Christmas Movies: A break from the chaos

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Curling up with popcorn in front of the TV can be a valuable and surprisingly faith-filled tradition during the holidays.

By Guest Blogger Paul Jarzembowski

This winter has been especially brutal, adding more anxiety to an otherwise stressful holiday season. But there is one way that my wife Sarah and I love to find a moment of peace amidst the chaos: our favorite Christmas movies. 

We all probably have a few films that we love to see around Christmas. Movies are two-hour excuses for us to slow down, dim the lights, grab a tub of hot popcorn, and escape into another world for a short while. But just as Moses found God in the flickering light of a burning bush, I have found that God often calls out to me through my favorite movies. 

"Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden," says Jesus, "and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). When I feel buried in the snow and winter pressures, a holiday film is often the rest God has in store for me.

When I watch "A Christmas Story" (1983), I am reminded of my mom and dad and the nostalgia of Christmas past. As a child, like little Ralphie, I was more open to the wonder of the season—and this movie challenges me to be more aware and more appreciative of the world around me today.

When I see "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946), I better understand that every life is sacred—and that removing just one person has incredible after-effects. In the rush of the holidays, it is easy to recall loved ones while ignoring strangers and acquaintances. But "Wonderful Life" reminds me to cherish each person and every encounter, no matter how insignificant they might seem in my life.

When I pull out my well-used copy of "White Christmas" (1954), not only do I remember my grandparents who fought in and lived during World War II, I also see that every relationship in life, from family to friends to colleagues, is based in good communication and genuine respect. 

When "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965) comes on television each year, I most definitely recall "what Christmas is all about," as Linus so innocently says—that Christ was born in poverty, among the poorest of shepherds (like the poorest of "Charlie Brown Christmas Trees"), to show us that "whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me" (Matt. 25:40).   

And sometimes a good Christmas movie reminds me to laugh and smile a little more. With all its burdens, life can get really serious, really fast. So a romp with "Elf" (2003), an adventure with "The Santa Clause" (1994), a trip to "Holiday Inn" (1942), or a visit to the Griswolds for "Christmas Vacation" (1989) offers me a chance to experience Christmas more like Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning than Scrooge on Christmas Eve. 

In that spirit, pun intended, I look forward to a visit from the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future once more this year over a nice hot tub of buttered popcorn. I hope you might find them, too. Merry Christmas!


Guest blogger Paul Jarzembowski is the Executive Director of the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association and the Diocesan Director of Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Joliet. He is also a writer and presenter on a number of topics, including the intersection of faith and film. He blogs about movies at Spiritual Popcorn.

Read more blogs about Advent and Christmas traditions at uscatholic.org/advent. Submit a guest blog to onlineeditor@uscatholic.org. We may put this together into a holiday theme Meditation Room for the magazine next year. Any reflections selected for publication will win $50!

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.