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Adam R. Holz

Movie Review

Actor and outspoken Christian Kirk Cameron wants to save Christmas. But his movie Saving Christmas—part Sunday school lesson, part historical documentary, part skit vignette, part goofy dance-fest—may not be trying to save it from the folks you’d expect.

It includes a couple of references to what’s come to be known as the War on Christmas, that ongoing cultural skirmish between those who defend their constitutional right to celebrate Jesus’ birth boldly and those who don’t want Christian convictions encroaching on public or governmental turf in any way, shape or form. But Saving Christmas isn’t much about that subject at all, really.

Instead, Cameron’s interested in rescuing the cherished holiday’s expressions and manifestations—along with its core message about Christ’s birth—from well-meaning Christians. Namely, those who are earnestly convinced that traditions such as Christmas trees, gift giving and Santa Claus (among other things) detract idolatrously from the true Reason for the Season by diluting it with pagan and secular ideas and values.

Kirk’s onscreen brother-in-law, Christian, is exactly that kind of guy. His wife (played by Kirk’s real-life sister, Bridgette) longs for him to join in the festive spirit of the season as she throws a lavish party at their house. But he’s not having any of it. So as family and friends gather cheerily to talk and eat and dance and tell silly jokes, Christian sneaks off to his SUV in the driveway for a little peace and quiet already!

It’s a sour situation Kirk’s more than ready to remedy. And so he joins Christian in the car to deliver a pep talk about having such a grumpy, judgmental attitude. “Explain to me how that Christmas party honors and glorifies Jesus,” Christian grouses. “‘Cause I’m not seeing it.” And Kirk does just that. Before long he’s laying out his take on the Christian roots of our Christmas celebrations, complete with docu-drama flashbacks to narrate the historical tales.

Seasonal Subject 1: The Snow Globe Nativity

Christian says that the only symbol of Christmas in his party-happy house that focuses on Jesus is a snow globe Nativity scene. So that’s where Kirk begins, unpacking and retelling the story of Jesus’ birth in a way that directly links its setting and events to our Savior’s eventual death and resurrection. (Note that at one point we see stylized representations of Herod’s soldiers putting baby boys to death in Bethlehem, a scene that shows them raising and lowering their swords against a backdrop of flames and screams.)

Seasonal Subject 2: Those Pagan Christmas Trees

Now Kirk has Christian’s full attention as they veer away from Judea and toward the ancient European forests for a talk about trees. “News flash: Christmas trees are not in the Bible,” Christian says. Instead, they’re linked to pagan religions of the Norse peoples and the Druids. But we don’t have to think of it that way, Kirk counters. Instead, he walks Christian through a new way to see the trees in the forest by first entering the Garden of Eden (with its very special, symbolic fauna) and then ultimately climbing Golgotha to see the tree on which Christ hung.

Seasonal Subject 3: Scrambling Santa’s Legacy (And Name)

OK, Christian agrees. Maybe Christmas trees aren’t so pagan after all. But surely Santa Claus is a problem, right? “That’s the guy, Santa, that’s obliterated Jesus,” Christian fumes. “Jesus is gone. The reason for the season is Santa Claus. Santa, Satan. Same letters. Coincidence?!” Of course Kirk’s ready for that one, too. And he tells Christian the real story of Saint Nicholas, the man who was the Bishop of Myra in what’s now Turkey. The man who cared for the poor and gave gifts to children. The man who played a key role in standing up to the heretic Arius at the critical First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The man who was “a real defender of the faith.”

Seasonal Subject 4: Embracing Materialism?

After Kirk convinces his brother-in-law that perhaps it’s time to apologize for his bah-humbugedness to his longsuffering wife, there still remains one issue that Kirk has not addressed: Christmas being overrun by materialism. And as Christian plunges (literally and merrily) back into the party, we’re told that he should look at the presents under the tree not as a materialistic sell-out, but as something we could choose to see from a redemptive perspective.

“Don’t buy into the complaint about materialism at Christmas,” Cameron says. “Sure, don’t max out your credit cards or use presents to buy friends. But remember, this is a celebration of the eternal God taking on a material body. So it’s right that our holiday is marked with material things. Things we can see with our eyes and touch with our hands and look upon. Ribbons, decorations, hot chocolate, lights, presents, giant hams, stuffing, fudge, Christmas cards and more hot chocolate, piled high with whipped cream.”

A bit too breezy and accepting in a culture that’s already consumed with self-gratification? Probably. But celebrating the birth of Christ with material things is totally appropriate, Cameron argues, because Jesus Himself entered our material world and gave us His life—and through it eternal life—the ultimate gift.

This brief movie’s bottom line? “We need to make traditions of our own,” Kirk declares. “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.”

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Adam R. Holz

After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.