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At Christmas, It's All About the Magic of Redemption

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 2:02 PM in ,
This is the time of year when you think that people will hang out with friends and family, eat too much shortbread cookies (all right, that’s probably just me) and drink a little too much wine or whiskey with our holiday dinners. Yet many of us will use television as a form of family entertainment after a big meal to kick back and enjoy the Christmas spirit, and what will we watch?

In the next twenty-four hours there are three movies that are going to be repeated on several channels: It’s a Wonderful Life, Scrooge (A Christmas Carol), and Miracle on 34th Street. Why are these three films repeated year after year on Christmas Eve? I think it’s all about what Christmas has come to mean in our secular Western society, the opportunity to have a second chance. Without question, this is many steps away from the kind of redemption that is implicit in the religious significance of the Christmas holiday for people of the Christian faith. Yet Christmas has been adopted as a winter holiday by people all over North America, and like it or not, when people celebrate the holiday, folks choose to look past the gift-giving to another purpose whether it’s a time for being with loved ones, showing an annual social conscience by giving to the poor, or looking to the hope of peace on Earth and good will towards all men and women.

Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which was adapted into the film, Scrooge in 1951 with Alistair Sims as Ebenezer Scrooge, is all about redemption. As Scrooge is forced to review his life, he realizes that if he doesn’t change his ways, he will die alone with no one to mourn him and no one to say a kind word about him. Through magic, The Three Ghosts of Christmas manage to bring about a serious change of heart in Scrooge who becomes a real benefactor to the Cratchit family, and who most importantly, saves Tiny Tim’s life.

It’s A Wonderful Life, Frank Capra’s masterpiece of 1946 and once called “the best film to never win an Oscar,” tells a similar story, but in reverse. George Bailey is a very good man who always sacrifices his dreams for the good of others. When his uncle foolishly loses a bank deposit, putting George in danger of going to jail, George regrets all that he has done. He is about to end his life when a rather clumsy angel, Clarence, uses magic to help George see how important his sacrifices have been, and what a poorer place his community would have been if he had never lived. Once again, a supernatural intervention takes place through the auspices of Christmas to bring about a sincere change of heart.

A Miracle on 34th Street has two versions, one made in 1947 and a re-make in 1994. If you’ve never watched the old version, give that one a try as I find that it has a certain magic lacking in the modern one. There are some very tough messages in this one about faith for a secular society. Santa’s magic is on trial and the judge and jury are really an unbelieving single mother and young daughter. Yet in this film, the magic is much more subtle – is it magic or just a set of coincidences? The viewer is left to make up his or her own mind. For those of us who want to believe in magic, there’s just enough evidence to help us out.
If you want to believe that people can change, that the world can change, these three Christmas classics will help you convince that doubting Thomas uncle of yours that there is magic in the world, and that this magic is more likely to take place around December 25th. To all readers of The Record, I wish you all the joy and magic of the holiday season and then some.

Times and Channels: A Christmas Carol/Scrooge, CTV, Friday night at 11:30; It’s a Wonderful Life, Friday night, NBC at 8:00; A Miracle on 34th Street (1994), Friday night, CBC, 8:00. CBC will air the 1947 version on Saturday night at 11:00 PM.

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