Last weekend, we watched Joyeux Noel with Anna Kate and Nate which told a story I first heard from Greg Thompson at UVa. On Christmas Eve 1914, during World War One, several units of French, Scottish, and German troops ceased fire and came out of the trenches to sing together and hold Mass in no man’s land. The truce extended to Christmas day with soccer games and exchanges of food, drink, addresses, etc.
Recommended (especially if you’re trying to get a guy to watch a Christmas movie). Left me with a sense of both the emotional horror of war and the redemptive nature of Christmas.
Anna Kate or Nate (they’re one person, after all!) noted a unusual feel to this plot trajectory– instead of conflict throughout ultimately leading to a standard climax and happy-ending resolution, the good feelings came in the middle of the movie as the soldiers celebrated with each other. Then, instead of the falling action and denouement providing relief and tying up loose ends, we watched painful consequences unfold for the officers and soldiers after their humane, peaceful act. (I just looked up these literary terms up in wikipedia to be sure, and it told me that in the denouement, “conflicts are resolved, creating normality for the characters and a sense of catharsis, or release of tension and anxiety, for the reader” –or viewer, in our case. And this certainly was not the case for the film.)
I think this pattern can speak to our experience of celebrating Christmas today. We’re trying to celebrate a past event by giving and sharing love with others, while living still in a very imperfect world. Even though Christ’s coming was beautiful and redemptive, we’re still waiting for his return and complete redemption. As Christmas approaches, I’ve spoken to many people who are trying not to jump the gun by celebrating before it’s here (nearly impossible!), and getting to that place of expectant waiting requires a lot of effort. The already-not yet tension is part of life throughout the year, but we can really feel it during Advent and Christmas.
But about the movie, a heavy subject (war) and poignant, cry-worthy Christmas feelings are nicely tempered by humor, especially using language barriers (always reliable humor, I’ve found in my own life!). A cat named Nestor AND Felix. Genius!
This reminds me that I read two of Anne Perry’s World War One novels this summer– great reads. Anything about “The Great War” is tragic and fascinating. I love historical fiction, and Perry’s books also offer a mystery/detective feel if that appeals to you.
As an aside, mom says that Four Christmases (just released, Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon) will NOT be a new Christmas classic, but it was worth a matinee. (She convinces Dad to go to movies like this because he just likes going to the theatre and eating popcorn.)
Another subject: today (December 12) is the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe (an iteration of the Virgin Mary), the patroness of the Americas in the Catholic Church. I’ve learned more about Guadalupe’s story in the past year or so and saw her image all over the place on our trip to Mexico, where she is kind of a national symbol. (I’ve been told that even if Mexicans aren’t Catholic, or very religious, they believe in Guadalupe.) I like her story because she uses Juan Diego, a poor and humble Indian, as the instrument to evangelize all of the New World. And flowers are involved– isn’t that a good teaser? She’s also a good example of the blend of European and native traditions that characterizes Mexico. Read her story here.
That is all. Go give to others, with flowers, and without prematurely celebrating Christmas and giving into commercialism!
Have a great weekend!
Happy birthday party, Sarah Whiting!
Happy Christmas banquet, Little Lights! (http://www.littlelights.org/ –Many good stories there.)