It began around Thanksgiving, I think, about the time that the major TV networks shifted gears for the holiday season and loaded up their schedule with re-runs and the familiar list of holiday specials. Hallmark unleashed on an unsuspecting nation a stream of Christmas movies and holiday love stories that seems endless. Well, OK… maybe the entire nation wasn’t unsuspecting, but I certainly was. Hallmark has two separate channels! Did you even know that? Who would imagine that there could possibly be enough Christmas stories and movies to fill up that much broadcast time? The whole thing reminds me of those bugs that stay buried until a certain time of year, and you have no idea they even exist until suddenly they’re everywhere. I had no clue that there were so many different Christmas movies! Or that so many different movies could emerge from so few plots, themes, and story lines. I think it would have helped, though, if the casting folks had had a bullpen more overflowing with candidates for the leading roles. But you can’t have everything. In any case, Hallmark has at least provided a temporary diversion from the usual scenery in TV’s barren mental wasteland, and millions are apparently watching. I find the whole thing intriguing.
In watching these stories unfold, anyone not currently in a coma would notice that there’s a pattern. I never suspected that there were so many successful and intelligent, not to mention attractive, people who seem to find themselves embroiled in relationships that are as doomed as a manger scene on public land in San Francisco. Some of these hapless characters have even gotten themselves engaged already—rings on fingers, wedding plans in process and everything, yet they remain totally clueless that they’re about to hook up for life with an emotional invalid, whose ‘Grinchy’ heart is at least three sizes too small. You might wonder how that could happen. We learn that a reasonably normal woman can be matrimonially blind-sided because her self-centered love interest pops the question at an awkward time in the midst of a social gathering, because he wants to be applauded by the crowd. She, of course, is left momentarily stunned and unable to formulate the simple phrase, ‘not in this lifetime’. Thus, she’s trapped, but determined to make the best of it, because though he’s a jerk, he’s also wealthy and cute – and the compatibility scores seem to work.
Queue the unexpected, pressure-packed, mandatory trip away from the big insensitive city to some provincial little town with a weird name.
All the townsfolk in the new venue fairly exude a kind of old-fashioned, ‘down-home-ness’ about absolutely everything, especially Christmas. Though they have cell phones and microwaves, for some reason they all still buy live trees, and for some inexplicable reason, many of them wait until Christmas Eve to put them up. Though the practice is clearly insane, none of the characters ever points that out. I don’t understand that oversight. Anyhow, the town and the folks in it highlight virtually every positive quality that big city life, and the girl’s romance-challenged boyfriend, lack.
Queue the town’s remarkably gifted, self-assured, sensitive, insightful, cuter-than-most boyfriends, not to mention also a single ‘Renaissance man’, and wrap him into a confluence of vital circumstances that requires the two of them to endure unavoidable periods of time in awkwardly close contact.
We quickly discover that that Renaissance man also had a ‘significant other’ once, but she’s not around anymore. Some kind of heartbreaking, Christmas related episode took them apart, and he’s never really gotten over it. Perhaps she dumped him on Christmas Eve because he refused to shave his perennial two-day growth of beard and she got tired of feeling like she was making out with a Brillo pad. Or maybe she died in some strange and tragic holiday accident, like somebody mistakenly putting the family explosives in a Christmas ornaments box and laying it too close to the fireplace. Either way, he’s unattached, but saddled with relationship issues and a Christmas appreciation deficiency. In spite of all their assorted baggage, and the fact that they don’t like each other at first, they begin to engage in intimate conversation as cupid digs around for another arrow and goes to work.
Queue the remaining ingredients for the Christmas love miracle—a romance-wrecking crisis, a heart-breaking confrontation, and a last-minute epiphany that their earlier relationships were a tragic parody of what ‘true love’ really is. Then there’s the mad dash against the clock through the snow—or the traffic—or the crowd, to catch the broken-hearted lover who’s about to disappear forever. And, finally…, que the kiss they’ve been working toward for days, punctuated, of course, by lots of satisfied smiles and fake snowflakes. Ahhh… true love at last!
Forgive me for having a little fun at Hallmark’s expense, and I do realize that their movies don’t always follow these same pattern, but there’s something here we need to see. What every Christmas love movie makes abundantly clear is something that Jesus highlighted with His coming. The blessing of the true is never achieved through contact with the counterfeit. It is always the other way around. The Hallmark love story’s consistent lesson is that it is only through personal exposure to ‘true’ love, and the ‘real’ meaning of Christmas that the empty, superficial imposters are exposed for what they are. Once the characters abandon the counterfeit and invest some quality time exploring the real thing, they realize that those external ‘ornaments’ in relationships, no matter how appealing they might appear, can never deliver what they promise. The counterfeit always leaves the heart empty, regardless of how full the life might appear on the surface. Not a bad lesson, even if the same actors and actresses have to re-learn it night after night.
Maybe if we all hang in there, and if we invest some quality time with Jesus instead of Santa Claus and Amazon, by New Year’s we’ll learn to stop promoting a Christmas love that is neither ‘true’, nor ‘real’. Now … ‘that’ would be a Hallmark Christmas miracle for sure.
© 2015 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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