I watched Polar Express the other day. I tried to get Caleb to watch it with me, but like so many other types of children’s programming, he wasn’t terribly interested in it. So I watched it mostly by myself. That may be a little pathetic, but I’m not ashamed to admit I love the movie.
It’s magical and exciting. I love the poor boy who realizes that Christmas is for him, too, and the smug know-it-all who learns a little bit of humility (although that part of the storyline hits a little too close to home for me). I even love how the one little boy finally hears Santa’s sleigh bells towards the end of the movie.
It’s a perfect Christmas movie.
Except, of course, that there’s nothing about Christ in it.
Now I’m not advocating a complete removal of Santa and trees and everything except church from Christmas, because as Ashleigh points out, we can really go overboard with that, and get so particular about celebrating Christmas one way that we cease to be the light God has called us to be. We need to be in the world, celebrating both the material and the immaterial aspects of Christmas.
However, amidst all the warm fuzzy feelings that accompany the things I love about the Christmas season I want to be careful not to blur the line between the “magic” of Christmas and the true miracle of what Christ has done for us.
The story of Santa Claus and the North Pole is a beautiful one, in the same way that the story of Cinderella is beautiful. It’s a story I love. My fear is that when the true story of Christ gets thrown into the mix with the others this holiday proliferates, it loses its impact. It becomes just another Christmas myth. Beautiful in theory, but untrue.
And Christmas is so much more than nice, neat stories about a baby Jesus in a manger.
I love how these Chris Tomlin lyrics put what this season truly means for all true Christians:
What fear we felt in the silent age
400 years, can He be found
But broken by a baby’s cry
Rejoice in the hallowed manger ground
Jesus was the answer to all the prophets’ unrequited hopes for God’s kingdom. It was the announcement of a coming perfect age, a time when the Son of God would rule the world and we would all live at peace with him. But it was also that kingdom breaking into our world, God coming to dwell in the hearts of men, making those of us who choose him reconciled to God here and now.
The manger scene is not a picture out of a storybook. It’s holy ground, just like the burning bush or the Ark of the Covenant were. Holy because God was there.
He still is here.
That’s the beauty of Christmas.
He came to be our Emmanuel.
God with us.