"Sure, don't max out your credit cards," Kirk says. "But remember, this is a celebration of the eternal God taking on a material body. So it's right that our holiday is marked with material things."
Say what? Oh, how I wanted to love this movie. I want to love every Christian movie. I want every Christian movie to prove to the world that Christian movies can tell an awesome story AND be entertaining AND glorify God at the same time...and yet...many fall short.
Enter Saving Christmas.
I want to say upfront that I got the chance to preview this film in my home before it was released in theaters. I also want to add that I got the chance to be part of an awesome phone conference call with Kirk Cameron himself about the movie, and his life, and his family's traditions, and I liked so many of the things he had to say. But I would be remiss if I let that wonderful experience sway me from being balanced in this review, so will be nothing but fully honest about my thoughts on Saving Christmas.
Before I go any further, here is the official "blurb" about the movie, in case you don't know much about it:
This Christmas, have your family join with Kirk Cameron’s family and dive headfirst into all the joy, dancing, celebration, feasting, imagination, and traditions that glorify the true “reason for the season.” KIRK CAMERON’S SAVING CHRISTMAS is an engaging story that provides a biblical basis for our time-honored traditions and celebrations, and the inspiration to stand strongly against a culture that wants to trivialize and eliminate the faith elements of this holy season. So take in the splendor; take in the majesty; take in the story. Take it all in… and let’s put Christ back in Christmas! KIRK CAMERON’S SAVING CHRISTMAS is in theaters for a limited engagement beginning November 14 for two weeks only!
The general story line is that Kirk (who plays himself) is at a Christmas party at his sister's house. Her husband is having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year, and in fact ends up leaving the party and sitting in the car. Kirk seeks him out, and as the brother-in-law protests about the materialism of the "stuff" and the paganism of the symbols, Kirk provides "Biblical" basis for them to show his brother-in-law that those things really DO "belong" in our Christmas celebration.
His brother-in-law is converted, regrets his bah-humbug ways, and joins the party. He caps it off with an elaborate dance number to show he really "gets it" now.
Soooooo...this is what I thought. I thought parts of it were brilliant. I thought parts of it weren't. I thought a lot of the explanations were huge leaps, which is unfortunate, because they then cast doubt on the factual things for people who don't know their history well. And I think that presented differently, presented as "this is how you CAN explain these things" instead of this is how they are Biblically justified would have really, REALLY been a more accurate way to do it.
So let me give you some examples.
The first symbol they tackle is the nativity, which really, I think, no one questions is a natural part of the holiday celebration. The brother-in-law is jaded by the fact that the one true symbol of Jesus's birth is cast to the side to make room for all the other things. Instead of addressing that specific concern, Kirk goes into a cool "make you think in a way you haven't before" story about how Jesus was wrapped in swaddling cloth at birth and then again at death. Interesting concept? Yes. Does it have anything to do with the nativity not being front and center of the family Christmas celebration? Nope.
Then there's the tree. This was a HUGE leap to me. Ask some Christians, and they'll tell you, unashamedly, that the Christmas tree comes from pagan roots. Others will tell you what I always was told-that Martin Luther was taking a walk one snowy evening, saw an evergreen with snowy boughs and the starlight sparkling through them, and was so struck by the beauty that he went home and cut down a tree and brought it inside his house. He used candles as lights, and voila, the first decorated Christmas tree was born. Either way (explained here), that's not Kirk's explanation. He says they are Biblical. That Christmas trees have their root in the trees in Genesis-the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. And that the first Christmas tree (and this is where he lost me, and I couldn't go back and get the quote because I was watching with my family and we could only watch it once) was the menorah in the temple? Except that the menorah was made of GOLD. He said something about it having fruit (like our trees have ornaments), but it didn't. It have cups shaped like almond flowers, and maybe that's what he meant? And then it had lights, obviously, being a menorah, like our trees have lights. There was also this thought process about the fruit that Adam stole in the garden being put back on the tree when Christ hung on the cross, but what that has to do with Christmas I do not know, unless the tree really does symbolizes the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Below is a quote from near the end of the movie where he talks more about the tree, and describes the presents around the tree as the skyline of the New Jerusalem and tree as the tree in the middle of the city, which I'm pretty sure is the Tree of Life, so it can't be the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, right? One analogy works or the other, but they can't both be true...they are two different trees...but I digress. Here's the quote:
So that quote? That's the redeeming value right there. If this movie presented these ideas, not as Biblical truth, but as ways of using the symbols and traditions we have today to tell the story of Jesus, THAT would be a more correct presentation of fact in my perspective. Nothing in the Bible says the lights on our Christmas trees ARE the stars announcing Jesus's birth, because nothing in the Bible even mentions US celebrating a holiday called Christmas, let alone decorating an evergreen tree for it. BUT, nothing is stopping us, as individual Christians, from telling our children, "See there lights? They remind us of the star that appeared over Bethlehem the night Jesus was born." Or, "They remind us that Jesus is the light of the world."
Another tradition the movie tackles is Santa. If you don't know the story of Saint Nicholas, he is indeed, on our side. And he is indeed the origin of Santa Claus. Go on, say Saint Nicholas as a Dutch or German immigrant...Sint Nik-lous (phonetically)...say it again...and again. He became Sante Claus here in the early 1800's. And then Santa Claus. So if that little tidbit is new to you, the movie provides much more detail about the life of Saint Nicholas that might make Santa more palatable, if you find yourself in the anti-Santa camp.
So for that reason, I'd recommend Saving Christmas. It will make you think. Think of the why behind your holiday decorations and traditions. I'm not sure I'm drinking the Kool-Aid about all the justifications. In fact, I know I'm not. But I did come away with some good ideas for ways to put Jesus into, say, a nutcracker, that I had not thought of before. My husband thought the movie was boring and my teenage daughter left the room before it was over, so I want to be fair and say that as movies go, it's not super entertaining. It's informative, and unapologetic, and I think it is heavy handed on the "materialism is not a bad thing" message because all this stuff is just stuff and it's storing up treasures where thieves and rust can destroy, and I love hot cocoa as much as the next person, but I don't need special mugs with reindeer on them to drink it out of just because my Savior took material form. So when I say the movie will make you think, it will make you think about the things you agree with, the things you disagree with, and the things you never thought of before. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as too often today, our entertainment doesn't challenge us to think at all, but do your homework-search the scriptures and know them for yourself so that you can take what works for you and what is "sound", and leave the rest.
Saving Christmas opens November 14th for a 2 week limited engagement in theaters across the country. You can find Saving Christmas on Facebook or see what theaters it's playing at on Saving Christmas's website.
And now...the GIVEAWAY! This one is awesome. I want the CD!!! You guys are so lucky.
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