My wife and daughter enjoy watching Hallmark Movies. During this season they can binge on the Christmas movies, of which there are many.

A Hallmark Christmas Movie is usually set in an idyllic setting in small town rural America, presumably never in the South, because it always snows on the 24th of December. There are trees and ornaments, cookies and candy, and always hot chocolate and apple cider with a sleigh ride thrown in for good measure. There are candles to light the way, and a fire burns in every welcoming hearth.

The plot lines are often similar – nice girl helps nice guy enjoy Christmas, while nice supporting cast cheer her on…. nicely! Incidentally, the nice guy, immersed in his career, has always previously worked on Christmas Day.

When it comes to Christmas music you might hear the strains of Silent Night, or In the Bleak Mid-Winter, but when it comes to singing it is always accompanied by lots of frosty snowmen, jingling bells and red-nosed reindeer. Church never seems to enter the storyline unless the bells are heard, and the nativity is nowhere to be seen unless in a children’s pageant. Somehow, however, the storyline always comes around to the true meaning of Christmas.

In my opinion Hallmark do not do a good job of representing the diversity of America. Small-town America is probably not the place to endeavor to do this and consequently the minority characters, unless they are a friend back in the city, are often misplaced. But in the interests of diversity, it seems that Hallmark want to put their own hallmark on the true meaning of Christmas in a way which people of all faiths can enjoy without ever touching on the real message.

We recently watched a non-Hallmark Christmas movie that belonged in the Santa genre. A recently engaged young woman wants her fiancé to introduce her to his parents. He tells her that they will be way too busy with their toy-making business to visit from Alaska. However, when they hear he is getting married they drop everything to fly in – quite literally, to the roof top.

The girl’s father is quite suspicious of this jolly couple who are too full of life for his dour academic outlook. He does a background search and discovers no records at all for them; they do not exist. Moreover, the DNA test he runs reveals a red and white helix that looks like shimmering Northern Lights.

He does not believe in Christmas, he does not believe in Santa Claus, and he does everything he can to debunk belief in the hearts of others including his own grandchild

Christmas has become a culmination to the year. Coming immediately after the solstice it overtook the winter festival of old. As northern days begin to get longer, Christmas heralds the new year on the Western calendar. The religious festival, amalgamated with pagan traditions, has become a big party for all to enjoy.

Those who shape modern media don’t know what to do with real Christmas. The movie script encourages us that all we must do is believe. We make our Christmas wish and Christmas wishes really do come true.  We follow the Christmas star, even when we have no idea of the one on whom it shines. In an endeavor to turn the simple truth, handed down through two thousand years, into something universally palatable, the general public are encouraged to believe a myth, shaped by two millennia and more of fabrication.

All the shabby scenery contrives to hide the majesty beyond: That once upon a time, or more specifically in the days when Quirinius was governor of Syria, the Prince of Peace arose from the right hand of his Father in heaven, crossed the great divide between the eternal realm and our time-confined and defined world, and was born a weak and helpless baby. He came to an animal stall because there was no room in a crowded boarding house; he was born illegitimate by all human standards; he was birthed to a season as a refugee, fleeing the persecution of a paranoid king; and he was given to a humble tradesman’s life.

Yet prophets foretold his coming, shepherds worshiped him, wise men gave him gifts, the temple saints honored him and after thirty years of obscurity, the crowds followed him. For three short years his earthly candle flamed with no need to celebrate a Christmas. Then he returned to his Father’s house imparting a fire to the hearts of those who really chose to believe.

As we celebrate Christmas this year, at the end of a tough and tragic year for many, let’s look beyond candle and star toward the one who lights the way for all the world. Let’s look beyond fir tree and fireside to the redeemer’s cross and Holy Spirit flame; beyond wishes that may or may not come true, to pray the prayer that rightly prayed answers all. And let’s look beyond the white whiskered myth of the jolly old man into the eyes of the majestic King of the universe, who longs for all to believe.

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