The Magic of Christmas Movies
Like many of you I find myself during the Christmas season getting wrapped up in my favorite Christmas movies. I love these movies because more often than not they point us to something bigger.
At the center of many Christmas movies is the idea of faith. Faith in Santa Claus or faith in the Spirit of Christmas. As the story unfolds it seems that what was once a dysfunctional set of circumstances begins to take on a different life as someone or a group of people begin to put faith in Santa. As this happens the dysfunctional circumstances lead to someone’s dream coming true.
This is appealing to me because we humans can get pretty messed up from time to time. While Christmas is by far my favorite time of year it doesn’t dismiss the fact that people are far from perfect. Every year the news media reports on several heartwarming stories on Thanksgiving Day. There are stories of tragedy that have helped people appreciate the small things in life and there are numerous stories of generosity and kindness. Only to be replaced the next day, on what has become known as Black Friday, with stories of people having fist fights over televisions and other trivial items.
Seeing the truth about humanity makes me realize that there is something broken about it. Getting sucked in by my favorite seasonal movies help me see something greater than the brokenness.
What about you? Have you ever finished one of your favorite Christmas flicks and felt better about yourself and the world even if it is was just for a few minutes. Perhaps you got caught up in the tale of two lovers finally ending up with one another and it left you in tears. Or maybe you felt vindicated when the courts declared that there truly was a Santa Claus. Or you felt all warm inside when because someone learned to believe again.
We all love stories of generosity, kindness, and redemption. We get caught up in movies that lead us to believe that all is not lost. That there is still hope for what ails humanity.
The underpinning for many great Christmas movies is this: faith leads to moments of miraculous transformation.
The Greatest Christmas Movie Ever
My all time favorite Christmas movie is Elf. If you have never seen the movie it is the story about a baby that crawled into Santa’s toy bag while making a delivery at an orphanage. Buddy is raised at the North Pole. And after growing to be a man he mistakenly finds out that he is not an elf but a human. This leads Buddy on an adventure to find his father.
Another important element of the story is the lack of Christmas Spirit. It seems that somewhere in the 1960s Santa’s sleigh would no longer fly because there wasn’t enough Christmas Spirit. People had quit believing in Santa Claus. The sleigh had to be fitted with a small turbine engine so that Santa could make his rounds every Christmas Eve. As Buddy searches for and tries to establish a relationship with his father the viewers are taken on a journey of rediscovery. They are helped to once again accept Santa as they once did in childhood.
Near the end of the movie Santa’s sleigh crashes because the turbine is ripped from the sleigh. It is during these moments that the people of New York are lead to believe again.
Buddy’s girlfriend Jovie gets up in front of the crowd of onlookers and begins to sing Christmas carols. She had learned from Buddy that “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” One by one the crowd begins to join in. As Santa is trying to fix the sleigh we see the Christmas Spirit meter begin to take an upwards tick and the sleigh jumps a few inches off the ground. People are being reminded of the joys of Christmas as they let their hearts give in to the joy of singing.
During this time Buddy’s younger brother Michael borrows Santa’s list. Yes, the list. He makes his way to the reporter covering the seen at the park, then begins to read from the list; sharing names and Christmas wishes. Once again this causes a boost in the meter on Santa’s sleigh. Eventually giving Santa enough juice to fly the sleigh without the aid of the turbine engine.
This theme is like hundreds of other Christmas movies. Faith leads to miraculous moments of transformation. You can tweak the story line, change the characters, and insert a different set of circumstances but the story is primarily the same.
And we LOVE it!
Why? Because it helps us see beyond our humanity. It points us to something greater.
The Power of Real Life Miracles
I have a friend named Tami and she is a cancer survivor. She gets asked from time to time to share her story with a large group of people because we all like to hear the good news of survival when most of us associate cancer with death. When we hear people like Tami share their story we are able to rejoice because most everyone knows someone that has died of cancer. This good news helps us see that cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence, and if we or someone we know is battling cancer it encourages us to have hope.
We love to hear stories that break from the ordinary. We love stories that doctors and nurses can’t explain. We love stories that help us see beyond the limits of humanity. We love stories that point to something bigger.
I have sat and listened to Tami tell her story many times. I have heard her share it with large groups of people and with individuals. Every time I here her story I am brought to tears. She went from being given a death sentence by her doctors to being cancer free now for more than ten years.
I now that some of the emotion I feel comes from the fact that she and her family are dear friends. But there is something about a story that starts as a tragedy and ends with a miracle that causes all of us to pay attention. And more often than not it causes us to rejoice.
We all have seen our fair share of negative circumstances. We have experienced our fair share of disappointment. We have experienced our fair share of loss from death. We all can relate to being stuck in the middle of circumstances that we did not desire and have no control over. So, when we here these miracle stories whether in the context of our favorite Christmas movie or in real life we are moved. We rejoice when dysfunctional circumstances turn into a thing of beauty.
A Different Kind Of Faith
The Christian Bible tells of a similar faith to what we see in many of our favorite Christmas movies. The bible tells us that faith can do extraordinary things. It is possible to see dysfunctional situations turned around through the power of faith. Read the following verses.
Matthew 17:14-20 (NKJV)
14 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
17 Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”
20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
Jesus helps his disciples understand that sometimes our failure to see things happen is because of our unbelief.
The disciples had traveled with Jesus and had seen him do wonderful things. He had performed many miracles. He caused the blind to see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, and restored those with leprosy. He also had approached many with an attitude of grace and forgiveness unlike the religious leaders of the day.
Jesus was in essence saying, that you showed up to participate but did not believe. The problem was with their faith.
Jesus also says this about faith in another place:
Luke 17:5-6 (NKJV)
5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
6 So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
The disciples are confused about faith. They believed that it was more faith or better faith that they needed. But Jesus keeps telling them that faith as small as a mustard seed can do incredible things. Jesus understood that it wasn’t the quantity of faith that mattered. It was the object of faith that was important.
The disciples needed to get to a place where they believed that God was who he said he was and that he would do what he said he would do. Faith no larger than that of a mustard seed focused on the God of heaven and Earth is what mattered.
If the disciples could get to a place where they realized that God was greater than time; that he was the creator of all things; that his presence was everywhere at all times; that his understanding was all encompassing; and that his power was without limits, then they could shift their belief system from one of doubt to one of great possibility.
This is the idea so often captured in the movies. Believe in Santa and the Spirit of Christmas and all your dreams can come true.
While Jesus does not say that all of your dreams will come true, he does say that faith is the foundation to great things happening.
What is your Christmas miracle? Why not let this season be a season of faith? Not in Santa, but in Jesus. What have you got to lose?
Who knows? You might have a story worth telling. You might wind up with your very own Christmas special. You will never know unless you let the journey begin.
Don’t forget that along your journey you might very well be the answer to someone else’s Christmas miracle. Don’t believe that life is all about you getting what you want. Your journey is one of give and take. Don’t miss an opportunity to touch another person in need.
Written by Larry Westfall. Copyright © Finding Wonder 2014.