Today marks the beginning of Advent and the word Advent means coming and while it is the season when we see the coming darkness of winter; this needs to be the season when we focus on the coming light of Jesus. We need the light of Christ to lift our hearts and lives above the darkness we so often feel and we need the light of Christ to lift us up from the bitterness and division which we have seen these past few months. Since the campaign season and elections were stressful times, we decided to take a light hearted approach to Advent and focus on the light of Jesus by looking at something we hope everyone enjoys – Christmas movies. While we each might have our favorite movie, my hope is that we can find unity and joy as we look at four of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time. So over the next 4 weeks we are going to put aside all political divisions and join together as a family around movies that point us to the real meaning of Christmas which of course is Jesus.
This week our focus is on a movie that is considered by most people to be the #1 Christmas movie of all time – Miracle on 34th Street. It was released in 1947 and interestingly enough it wasn’t released in theaters at Christmas time but during the summer. It won 4 Academy Awards and you’ll be glad to know that one of those awards went to Kris Kringle himself. What makes this a wonderful movie isn’t that it focuses on Christmas but on the rediscovery of faith and hope and in very clear and powerful ways points us directly to the Christ Child. The movie begins with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade needing a new Santa for the float and in walks Kris Kringle. (movie clip 1)
Doris Walker is responsible for making the parade happen and when she needs a new Santa, she hires Kris Kringle. Kris does such a great job in the parade, they hire him to be Santa in the Macy’s department store on 34th Street in NYC. What we need to know about Doris is that she doesn’t believe in Santa, the truth is she doesn’t believe in much. A bitter divorce reminded her that there are no fairy tales and there is no prince charming and so she has lost much of her faith in people and in the goodness of life. Doris is a harsh realist who sees the world through her intellect and common sense.
Doris represents many people today who also approach the world only through their scientific intellect. If it doesn’t make sense and if it can’t be proved then it can’t be possible. While some people might naturally be more logical in how they approach the world, we call these “left brain” people, in many ways our world has become more rational and scientific. Faith and religion are often pushed aside and with it goes the hope that comes when we believe in something larger than ourselves and our reason. When we are ruled by common sense alone, we lose the truth that God created us in love and that the power of God’s love is still a force of goodness that we can tap into.
A classic example of this kind of a person was a professor I had in college. He had worked as an anthropologist and had travelled all over the world and been part of some amazing discovers. He was on the archeological dig in Ethiopia where they discovered the bones of Lucy, the oldest living human remains found, and yet he was very clear that he did not believe in God. I wrote a note on one of my exam papers asking how he could have seen all these amazing things and yet not believe in God. He replied, I have seen some amazing things like poverty, injustice, violence, suffering and death. After seeing all of this, you tell me how there can be a God. Many people today say the same thing. Whether it is the problems of the world or the problems of our lives like the hurt, disappointment and failure we have felt from those we loved, many people have shut themselves off to the hope that life can be good and that God is real and with us. They only look at the world through common sense and what can be seen and proved.
Doris has raised her little girl Susan to look at life the same way.
Susan doesn’t believe in Santa or much of anything, but she has taken to a neighbor named Fred Gailey who sees the world through a very different set of eyes.
Fred sees the good in people and he has hope for the future. Fred has faith and believes in more than what the eye can see. The Bible defines faith as the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen, and Fed has faith. Fred has faith that Kris Kringle might be more than meets the eye and so Fred is the lawyer who ends up defending Kris in a trial that becomes the centerpiece of the movie. Kris goes on trial because he has claimed to be Santa Claus and in this scene we see the two world views of Doris and Fred collide and through them we see the very different ways people see the world. (movie clip 2)
Doris can’t believe in things if they don’t make any sense. She is all about what is rational, reasonable and scientific. As she said, it is not a question of faith but common sense. Fred, on the other hand has faith, he believes in things even when common sense tells him not to. Fred sees the world through the lovely intangibles of kindness, joy and love – things that are attractive to Doris but unrealistic.
Many people in our world today might say we can’t build our lives around the lovely intangibles of kindness, joy and love. Do you know what these intangibles are? According to the Bible they are the fruit of God’s Spirit. Galatians 5:23. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. These are the things Fred believes in, trusts in and has built is life upon and he follows these things even when common sense tells him not to. These are the lovely intangibles we have to have when we come to the real Christmas story of Jesus because without them, the story makes no sense.
Logically, the story of Christmas makes no sense. Common sense tells us that a baby cannot be born to a virgin girl. God coming into the world as a human being is not logical. How does that even happen? How does the full power of God confine itself to flesh and blood? Common sense would tell us this doesn’t happen. And besides, if God was going to come into the world wouldn’t God share this news through a heavenly hosts of angels to all the influential and powerful leaders of the world and not a bunch of outcast shepherds scattered across the fields of Bethlehem? There is no common sense in the real Christmas story, the story of Jesus birth only makes sense if we will embrace the intangible of love and believe that there is something bigger than what we can see and greater than what we can imagine – a God who loves us.
To make sense of the Christmas Story we have to see the world through the lovely intangibles that come from the Spirit of God and the only way this happens is if we allow ourselves to get close to God and open ourselves up to the God who sends this spirit and came to walk with us in the flesh and blood of his son. Can we open our hearts to the God who loves us so much that he doesn’t leave us in darkness but sends His light into the world? When we begin to open ourselves up to God we begin to find hope and hope is what opens our eyes so that we can see the power of kindness, joy and love. When we open the door to God we see with new eyes that the child born in Bethlehem is truly the son of God and the Savior of the world.
In time, Doris’ life changed because she opened her heart to Kris Kringle and she comes to believe in him through the persistent love of her daughter Susan, her friend Fred and through Kris himself.
What transforms her heart and what transforms our hearts so that we can find hope is the persistent love of others and the amazing love of God. When we get to that place where we can say to God, I believe in you – life changes. When we take this single step of faith, hearts are transformed and hope is born. Doris believes in Kris and her life is changed, when we believe in Christ our eyes are opened and our lives are changes so that we desire to have our worlds built on the lovely intangibles of God’s spirit and the values of God’s kingdom.
So the miracle on 34th Street is the miracle of hope being born in Doris and the lovely intangibles of God’s spirit coming into the world through a man called Kris Kringle. In the moive, Kris Kringle is the one who changes everything and when people believe in him their eyes and hearts are opened and they begin to live a new way. Kris Kringle is not just Santa Claus but the symbol of Jesus Christ because it is Jesus who changes everything and it is Jesus who brings hope into our world and the fruit of God’s spirit into our lives. Kris Kringle is the Christ Child and the name Kris Kringle actually means Christ Child.
The name Kris Kringle comes from the word Christkindlwhich means Christ Child. Let’s go back and take a quick look at the history of Santa Clause. The name Santa Claus comes from the words Saint Nicolas who was the Bishop of Myra in the 4th century. Nicholas was known for his secret gift giving and later became a saint of the church and his practice of giving gifts continued and people honored him by secretly giving gifts to others on the feast day given to him in December. One story I read about St. Nicholas was that he would take coins and hide them in stockings or pieces of cloth and toss them in open windows so that they would be found by chidlren in the morning. Now I understand why there was always a silver half dollar in the toe of my stocking every Christmas. Thanks Mom and Dad.
In the Dutch language, Saint Nicholas became Sinterklaas which became Santa Claus and the story of this gift giving man continued strong until the protestant reformation. Martin Luther thought too much focus was being given to the Saint and not to Jesus so he tried to shift the focus from Sinterklass to Christkindle or from Santa Claus to the Christ Child. Luther was trying to keep Christ in Christmas (sound familiar) and so Christkindlebecame the focus and in time that world became Kris Kringle.
So Kris Kringle is just another name for the Christ child and in the movie Kris Kringle is the symbol of Jesus Christ. In the movie, the first thing Kris did was change the values of the world by promoting love and putting children before greed. This is what Jesus did when he talked about love and grace coming before power and position. Jesus message was that the first will be last and the last shall be first and Jesus used a child to say this. This is what Kris was saying.
Kris could also see the potential and the good in people and worked to bring that potential out. He didn’t just do this for Doris, he changed the lives of Mr. Macy and Mr. Gimble and other retail leaders by changing the values of their business. This is what Jesus did as well. Jesus took fisherman and tax collectors and saw potential leaders who could change the world. Jesus saw value in widows, prostitutes and children and honored them with his time, love and blessing. Jesus changed hearts and he changed the values of the world.
It’s also clear to see Jesus in Kris Kringle when we look at how Kris was treated by the world. Some people thought Kris was crazy, just like the religious said of Jesus. Kris was false accused, just like Jesus. Kris went to trial, just like Jesus. Kris’ love changed people’s hearts, just like Jesus and his presence gave people hope – just like Jesus. Kris Kringle points us to Jesus Christ and so the movie is so much more than just a heartwarming story of a little girl and her mother, it is the gospel of Jesus Christ – it proclaims that hope comes when we aren’t ruled by common sense and reason alone but start to believe in the Christ Child.
As we begin this Advent season let’s ask ourselves who Kris Kringle is today. The simple answer to that is that we are. We are Kris Kringle. We are Santa Claus and St. Nicholas because we are the presence of the Christ Child in the world and we are the men and women whose life and love and faith needs to bring hope to others. When we live so close to God that his spirit dwells within us and the fruit of God’s spirit, or as Fred Gaily would say, the lovely intangibles of kindness, joy and love, are evident in our lives then we will be the light that will lead others into the fullness of life that is only found in Christ.
Without us being the presence of Jesus and bringing the light of Christ into the world, Christmas is just a season where we overindulge in food, candy, cookies and gifts but when allow Christ into our lives and through us into the world, this season is one of hope and possibility. Will we be Kris Kringle, the Christ Child and during these next four weeks help turn things around? The Miracle on 34th Street begins on Thanksgiving Day and ends on Christmas Eve and a lot happened during those 4 weeks. A lot can still happen in four weeks. A lot can still happen if we will give ourselves to being the light of Christ. Let the miracle of hope continue in us and in this season of Advent.
Miracle on 34th Street
1. Each day this week, allow the light of God’s word to shine into your life. Reflect on how hope is seen in these passages.
• Hebrews 11:1-6
• Isaiah 9:2-7
• Luke 1:5-20
• Luke 1:26-38
• Luke 1:36-45
• Matthew 1:18-25
2. Galatians 5 says the fruit of God’s spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. In what way do these lovely intangibles guide your view of the world? Which fruit do you need to ask God to bring forth in your life? Ask God to do that during this Advent Season.
3. Identify at least 4 ways you and your family can be Kris Kringle (the Christ Child) over the next four weeks. Let these goals guide your plans and activities leading up to Christmas.