A hopeless case?
I could plead all kinds of things in my defence. I could plead Christmas busy-ness, Sunday fatigue or emotional burnout. When all’s said and done,though, there are very few excuses good enough to let me off the hook: yesterday afternoon I indulged my inner artistic Philistine and watched the schmaltzy film below – Blizzard. It is an entirely improbable tale of friendship, perseverance, ice skating…oh, and invisible reindeer too. (Note that I have chosen the German version of the film poster because it seems to exaggerate all this even more- note the reindeer’s curly eyelashes). Like most ‘family’ Christmas films it all works out in the end, with just enough nastiness and chill along the way to make you snuggle into the sofa that little bit harder.
The film is, without a doubt, utter nonsense. It promotes the stock-in-trade of every Christmas addict’s film – namely that there is a kind of magic called “Christmas” which rights wrongs, rewards good, and turns selfishness to generosity. You can find it in every Christmas film from Its a wonderful life to Polar Express via the Grinch.
Given that we believe the real Christmas story has nothing to do with magic and everything to do with God, how do we cross the gap between here and there, so to speak? How do we confront the scmaltz with reality, without sounding like Ebenezer Scrooge’s grumpy Uncle or Aunt ? We can’t just jump up and down and insist that our story is better.
Surely there are two things we must do? The first is that if we believe our story is better, we must tell it better. We must bring as much creativity and ingenuity to its telling as the filmmakers do. Secondly, we need to take a hard look at our beloved story and see that it is not so very far from the Christmas ‘magic’ as we might think. Does it not talk about righting age-old wrongs? Does it not turn the world upside down, making the poor rich and the broken healed? Mary certainly seemed to think it did in her song. (Luke 1 v. 52-53). It has been good to see some of these themes emerging in the earthy, witty, poignant script of the natwivity over the past two weeks. Here is a telling of the story brimful of emotion but lacking in sentimentality.
So, don’t come out with all guns blazing when confronted with the schmaltz. Listen to the sleigh bell sound of its themes and see where it links to our story.
In the meantime, perhaps I should see if there is some more schmaltz on offer for my vital preaching research..