by Brad Nelson 11/14/17
There is nothing like the blessings of a comedian-atheist and a low-budget Christmas movie to put you in the spirit for Christmas.
Last night I watched The Christmas Candle, a low-budget Christmas special that deserves its 6.1 rating. The idea is good. The implementation was somewhat lacking. They even had Susan Boyle in this but didn’t use her well.
The general gist of this movie is that every 25 years a special Christmas Candle is miraculously anointed with the power to answer a prayer for whomever is given and lights the candle.
The legend of this candle is well-known in the small community of Gladbury, England. The husband and wife who are the chandlers are also the distributors of this special candle which appears amongst their normal batches.
This year a new “progressive” minister somewhat reluctantly comes out out of an early retirement to fill the vacancy in Gladbury. He has lost his faith due to this wife and child being taken by consumption. You don’t blame the guy. He’s not in the mood for believing in miracles although the town is all aflutter in anticipation of the 25 year period of the Christmas Candle falling this year.
The minister scoffs at the idea of miracles and the only thing he believes in are acts of kindness. To good effect, he is a benevolent influence on the local community who, coincidentally (and quite because of), all believe that they are the recipients of the Christmas Candle. You see, there was a mix-up in the candle factory and of the 30 candles produced in a special batch — one of which they knew was the miracle candle — got mixed up. So instead of just throwing in the towel, the husband-and-wife team of chandlers decide to distribute all thirty of them while prevaricating a bit as to whether or not the recipient was receiving the candle. But at least someone would get the real one.
Neighbor helps neighbor. A woman whose roof needs fixing gets her roof fixed. Another lady has her garden wall repaired. Good deeds are happening all over Gladbury. And, as it turns out, everyone who has been given a candle is very sure that a miracle has happened for them. A father is healed. Another gains sight on his death bed. Another gets the husband she prayed for. Etc.
Meanwhile, the minister attempts to modernize the church (substituting electricity for candle lighting) and fails miserably. He sets the place on fire. And at the end of the day, this somewhat wandering movie makes the point that hope is never far away, miracles do happen, and even faithless ministers can renew their faith. But it’s a bit of a mixed bag as far as the way this is all presented. It could have been good but the themes are intermixed and none play out to the fully-satisfying effect they could have.
But it’s good, clean fun. It’s difficult to say what the movie intends. But surely there is an essence wherein it notes that we are each other’s miracles (or curses) by the way we act toward each other. And, of course, it states that more “magical” miracles happen as well. It’s a bit of a mixed bag. But suffice it to say that the minister is the one who receives the candle, he uses it to good effect, and his faith in real miracles — not just good works — is restored. (He also ends up with the nice-looking young woman, which is absolutely zero surprise to anyone watching this type of production.)
And I thought the best aspect of the movie wasn’t the loss of faith by the minister, nor his attempt to replace it with “good works,” but that you could see something extra and behind acting through these good works. These were not the perfunctory “good works” of wearing a colored ribbon and “raising awareness for breast cancer” in some mass-walk-a-thon, although raising money for that is a good thing although I’m not sure that “awareness” and five cents will buy you a cup of coffee. In the case of the good people of Gladbury, something quite different was acting through them to give their good acts a status of more than just “good acts.” And all this theology is likely way beyond what this Christmas special intended. But you can read between the lines or make them us as you go along. The low budget doesn’t provide you with everything. You have to supply a little of your own.
Still, that theme was as least implicit, whether they were aware of it or not. And then this morning a comedian-atheist came to my office for a print-out of his resume. While printing it out, I was curious about what type of material he did in his stand-up act and asked him. He gave me a sample. One of the schticks he described was about what kind of am uncomfortable situation you’d be in if you were high or drunk and Jesus just happened to return. And the shtick was, “Hey, I know I’m behaving badly, Jesus. But you’re not the guy who can kill me. It’s the other guy [presumably the Father part of the Trinity] who can kill me. You’re the guy who gets killed.”
Imagine me feigning interest. I think I’m pretty good at it when I have a reason for doing so. He told me some more of his stuff. It went something like, “And another favorite part of my act is telling people that you can just subsitute the word ‘universe’ anytime you use the word, ‘God.’ You know, when you say, ‘God created the galaxies’ you could just instead say ‘The universe created the galaxies’ and it would be the same thing.”
Obviously at this point I’m rolling on the floor laughing out loud. And some part of me is now looking anew at the low-budget The Christmas Candle. It’s beginning to look a bit more like Casablanca. This other schtick is apparently the cutting-edge of what yutes find important and entertaining.
And at these times you realize just how far up you are when you look down at a hole that goes deep into the ground — so deep that you can’t see the bottom. You think you’re just normal, standing on flat earth, nothing special. But then you get an example of how it seems you’re actually walking on air. Perhaps this is an illusion made by the deep, dark black hole others stand in.
And, somehow, between the hokey Christmas special and the talentless atheist, that Christmas Spirit began to rise in me again. It usually does this time of year no matter how much I lose it for much of the rest of the year. They say God works in mysterious ways. Apparently so.
Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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