I can’t for the life of me figure out why otherwise sane Christian friends of mine didn’t care much for Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas. I finally watched it and, I feel free to admit, I liked it quite a bit.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the blockbuster of the century, but it was far better than the blockheads who busted on it have let on.
After all the negative reviews I read of Saving Christmas, I expected Kirk and director Darren Doane to have laid a huge egg—and epic, titanic, eggnog- and tinsel-laced failure. But it is the reviewers who failed—largely because they just don’t get it. The movie is about one thing: celebrating Christ’s kingship and rule over all of creation: every single detail. It is about celebrating not so much just Christmas, but all of life, according to Paul’s teaching: “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). And the emphasis here is on celebration.
Let’s be honest: the vast majority of the negative reviews came from two quarters: angry atheists and a handful of Christians beset by fears of paganism (a tiny few because of the so-called regulative principle of worship—but these are negligible imo).
I understand a bit how a large segment of the viewing populace of evangelicals, however, could have been upset and confused by the film, too. I suspect many could have been drawn in by the timely title “Saving Christmas” and thought this was about bashing those godless liberals who have destroyed the sacred season with the blasphemous phrase “Happy Holidays.”
Such people would rightly have been disappointed that there were no appearances by the Hannity-O’Reilly industrial complex, and would rightly have smarted from the conscious realization that much of the theological lessons taught actually convicted their denuded conceptions of “Bible,” “God,” “Jesus,” and “Church.” But I admit, such assumptions about conscious realizations do, indeed, assume such people are conscious.
Beyond the category of mere sheeple, there are those pious fundamentalists—the number of whom once included me—who crusade against pagan holidays being “adopted” into Christian life. I have to admit, I was once—influenced by the marginal teachings of Garner Ted Armstrong on Halloween—among this fold, and I understand its bleat.
But it is wrong, for reasons I have begun to explain here. At the very least, those who complain of the “adoption” of pagan practices might ought to stop and think how God has first “adopted” pagans themselves (John 1:12–13; Eph. 1:5; 2 Cor. 6:8; Gal. 4:7; for starters)—that is, these people themselves. If God can indeed adopt pagans and make them holy and sanctified, surely He can “adopt” and sanctify their eating, drinking, singing, dancing, giving, and whatever we do for His glory. At the very least, I don’t think He feels threatened by it.
Atheist and liberal attacks aside (and assumed, btw), the finer point of this movie is that it is Christians more often than not who denude good hearty Christian celebration through their Pharisaism and groundless naysaying. For such holier-than-thous Kirk has great advice: “Sometimes you have to be humbled, like a little child, to get the right perspective on Christmas.”
It is indeed difficult to out-Christian your neighbor over pine-needles when the true measure is actually peace and humility.
For those who decry “pagan” traditions, the movie’s point is that all the pagan traditions are petty and pointless—but so are all “Christian” traditions, if we do not recognize the true greatness of the sovereignty of Christ over all. Kirk breaks through the pseudo-spirituality: “We need to make traditions of our own. We need to infuse old symbols with new meaning. We need to rearrange our lives and our homes so that every single thing points to Jesus.”
And what is this, except to say we should obey God in every area of life—even when we rejoice and make merry?
And it’s a great move for family relations, as well. How often do you see real manliness, in which a jerk of a husband humbly repents and actually apologizes to his wife? Not many. But this one has it.
And it should. For, as Kirk points out, “Christmas is ultimately, after all, about making all things right.” That’s right. Despite some regulative-type Christians desperately decrying what Christmas should not be, and liberals off in who-knows-where la-la-land, Christmas is actually about a God who becomes man, in the flesh, in the real world—not just in the human condition, but in the most humble and dejected of it—is killed by it, and yet rises again to redeem it—that is, to make set things right.
If this creation is so good that it is worth such a God becoming part of and dying for, then it ought to be at least as good as to partake in and celebrate in His honor and glory.
Some critics found the beginning of the movie slow. I’ll second that to a degree—but the rest will make up for it. Some found too much dancing and boisterous celebration at the end. Humbug. Kirk is exactly right when he says we should have as big a celebration as we can comfortably afford. Go for it! God would have us rejoice with trumpets if we have them.
One Christian critic had some very harsh words for the movie—on style-points at least—but I found these points to be majoring on minors. Despite that, however, the same critic noted the following in fairly powerful praise:
The explanation of the history of St. Nicholas was helpful and fairly well done. The explanation of the nativity scene was spot on. Cameron’s explanation of the Christmas tree required a bit more artistic license to pull off but has an interesting point if you follow it through to the end of the movie. As I said, I think the message is good and my entire family was encouraged by it. . . .
This movie acts on these convictions when it states that (despite pagan claims to the contrary) Jesus actually exercises His Lordship over the Christmas observance. Producing such a movie and getting it into theaters is totally consistent with such a theology. Secularists hate that message because they hate Jesus. Christians hate that message because they like their pessimism, thank you very much.
So we know leftists will hate it, and we can be sure that some hard-core indy-fundy baptistic types will despite it, too. And many average evangelicals with their evangeli-glazed eyes will not get the point.
But for those who want to get a glimpse of the sovereignty of God, and the communicative power of biblical theology, will find Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas actually inspiring and uplifting—far beyond what both the Christian and secularist critics want you to believe, and reasonably so.
I remember an anecdote told after the Wilson-Hitchens debates and the subsequent movie Collision. Christopher Hitchens had been invited to dinner at Wilson’s house, and to tour the Wilsonite community in Moscow, ID. Far from the scorn his followers hoped, Hitchens actually complimented those true believers in Moscow: their women were the most beautiful he’d ever seen, and their families and people among the most genuinely happy.
Well, that’s the same people and the same community that made, and is in, Saving Christmas. It is literally the same people in this movie. And they are, literally, just as happy. They genuinely enjoy life. And it definitely comes through in their unabandoned, triumphant celebration of Jesus during Christmas.
It is enough to make one jealous—which probably stands behind some of the criticism, both secular and fundy alike. And both can—well, who cares? I’m with Kirk on this one.
As for the critics, they were once worthily characterized Hemmingway’s Old Man and the Sea as sharks whose only contributions to society are discarded, half-eaten, unrecognizable carcasses. The explanations of what happened, or why, gets lost in translation, and the ignorant tourists who would otherwise be impressed with a trophy remain unenlightened, clueless, because of the critics.
My recommendation: Saving Christmas is still playing in 180 theaters or so. Look one up in your area, and go see it. Or wait for DVD. But see it, nonetheless. The theological lessons alone are worth it.