Christmas movies are plentiful this season. December brings us many Christmas movies, hallmark style included. Yet very few “classics” even mention the word Christ or refer to Christmas as the date and time Jesus Christ was born some 2000 years ago.
Two favorites, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Love, Actually” are mainly secular, even though in the ﬁrst movie, James Stewart is “haunted” by the angel Clarence, who devises a plan that will earn him his angel’s wings after Clarence “consults” with Joseph and presumably God about the situation Clarence faces with a potentially suicidal Stewart. A dark movie, it addresses a ﬁnancial difficulty faced by the protagonist, Stewart, but nowhere does it touch on the faith Stewart possesses that his situation will turn out positively, even though Clarence eventually earns his wings. The other favorite celebrates Christmas through a series of love entanglements that turn out satisfactorily for the characters – one gets married after a messy situation leads to divorce, while another professes her love for a co-worker while remaining devoted to a mentally challenged brother.
Other Christmas movies celebrate love for the protagonist as well as the Christmas spirit, but none touch on Christ’s life and purpose for being born. Though my non-religious friends may object, the Christian message of hope – that things will turn out alright if one has faith and turns to God for salvation – is obscured, even as all turns out well for Christmas movie characters. Love eventually triumphs for those who star in “The Holiday,” “Miracle on 34th Street” and even “A Christmas Story.” Perhaps love is the Christian message of these, and other, Christmas movies.
As more families become “Cafeteria Christians” (those who attend church on important holidays such as Christmas Eve and Easter), America has become more secular. Regular church attendance for all religions has waned as Christmas tree and Christmas lighting and decoration sales have skyrocketed, signaling a loss for religious services and a gain for holiday celebrations and recognition.
Yet the Christian message of hope, faith and love is somehow lost, gained only by a belief system that transcends holiday attendance. The message of most Christmas Eve church services is a repeat of the story of the birth of Jesus Christ and what his birth and short life meant to mankind – that everlasting life was then a reality and awaits those believers today as secularism creeps into our lives, including the movies and other depictions we watch.
The miracle of Jesus’ birth and life and the promise of Christian belief is evident and available in all lives today. While many Americans look skeptically at the Bible and its teachings, there are many who have faith, without actually “seeing,” that God exists, offering believers salvation. The Bible stories of John and Luke are worth reading and re-reading, if for nothing more than solidifying why Christmas is celebrated, Easter is acknowledged and Lent offers us a reason to fast, lose weight or otherwise conform to the Bible’s teachings. Though many skeptics believe that living a good life transcends any belief in God or future salvation, the existence of a Heaven or a belief that loved ones will reunite after life on Earth, nevertheless there are many who believe that “living a good life” directly relates to belief in God and following the Bible’s teachings.
Perhaps Christmas movies that celebrate love or the triumph of faith over distress, are, in their own way, perpetuating the Christian message, that when Americans decorate their homes with lights, put up Christmas trees, send out Christmas cards and express love for others through Christmas gift-giving, the Christian message of hope and love is solidiﬁed in the hearts of man with the hope that the Christian feeling will extend beyond Christmas Eve services or Christmas Day, or Easter celebrations that extol the virtues of a simple birth in a manger by ordinary parents some 2,000 years ago, a continuation of that belief by many and by the Christmas movies that celebrate Christmas, a time of love expressed through Holiday greetings, an exchange of Christmas gifts and families and other loved ones who gather for a meal or other celebration of the Savior born centuries ago.
Christmas movies, even though many fail to mention Christ’s birth, remind us of the hope that Christmas brings and the love engendered by the simple birth of a baby in a manger. They offer a reason for living a good life while on Earth.
George Nethercutt was the U.S. representative for the 5th Congressional District of Washington from 1995-2005.
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