Dearly Beloved Friends: There will be no post next week as we celebrate Christmas Day. An audio recording of this blog post is on the website if you would like to listen. Paw-stor Isaac and I wish you a joy-filled Christmas!
‘Tis the season to watch certain movies. Have you ever whipped out Miracle on 34th Street on July 4th or It’s a Wonderful Life on Easter Sunday or How the Grinch Stole Christmas on the first day back to school? Neither have I. We describe such films as “timeless” because we associate them with a specific time of year.
I vividly remember seeing Home Alone in the movie theater at Christmas time. I was close to the age of the face-slapping, mobster-movie watching, thief-fighting Kevin McCallister. I laughed at all the physical comedy and smiled when the ending wrapped into a nice little Christmas bow.
Yet I appreciate Home Alone more as an adult than I did as a kid. Like Christmas Day itself, the movie comes around only once a year. Whether we call this season the “holidays” or “Christmas” or “Advent,” we have to admit that something special happens when movies like Home Alone play on repeat. Something different is going on. We slow down to look at Christmas lights on houses. Many of us finally get a day off from work. We take ornaments from an Angel Tree and shop for strangers. We may engage in the same traditions each year, but the passing of time sheds new light on those old traditions.
As I decorated my own house for Christmas a couple of weeks ago, I watched Home Alone (again). Before the clock strikes 8PM, the burglars’ expected arrival time, Kevin slips into a church where a choir sings “O Holy Night.” He barely sits down before his eyes meet those of Old Man Marley—the creepy neighbor who has frightened him throughout the film. Oh no! He’s in a church! Kevin is trapped! Here comes Old Man Marley! He’s getting closer! Kevin can’t scream! Too many exclamation points!
“May I sit down?”
The man’s gentle voice surprises us all—especially Kevin. As he converses with Kevin, we realize that Marley is the opposite of scary. He is sad. He is lonely. He is afraid.
When Marley tells Kevin that he hasn’t spoken to his son in years, Kevin advises him to call his estranged family. Marley admits that he’s afraid of what his son might say.
Kevin says, “No offense, but aren’t you a little old to be afraid?”
Marley says, “You’re never too old to be afraid.”
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion. Do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory. … (Zephaniah 3:16-17, New Revised Standard Version)
In a season where angels and prophets command us not to be afraid, the old man and the little boy remind us that we’re all afraid of something. Sitting side by side on a church pew, their salvation begins with this conversation. As Kevin overcomes his fear of Marley, Marley overcomes his fear of calling his son. Kevin saves Marley from his loneliness, and Marley goes on to save Kevin from the burglars.
What do you fear?
How do you feel weak?
Look around, and see the Savior in your midst. As Marley said, we’re never too old to be afraid. We’re also never too old to be saved from our fears.
Perhaps we’re all a little afraid of being ‘home alone.’ Yet when our home is in that Bethlehem stable, we can rejoice with the daughter of Zion that we will never be alone again.
May each of you, dear friends, experience the warm presence of Immanuel. God with us. Indeed, God is with us.
Merry Christmas, and all good things to each of you,