"Reel Christmas": Affirming the Eternity Cast Among Us

“Reel Theology”
is the name we have given
to an exploration of
sacred themes across
a wide spectrum of films.
“Cinema Divina,”
I have referred to it elsewhere.  Other titles
that come to mind include “Seeing God at the Movies” and “Focused Discussions
at the Intersection of
Hollywood and Divine.”
(It was the focus, in fact, of our Epiphany 2020 issue of RuminationsClick here to view.)

Fr. Alan Jones’ voice is just one of many before me — giving explanation to this powerful and meaningful interplay between theology and spiritual formation… and the stories being told all around us:

We live, however, in a time when the stories of our longing are being forgotten. They still have the power to move us, but we don’t know how to allow them to change us, to heal us, to give us new life. For example, the musical version of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Miserables enjoyed great commercial success on both the London and New York stages. It is a wonderful story about the meaning of our longing. It speaks to our ache for reconciliation and resurrection. In fact, it is deeply Christian. When my family and I saw it, people were in tears, and there was a standing ovation.  But I couldn’t help wonder how many of the audience recognized the story’s origins and connected it with what goes on in our churches Sunday by Sunday.  (Alan Jones, Passion for Pilgrimage, p. 1-2)

The Gospel, you see, is the primal metanarrative — the fundamental expression of the “Hero’s Journey” — from which all lesser stories garner their fiber and spirit and ethos and power.

for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his…
[shining] through the features of men’s faces
(and frames projected all around).  [cf, Hopkins, “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”] 

Yes, earth is crammed with heaven
and every screen burns bright with glory and truth. [cf, Browning, “Aurora Leigh”]

In years past, it has inspired
“Reel Christmas” — a review of holiday favorites with an eye and heart the deeper themes and stories they convey.
               A Charlie Brown Christmas,
            How the Grinch Stole Christmas,
                     It’s a Wonderful Life
(hey, go ahead and throw in Elf,
any number of Hallmark movies…
even Die Hard):  could they be favorites precisely for the ways they communicate core, timeless themes of our existence — appealing to the deepest longings and yearnings of the eternity set in our hearts?

I would love to have you enter the conversation here…
  • let’s discuss the deeper themes and messages of any of the films I’ve identified above
  • what films would you add?  and why?  what deeper and eternal themes do you perceive in them?

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