Dr. Doug Posey
This year we’ll likely dust off our DVD of the 1938 movie version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. We can probably find it on Netflix, but the DVD is tradition. Christmas season at the Posey house wouldn’t be complete without multiple viewings of that and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” These movies help to put me in the Christmas “mood.” They’re in black-and-white (or colorized for non-purists) and any special effects are hokey (e.g., my wife pointed out the wires that were now plainly visible—since we have a 55” HD TV—from which Ebenezer Scrooge was suspended as he “flew” with the Ghost of Christmas Past over his boyhood town). But, I gladly suspend critical thought, ignoring the less-than-believable special effects and allow myself to be transported into a sentimental wonderland-gone-by, inextricably linked to Christmas in my mind.
Years ago, I watched it with my youngest daughter. Regardless of the lack of slick computer-generated effects, this teenager actually seemed interested (and mostly awake) as I identified characters and the actors who played them. People I knew from my childhood. How else would she understand that Leo G. Carroll, who played the ghost of Jacob Marley, later appeared as the head of U.N.C.L.E., a spy organization featured in one of my favorite TV shows of the 60’s, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” Then, of course, there was June Lockhart, just a child in the movie, acting alongside her real-life parents (playing the Cratchits) and destined to be the mom on TV classics, “Lassie” and “Lost in Space.”
It was fun to pass along the importance of such a Christmas classic to the next generation! Now that my daughter just turned twenty-one, I wonder if she’ll watch it with me again during her Christmas break from university. Hope so.
One scene in the movie that stands out is the Christmas Eve church service. It seems that everyone but Scrooge is gathered in the sanctuary singing a Christmas hymn. They unabashedly belt out the words, “Oh come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!” It’s not just a background melody while the real scene is happening in the foreground. They are singing it with feeling and an unmistakable message. I found myself commenting to my daughter, “Do you think you’d see that in a movie made today?” Unfortunately, it’s unlikely.
The lucrative Christmas season includes carefully-timed movie releases that, 99.9% of the time, have nothing to do with Christ the Lord; as we like to say, “The reason for the season.” Even those ostensibly about Christmas really have nothing to do with celebrating the coming of Christ. Their feel-good messages never seem to touch the birth in Bethlehem.
The media highlights discussions about Christmas, but again, not the coming of Christ. Instead, there are the perfunctory annual debates concerning saying Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas. Concern over the references to “Holiday trees” and some years, even lawsuits to either remove Nativity scenes from public view, or give equal time to Satan worshipping displays.
In many ways, the media seems responsible for successfully intimidating people into finding a non-threatening, neutral way to celebrate this largest of all national holidays. In the meantime, Christians get frustrated and complain about the apparent persecution of those of us who think Christmas should be openly and exclusively about Jesus. But, maybe we shouldn’t get so frosty toward the media. Can we blame the media for the fact that Christianity is being successfully pushed out of the public square, including secular TV and movie screens in this post-Christian era in our country?
According to research by George’s Barna, “The most influential aspect of Christianity in America is how believers do—or do not—implement their faith in public and private.” So, it’s not about movies, nativity scenes or holiday vs. Christmas trees. If we’re trying to blame the media for neutralizing the effect and visibility of Christianity in our culture, the buck really stops with you and me.
If it was about the media, don’t you think Jesus would have come in the 20th or 21st Century? Shouldn’t He have utilized movies, satellites, cable and the internet from the get-go? But, when He commissioned His Disciples and us to go have an influence, He expected us to use the simple media of walk and talk. If we work on mastering those, perhaps “the media” will one day be unashamed to promote the Master.
“Go and proclaim everywhere the Kingdom of God.”