Of all the controversial subjects we’ve written about this year at Everyday Christian ranging from gay marriage to health care reform, this may be the most controversial yet. And I say that only somewhat in jest.
You’ve all seen them.
You all love them (to varying degrees).
You all have your favorites, as do I.
For some, these may seem too secular. For others they may be too corny. Whatever your opinion may be, feel free to share what you might be popping in the DVD player this week.
1. A Christmas Story (1983) – OK, maybe this resonates so well being from the Midwest, but seriously, who can deny the comedic value of Ralphie in a pink bunny suit?
Or the Scott Farkus Affair?
Or the tongue stuck on the metal pole? (Which, by the way a kid in Idaho actually did this year and, yeah, they called the fire department, too.)
The relevance of this film is it highlights what many of remember most about Christmas from our own childhood, whether it is the quirky relative you see only once a year or that often interminable wait in school between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Even after years of repeated viewings, there are still parts that are funny enough to laugh hard enough to shoot your eye out.
2. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) – All of know George Bailey. The guy who wants to conquer the world who ultimately must grind it out at home is a timeless story. For some of us, it is eerily autobiographical.
George discovers that his life has value because of the little things he did over a lifetime made huge impacts in ways he couldn’t have imagined. So, too, is it for many who don’t understand the full impact of their worth to those closest to them.
The applications to today’s world are significant. Being there for a co-worker going through personal problems or talking on the phone for seemingly the umpteenth time with a close friend or relative leaves impressions we don’t always see. That message of valuing important relationships and nurturing them over time regardless how mundane they may seem at the time gives great application and hope ????? years after the fact.
3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947) – How crazy do you have to be to think you’re really, truly Santa Claus?
Even 62 years ago, you had to be pretty out of it to think Santa was real. In the original black and white version (my favorite) Edmund Gwenn does a terrific job in the classic courtroom scenes of convincing us that yes, indeed, there is a Santa Claus.
This remains a poignant invitation to explore our own matters of faith regarding Christmas beyond what we tell children exists at the North Pole. With Christmas commercialism today that outstrips the wildest dreams of Macy’s it remains a fair question to ask.
4. The Polar Express (2004) – For those who haven’t seen this film don’t write it off as just another cartoon for the kids.
The wonderfully animated thrill ride is the opposite of the clay-mation goofiness we were enthralled with as children. Based on an even more enjoyable picture book by veteran children’s author Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express poses a similar question to Miracle on 34th Street – do you believe.
In this case it represents a bell that Billy, portrayed in the film as a boy, narrates to us at the end he still hears at the end of the film. The bell was given to him at the North Pole and clearly represents faith in a story we’ve heard a thousand times but may have easily strayed away fro, over time. That sounds familiar in regard to the most important message of Christmas and one we ask ourselves perhaps more times than we care to admit.
5. Elf (2003) – “Elf” is like any other Will Ferrell movie in that you have to take it at face value with the expectation of silliness.
Getting past that, the film does explore an uneasy side of Christmas when we often examine the quality of our relationships. Ferrell’s Buddy character is his childlike is his admiration of the holiday but simply doesn’t have a clue how his advertising executive father played by James Caan truly feels about him.
In readjusting his own self-image Buddy helps himself and the audience understand there’s more to Christmas then a festive Lego replica of Manhattan in a department store (although it does look pretty cool) or tasty treats to eat. The substance of that lesson is one to benefit from regardless of age.