There are two types of Christmas movies: the classics such as Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life and then there are the contemporary Hallmark Channel or Netflix Originals. I’ve heard people lament, especially about the latter, how they do not capture the Christmas story.
Contemporary Christmas movies today are often based on holiday love, and if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Often what makes them “Christmas” is the holiday decorations, the time of year, and snow on the ground.
Having viewed both the classics and the contemporary, I really believe they capture the essence of the Incarnation.
The story of contemporary Christmas movies goes something like this: Two people whose paths never should have crossed, fall madly in love, but unfortunately their relationship is based on a lie, some fact about themselves that they were not honest about. At some point in the movie that reality is discovered, driving the couple apart. But their time away from each other helps them realize how much they love each other, reunite, and live happily ever after.
Isn’t this the story of the Incarnation? Isn’t this a story motif found all throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament? It started in the beginning with Adam and Eve who were created in the image of God and destined for perfect love. But their choices put a wedge in their relationship with God. However, the God of mercy could not stop loving them, hoping they would always repent, and in time, that same God would correct the ancient curse.
It’s the story of the people of Israel, time and again they went astray from God. God always loved them and provided for them. But when they started doing things their own way, God raised up prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah, to call them back, and to foretell the coming of the savior.
It’s the story of Mary and Joseph. According to some traditions, Joseph is selected by chance when a sign was given, a flowering staff, to be the husband of Mary. They fall in love. Yet a wedge happens in their relationship. Mary is pregnant and he knows it’s not his child. He wants to run away but an angel comes and tells him to take Mary into his home. And from that day on they remain in love for the rest of their lives.
The story of holiday love movies captures the story of the Incarnation because God so loved the world that he sent his only son to be our savior and redeemer (see John 3:16-17). Sin caused a wedge in our relationship with God and so Jesus came to restore that relationship. The Incarnation is the story of a God who loves us and how we are caught up in love of him.
As for some of the classics, have you ever noticed this trend: One particular character is crabby and lacks Christmas joy, but by the movie’s end, that same character undergoes a major transformation?
It happened to George Bailey, Ebenezer Scrooge, and the Grinch. On that first Christmas morning, the angel announced a message of great joy, that Christ the savior was born. Just as those characters experienced their own transformation from anger or sadness to love and joy, the same can happen for us.
Because Jesus was born, our grief over a loved one’s death this Christmas can be turned into joy when we realize that Jesus was born in order to die and rise from the dead. It’s the joy of knowing that no matter our sin, Jesus was born in order to be our savior and redeemer.
Because Jesus is Emmanuel, God with Us, we know that regardless of what we are going through, Jesus is with us and never will abandon us. If we aren’t yet in the holiday spirit, the coming Lord Jesus can change that, just as the hearts of Christmas movie characters were transformed.
In the love story of humankind, the story of a God who loves creation so much that he sends his son to die, there no longer needs to be a wedge driving us away from God. Like those contemporary movies, it’s time for us to overcome whatever is separating us from God, and embrace his love this Christmas season.
This Christmas, choose to write your love story between you and God, and as you write, keep the storybook ending in mind — life with God forever in the kingdom of heaven.