Thursday, November 29, 2007
Looking for something to do last weekend, Marcia and I went to see the one movie playing in the one theater in our town. It was Fred Claus. We knew we were not going to see a Christmas classic in the making. And it wasn't, but it was better than expected with some decent acting - certainly not their best work - by Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti. Vaughn plays the prodigal son of the Claus family who hates his brother because he was Mother's favorite. But one year as Christmas gets close Fred gets into some financial trouble and needs his brother's help. So he heads up to the North Pole to work with the elves on the Christmas rush. Without giving anything away, Fred saves Christmas. The film is not going to win any awards for its script or special effects or soundtrack but my wife said it had cute sets. It is a typical Christmas season release making the most of the familiar seasonal themes of our cultural celebration of Christmas. There is no mention of Christ or the church. Until the end when Christmas has been saved and all the children have the special gift they asked Santa for and scenes of happy families are shown around the tree basking in the warm glow of what we expect Christmas to be. Except, as the scenes of happy families on Christmas morn are shown the music abruptly changes from secular mellowness to Silent Night, Holy Night. It was jarring. The Holy Infant so tender and mild suddenly inserted into this scene. It was as if he was blessing this celebration of consumerism. In the midst of this totally secular display of Xmas, Christ is thrown in too. I was shocked. I don't know if anyone else noticed. At least, there was no booing. Then, I wondered why I was so shocked. This is what Christmas is today. Christ is shoehorned into our cultural celebrations. Gift giving is the main thing. We are all trying to recreate those warm family moments around the tree. Those are not bad things. Families are desperate for those intimate times. It is good to consider the needs ( or wants) of others and give of ourselves to them. But what I most took from that stunning moment in the film was that even a secular Christmas celebration needs more than a Claus or two. It needs Christ. Claus - Santa or Fred - cannot carry Christmas. We need Christ to save Christmas even when we have Fred.