During the Christmas season, legal entanglements often earn headlines over complaints of formal protests by individuals or civil liberties groups over the display of Christmas decorations. Nativity scenes have often been at the center of such controversies, an issue addressed in the new DVD film “The Perfect Gift.” The film portrays a dramatization of the dispute. Mark Smeby, an actor and songwriter who performs in the movie, discusses its merits. Q: Is “The Perfect Gift” your first movie? A: This is my feature film acting debut – a dream come true for me. But I was also an extra in the underground hit from 1991, “Drop Dead Fred.” You can see the side of my head on the back cover of the DVD, another dream come true! I’ve done a ton of acting, though, in commercials, music videos, corporate films, and church dramas. And I’ve had several songs featured in other Christian movies—my secret ambition is to become the Kenny Loggins of Christian film soundtracks. Q: Did you write your song “Emmanuel (You Are With Me)” specifically for this movie? A: No, I didn’t. One of my best friends had just been through a divorce and was about to spend Christmas alone, without his little daughter for the first time. Another good friend was spending Christmas away from his family as he served in Iraq. I wanted to address their realities, so I turned it into a musical prayer — asking God to come into that place of quiet emptiness, acknowledging His presence. The producers of “The Perfect Gift” loved it, and used it in the movie. I couldn’t be more thrilled. Q: You play the bad guy in this film, “The Perfect Gift.” Was that challenging? A: It wasn’t, simply because I know people who are like this guy. He’s very passionate about what he believes. I didn’t want him to be evil, or a caricature. He’s just a passionate, however misguided, normal guy. It’s been really interesting to hear how much people don’t like this character. Q: Why do you think there’s a culture war surrounding Christmas? A: I believe it’s because the name of Christ is offensive to some people. It’s been that way for 2000 years. A minority of the population has frightened the rest of us into thinking the words “Merry Christmas” are offensive. Yet, everybody knows we’re celebrating Christmas! We celebrate in different ways, but at the core, this is the Christmas season. “The Perfect Gift” reveals what we have in common: a chance to give, remember happy memories from the past, and celebrate the gifts of the present. Q: Do you have a favorite Christmas memory? A: When my sister and I were little, Christmas was spent at my grandparents home in South Dakota. We would always go for a walk after dinner on Christmas Eve, to look at all the lights and decorations in the neighborhood. When we got back to the house, Grandma would be yelling goodbye to Santa as he was just leaving out the back door, and of course, the tree would be full of presents. It was quite magical. Q: What do you think makes Christmas such a powerful season, even for unbelievers? A: What makes Christmas magical is when someone who loves you plans something special, specifically with your joy in mind. We all love those kinds of unforgettable gifts and surprises. Yet the miracle of Christmas is that God has done this for all people. God has been planning a perfect gift for mankind for all of time – and through Jesus he reveals the gift of His love. God has prepared something great for each person, and the way to these gifts is through His biggest gift: the baby Jesus. Link: The Perfect Gift: http://www.perfectgiftmovie.com/
Published December 11th, 2009 by Peter Elliott
’The Perfect Gift’ address Nativity scene controversies
Peter Elliott is a veteran news and sports journalist. He enjoys interviewing others about how God works in their lives and sharing that with readers. He is also a lifelong, long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan. He resides in Indianapolis with his wife and three sons.
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