really happens(!) when he decides to walk out on a billion dollar deal and go after his childhood sweetheart from years ago.

He finds that this relationship is more important than the riches and status he has at his disposal and he is now prepared to lay them aside. When he catches up with her rather than talking to her about the life they can have if they combine their large incomes he passionately describes the simple life they had in this other reality and in the end they decide to…..well…..go for coffee!

I think this scenario perhaps appeals to us because we know all too well of the challenges of materialism and how difficult it is to lay aside luxury even for a good reason. The main character becomes attractive because he becomes  willing to lay aside riches and status for the sake of something more fundamental. His relationship with his wife.

This is something we may value highly but can find it hard to put into practice when the distractions of the world get a hold of us. In a strange way we hate the prosperity gospel but at the same time seem to love it. Let’s see what happens when we take away our material comforts.

So I’m sure you know where I’m going. If we find that attractive and appealing it is significant to mention that in the incarnation Jesus laid aside the riches of heaven for the sake of our relationship with him. He did so willingly not grudgingly. He went from a place of luxury and comfort and where he is continuously worshipped to being born in a room that was probably smaller than a space to park your car in and then he was rejected by men.

Let’s worship him this Christmas for this reason.

To answer the why of all this we finally need to turn to Home Alone! This classic comedy is now a firm favourite at Christmas and one theme that is prevalent is that of reconciliation. The neighbour and his son. The boy and his mum!  This is a general theme in the other Christmas films as well. George is reconciled to his family, Scrooge to his (as well as society – although it takes a massive fright to do so) and the family man to his girl.

Perhaps that theme features so often in the films we make and the stories we tell particularly at Christmas because we intuitively know of the goodness of reconciliation and perhaps even long for reconciliation with our creator. I note that many of the short Christmas films for children on Netflix involve somebody saving Christmas. Perhaps we tell these stories because deep down we know that someone needs to save us and restore hope to our lives.

So if we find that attractive and appealing  it is significant to mention that in the incarnation and the cross and resurrection Jesus reconciled. At the cross he died in our place taking God’s wrath for our sin upon himself so that we can be forgiven and be reconciled to God.

Can you think of any other Christmas films that feature these kinds of themes? The Matrix Resurrection is due out on the 22nd December but we’ll maybe leave that for Easter! In the meantime you can join us for our services which are on this weekend and if you want to take it a step further why not join us for Hope Explored, a three week course that we’re running in January.

God bless and we hope you stay safe and healthy and have a good Christmas.