One of the especial delights of the Christmas season, in my opinion, are Christmas movies. Most families have their own traditional favorites: It’s a Wonderful Life, or Miracle on 34th Street, or one of the twenty-plus versions of A Christmas Carol. My family, which has long been retail workers, has two or three bedrock holiday films and spends the rest of the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas watching what we can when we can. Often, this means that days-off find two or three of us in a blanket pile watching Hallmark Christmas Movies.
I know, I know—Hallmark Christmas Movies have a bad reputation. Their critics hasten to point out that the acting is poor, the dialogue is cheesy, the plots are all the same, and they wrap everything up with a beautiful bow in two hours or less. And, to be fair, the critics are entitled to their opinions, especially as many of their objections are about personal taste. But in my opinion the predictable happy-ever-after of a Hallmark Christmas Movie is precisely what makes them brilliant Advent season viewing, because what is Christmas about if not the sure promise of a happy-ever-after for Earth?
Think about it. In a Christmas movie—pick a Christmas movie—the protagonist lives a life they think makes them happy, but we the audience know they aren’t living the life they should be. Materialism, stubborn independence, and a refusal to submit to a truth they can’t explain have cut them off from joy. Then something happens: a ghost appears, or a freak blizzard, or a long-lost sweetheart. Whatever the catalyst, the character enters a world that’s different to the one they knew, a world that refuses to let them stay in their loneliness and misery, forcing them to come face-to-face with that which they could previously ignore. Continuing to ignore it would leave them as they were, but over the course of the film the spirit of Christmas shows them a better way, and when they accept the spirit of Christmas a happy ending follows. It kind of has to.
Because the “spirit of Christmas,” in these movies, is shorthand. Every single one tells you that Christmas isn’t about gifts or decorations or parties; the protagonists have these in abundance in their empty lives. No. There’s a reason the main characters fall in love or reconcile with estranged family members or both. It’s because Christmas is about love and community. It’s about thinking about others before yourself. It’s about believing in things you can’t see.
Well, goodness. What—or who—is the Spirit of Christmas, then?
And so it turns out that these cheesy, predictable movies were allegories the whole time. Like the protagonists in Christmas movies, we were cut off from joy through our own sin. But then, out of nowhere, God sent his Son as a baby to be God-With-Us, totally transforming the world-as-we-knew-it in the ultimate act of humility and love. Accepting this truth and allowing the Spirit to take over our lives always brings joy and, ultimately, the happiest of endings in which we are united forever with God. And the best part is that it’s totally predictable—we know 100% how the story will end, because God told us and always keeps his promises.
So this season, snuggle up with some hot cocoa and enjoy the reminder that the Christmas Spirit really does solve all your problems, that the perfect Gift really can change your life, and that True Love really is the ultimate joy!