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How Hallmark Misses the Mark

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It started early this year. October hadn’t even ended. Everyone was still shoring up candy and trying to decide what costumes their kids would wear for Halloween. I think the temperature here in Alabama was still somewhere in the 80s. But not on the Hallmark channel. Nope, by October’s end, Hallmark was in full Countdown-to-Christmas swing, airing the first of 37 new Christmas films for the year, and fans across America were cozied up on their couches, movie checklist app freshly downloaded, Bingo cards in-hand, hot chocolate steaming in a Christmas mug within reach, eating. It. up. And where was I? Well, I was right there with them!

This year, the buzz around these films seems bigger than ever. But why? I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had (usually with men) regarding just what it is about these movies that’s so appealing. “They’re cheesy.” “They all end the same.” “Hasn’t that same guy been in, like, 18 other movies just this year?”

Well, yes. We don’t keep our televisions on one of the now two movie channels for a solid two months because we’re expecting the next Citizen Kane. Over the last few years, I’ve seen approximately 867 Hallmark Christmas movies (give or take). I could cue the almost-kiss-interrupted-by-the-phone moment in my sleep. So why do we keep coming back for more? Why did I record “Christmas Joy,” “The Christmas Card,” “Christmas in Evergreen,” and “Christmas with Holly” all in the same week?

In some ways, the motivation is rooted in good desires. After all, these movies are a breath of fresh air in the midst of an increasingly dark, explicit, graphic, and often “progressive” entertainment selection. We are relentlessly bombarded with images, sounds, and stories that sear our hearts. Then comes the balm of 24/7 movies that, for the most part, are clean and wholesome. You don’t have to worry about quickly changing the channel during an explicit scene or covering your child’s ears if someone uses foul language. Every movie ends happily. Everyone’s in love. Everyone’s satisfied and fulfilled in their jobs. Everyone likes Christmas again. The town is saved. Hope is restored. And it’s snowing—it’s always snowing.

These movies are usually about relationship restoration and hope. They consistently value tradition and a simpler, deeper, less materialistic celebration of the season. Sounds pretty good, right?

Well, yes and no. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying a good, festive, family-friendly Christmas movie. But we need more than sentimental feelings to find something worth celebrating this Christmas season.

We often look forward to Christmas for the nostalgia. The decorations. The songs. The time with family. The opportunity to give to those you love. But is that enough? Is that why Christ came? Is saving the town, finding love, and connecting with your inner-child the ultimate Good News of advent, of the coming of Immanuel, “God with us”? As Christians, we celebrate an eternal hope at Christmas. God has made a way for relationship restoration, not just with estranged family or long lost loves, but with Himself! And He did this by coming to us in the flesh. God with us. God with us 2,000 years ago in the person of His Son, for the purpose of God with us now and forevermore. That is the miracle of Christmas.

And isn’t that good news? It’s good news because the reality is, Christmas here on earth isn’t always like it is in the movies. Sometimes relationships remain broken. Small family businesses don’t always survive. Dream jobs don’t always pan out. Single people stay single. The cancer doesn’t go away. So we cling to a hope that goes beyond an idealistic Norman Rockwell Christmas setting. We cling to the hope represented in Christ’s coming. Christ—the Man of Sorrows who was acquainted with grief (Is 53:3) and is able to sympathize with our weaknesses (Heb 4:15)—restores us to God. And in Him we hope during the Christmas season and all year long.

Mandy Hewitt serves on the Engagement Team at Radical. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama, where she disciples teen girls in the youth ministry at her local church.
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