Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas Actually

Ok so I'm doing the Bridget Jones-esque pre Christmas viewing of Love Actually accompanied by Lebkuchen and brandy and trying to work out whether it is an excellent film or a terrible one. Of course when we watch a film we often seek a character with whom we canidentify. So which one is more like me?

Well one of them seems a kinda obvious choice because she is named Sarah (she has a crush on some gorgeous foreign guy - named Carl I think). Then there's the writer hiding himself away from the world and typing his book (at a French villa with an amazing view - if only). The ever so caring Emma Thompson who is marvellously matter of fact and full of down to earth wisdom (I wish!). I think the young people I work with might suggest that I'm like Hugh Grant as the prime minister - well when he's dancing badly anyway! I rather like the boundless optimism of Colin Frizzell heading off to Wisconsin to find his perfect mate (especially the fact that is works out in the most LUDICROUS way possible!)

Yet in many ways I wish that I were more like the youngest character in the film. I think the film really reflects the words of Jesus challenging all of us to become like children if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven. Many people find this concept a little strange but as someone who works with young people, I think I know that what it means. Jesus' message surely is that we need to return to that simple, honest wisdom that young people can possess. Sam has what Ian described as the best line in the film:

"What could be worse than the total agony of being in love?"

The film is very much about that kind of love... romantic love. Well at least it is on the surface. Beneath the soppy love stories and passions of forbidden office romance, the film talks a lot about the love of family and of friends and it is this LOVE, actually, that I think is the real hidden treasure of this film. Emma Thompson's love for her children and brother as well as her wayward husband is a splendid example of selfless devotion. The relationship between bereaved stepfather Daniel and his stepson Sam is just wonderful and a great example of work with young people that pushes the boundaries. The friendship between Billy Mack and his life long friend and manager is a fabulous example of enduring love not only despite people's foibles but in fact because of them. This is the greatest example of love in the film for me; an enduring faithful, through-it-all kind of love. The fact that it is not a romantic love is good news for those of us who are single. It reminds me of the wonderful love of my friends and family. It is also contrasted rather clearly with Alan Rickman's evident lack of fidelity to his wife. No scene compares to that dreadful image of Emma Thompson being oh so together and then bursting into tears in the bedroom before returning to being the perfect wife and mother.

The other curious thing is that the film talks a lot about Christmas being a time when we tell the truth and a time to be with the people we love. Now much as both of these are excellent sentiments, as I was discussing with our lay reader last week, neither is the TRUE message of Christmas. Maureen had heard about one of the many schools that was not doing a nativity this year. One of the teachers defended the decision saying that they had, of course, focussed on loving each other "which is what Christmas is all about." Well, in fact, no, it's not. Loving each other isn't THE message of Christmas. The message of Christmas is that God gives us SALVATION because God loves us. The coming of Christ is not a lovely little story about a baby and everyone being smiley. The coming of Christ is the continuing story of God's plan for the world and the offering of God's son as an example of selfless service and sacrifice to secure the world's redemption. So Love, actually, is not what Christmas about. It is about welcoming Christ into the world and welcoming Christ into our lives. The schmaltzy song near the end of the film says it all (though not as it means to!)

I don't want a lot for Christmas,
There's just one thing I need,
I don't care about the presents
underneath the Christmas tree
I just want you for my own
more than you could ever know
make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is You.

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