In a quandary about what to post, I sat down in front of the TV and turned on the Hallmark Channel. The movies are similar with only slight variations. But one part that never varies is the ending. Of course, the “happily ever after” ending never happens in real life, but it’s Hallmark’s story and they are sticking to it.
The movie this night is like the others. The woman makes choices that catapult her into an exciting career but at the sacrifice of love and family. Through magic, a wizard, or a time machine, she finds herself in a different life, without the career focus. Of course, she falls in love with the fantasy and wants the picket fence with 2.5 kids and a loving husband.
The world to which the leading lady is transferred is picture perfect. She has great friends, a lovely home, exemplary kids, and a husband that loves her dearly. Do you ever notice they don’t even need to diet? They eat out all the time, devouring cakes, cookies, and candy all the while remaining incredibly skinny and fit! You might disagree and point to the problems thrown in now and then, but they’re quite easily resolved and usually don’t have long-term consequences.
Of course, this time of year, the focus of the movies is Christmas. Most of the themes are about a person who hates Christmas, usually due to a bad experience that happened near or on the holiday. The reasons these individuals hate the holiday, range from disappointment in Santa to a tragic death. Sometimes the person was dumped on Christmas. Who does that?
Okay, you say, the movies aren’t realistic. The plots and endings are predictable at best. But we watch these shows for light-hearted entertainment and a brief escape from the problems of life and stresses of the holiday season.
I agree one hundred percent; that is why I watch these shows too. However, I have noticed a very disturbing theme developing in recent years. Every year the Christmas movies are becoming more secular. Usually, the person who hates Christmas because of a bad past experience meets someone who loves the holiday; and thus a rehab program begins. The character conducting the rehab shows the Christmas hater the error of his or her ways. Of course, it always works and the Christmas hater learns to celebrate again. However, the lesson rarely, if ever, includes Jesus.
To see what I mean let’s take a look at some of the Hallmark movies shown during the last few years.
Christmas Magic: A workaholic woman with disappointing childhood holidays dies. She becomes an angel with the assignment of bringing music back into Christmas for a widower. (Don’t get me started on how angels are portrayed in movies. That’s a future blog post.) Of course, the two fall in love and she successfully brings music back into his life. How do an angel and human connect romantically? She is not really dead but in a coma!
Fir Crazy: A workaholic woman loses her job and returns to the family business of growing and selling Christmas trees. Her memories of childhood Christmases are depressing, but a man she meets helps her reflect on the good memories and fun she had as a child. Not only is her relationship with her parents healed, but her love life is a picture of health too.
NorthPole: The Christmas spirit is dying and Santa will no longer be able to bring Christmas unless his helper revitalizes the spirit of Christmas through one child. Of course, the spirit of Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus but is all about Santa. Yes, Christmas is saved.
A Christmas Detour: A woman with a positive attitude towards Christmas is stranded (due to weather conditions) with a Christmas hater. The woman’s rehabilitation efforts focus on helping the man to forgive those who hurt him and enjoy family time. Of course, she is successful and love blooms at the holiday once again.
I’m Not Ready for Christmas: An elf wants to know if there is more to life than what the North Pole offers. So Santa sends her to be a nanny for parents who are too focused on their business to create traditions for their children. Of course, the elf solves the family problems and falls in love with an earthling. Santa makes her human and they marry. Of course, they live happily ever after!
The Christmas Ornament: A young widow can’t decorate for Christmas because the tree ornaments had special meaning to her and her deceased husband. A new man in her life brings back her decorating spirit, and all is well.
So, according to these movies, here’s what needs to be restored in the life of the Christmas hater: music, childhood memories, Santa, family hurts, traditions, and decorations. These themes are played repeatedly with different characters and settings.
What’s missing? Maybe the real reason we celebrate Christmas! The true meaning of Christmas is ignored. Rarely is Jesus mentioned, let alone made the focal point of the Christmas hater’s rehab. Occasionally, the characters attend a Christmas Eve service, but in the more recent movies, they don’t even give this nod to Jesus.
With all the busyness of the season, I sometimes feel like I’m not much better than the movies. Sure, I go to Christmas Eve service, but is that my nod to Jesus? How much time do I give to the Lord during the holiday, or even during the year? Where’s my focus? Perhaps I need a Christmas rehab, one that focuses on the reason for the season.
Unfortunately, like the movies, we romanticize Christmas too. Think how we complain at the end of a pregnancy. We usually stay close to home for a quick trip to a nice sterile environment for the birth. But Mary couldn’t stay home. She made an uncomfortable trip of about 100 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It probably took eight to ten days by foot, and if they chose the shorter route, it was very rough terrain. It must have been extremely difficult.
The young couple arrived and was anticipating a much-needed rest, only to find there was no room in the inn. We know Jesus was laid in a manger, which is a feeding trough for horses or cattle. We assume they were in a stable, but we don’t know for sure. However, we can assume there were animals around and it probably was dark, dank and unpleasant.
No doubt God, the Father, was present, providing comfort. However, it must have been a grueling experience for this young couple. Our nativity scenes don’t do the circumstances justice. At this juncture, Mary and Joseph didn’t feel the Hallmark “happily ever after.”
OR DID THEY?
After reading the Christmas story again, I have changed my perspective on the happily ever after. No, I haven’t lost my mind, I know that our lives aren’t perfect and our relationships will have rocky times. There will be financial stress, work problems, disappointments, health issues, and prodigal children. But Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection do provide perfect life. No, we won’t experience it now, but what could be more “happily ever after” than eternity with Jesus?
So this year, take time to be awe-inspired and focused on the heart of Christmas. We should be amazed and overcome with gratitude when recognizing the gift of Jesus Christ.
Of course, I will still watch the schmaltzy movies with my husband. Yes, he watches chick flicks. I know I’m blessed. These shows provide relaxing entertainment during a busy and stressful time of year. But when we get to the “happily ever after” ending, I will see it a little differently. Thank you, Jesus, for sacrificing so we can have a “happily ever after” with You.
Under comments, please name your favorite Christmas movie or chick flick. More importantly, share some of the ways you and your family keep Jesus in Christmas. Of course, don’t forget the devotions. The Word of the Week is “Listen.” It is surprising how much the Bible has to say about this important act of love to others. The children are reviewing 2 Samuel and their devotional focuses on true repentance.
Have a great week. See you next time.