*Previously published in December 2019, in the Winter 2020 issue of Archways Magazine*

Of Elves and Angels

Let’s be clear here. We’re not saying you shouldn’t watch your favorite holiday classics. If the DVDs of Rudolph and The Santa Clause and Elf occupy a place of honor alongside your ornaments and advent calendars, please go ahead and enjoy them.

But consider this: We live in a culture where the fantasy of a white-bearded magician with flying reindeer and a workforce of cheerful toymakers overshadows the unfathomable miracle of God coming to Earth as a baby and living among us for 33 years. If we’re not careful, the consumerist take on the Santa story can overwhelm the original spirit of the holiday, equating love and joy with material possessions. Especially where children are watching, we need a reminder of what Linus is trying to tell us at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

In The Nativity Story (2006), there are no big-name actors, high-tech flying sleighs or choreographed crowds of elves. There is a humble Jewish woman answering a mysterious call, and her devoted husband leading her atop a donkey on the arduous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. (And yes, one Hollywood star-to-be: Oscar Isaac, who would later play Poe Dameron in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.) There are poor shepherds, villagers suffering under Roman occupation, the unadorned reality of delivering a child amid livestock in a cave-like stable. There are also angels, magi, a glorious star and the birth of Jesus followed by the flight into Egypt and the slaughter of the innocents. Largely unnoticed, the Savior has arrived in a world deeply in need of salvation.

It sounds serious, and it is: the deep source of joy that enables the light-hearted fun of all those secular holiday movies. So go ahead and enjoy the Santa films and the morally instructive transformations of George Bailey and Ebenezer Scrooge. Just don’t forget to give Jesus his due.

God rest ye merry.