There are stories, and stories told on film, that come to mean Christmas to each one of us.
Though the list differs, the reality of hearing these seasonal favorites remains the same, in its essence, for most people.
This year, actually for the first time, I got to see “It’s a Wonderful Life” in its entirety, yet that movie has long ranked as one of my favorites. I just never really knew how the story started, and frankly it makes much more sense if you have seen the first 30 minutes.
I have to admit that no version of “Miracle on 34th St.” makes it into my top list. I also must freely admit that it is honesty, not grandstanding, when I make jokes about maudlin movies invented to give some mythical background to equally maudlin songs. That kind of effort has the stamp of commercialism all over it.
“Christmas Story,” of course, and “Polar Express” rank very highly on my personal list, though with the latter, it is hard to separate appreciation for the art from appreciation for the story. We, or should I say the grandkids, have both the DVD and the book, and we’ve tried to get them to appreciate the artistic merit of this recent work.
In the same vein, the recent animated version of “A Christmas Carol” shows off how modern technology is capable of giving a new slant to an old and beloved story. The ghosts were realistic enough to strike a chord of fear in anyone who has ever been in an extended “Bah, humbug!” mood.
This year, Mikayla made it very plain, without being obnoxious, that she would very much like the animated, singalong, “Charlie Brown Christmas” that she found while we were on our annual pre-Thanksgiving light scouting trip. (Yes, if you are serious about yard lights, you have to start early; this year they were in short supply anyway!)
Since she was not obnoxious, and it wouldn’t do much good to wait until Christmas to receive it, she has been faithfully reading it since Thanksgiving night.
Story telling, winter, and miracles certainly go hand in hand. It’s our custom to read aloud the Luke account of the Lord’s nativity, on Christmas Eve, when we put the baby Jesus into his manger on the nativity set which occupies our manger.
I also have to admit that I never do this without recalling the custom in our family growing up. Because we went to my mother’s large, extended family gathering on Christmas Eve, we always came home with a present we had already opened.
My mind wanders back to the year my present was a GI Joe, who upon our return, dutifully took his place in our nativity set and guarded the baby Jesus until the set came down at Epiphany. I suspect that was the year when I had first understood, in some measure, the impact and implication of what King Herod did to all the boy babies, upon hearing of Messiah’s birth.
What are the stories which you delight in hearing, or seeing, every Christmas season?