Since we are isolated and stuck inside during this Christmas season, I decided this year I was going to put together a list of of my favorite Christmas stories. The angle I took in putting this together is Christmas “pairings”, be it in book form or film. These are stories that seem to me to have a connection in spirit and focus, and which have inspired me over the years.
I have come up with 15 pairings of films/books in total, and my plan is to present those films one a day along with a brief reflection on why these stories resonated for me, how I see them fitting together, and what I think they can say to us in a more difficult Christmas season.
Here is my fifth pairing 🙂
J.T. (1969) and PRANCER (1989)
“Why did it have to happen?
It seems like life got a whole lot more questions than answers to it. You start out young asking questions and you end up old asking questions. And the puzzlement is, they most mostly the same question. There’s just a very few years in between where you think you got the answers that match up with the questions…
I just don’t understand. I don’t understand nothing.
What you gotta understand child is yourself, and that’s no easy matter.”
We are all born into a world full of questions and uncertainty. In J.T., we follow a young boy growing up with the uncertainty of a world of poverty and struggle. Likewise, in Prancer we follow a young girl facing the questions of her own darkness with the loss of her mother and possible seperation from her dad.
For young minds and old minds alike, the truth is life doesn’t make sense most of the time, and learning to live with the questions in the absence of answers is most of the battle.
What both of these film’s suggest though is that living with the questions means searching for the light. To keep asking the questions. This is what it means to hope. And for both of these young children, the most important questions to ask is of themselves. When everything seems dark, how can I be a light. And for both of these children, knowing the darkness at such a young age opens them up to hope in a powerful way, leading them to shine a light into the darkness through a simple act of compassion, an act of love. For the young boy in J.T., this act of compassion comes through helping a lost and homeless cat. For the young girl in Prancer, this act of compassion comes from her willingness and desire to help an injured reindeer. And in both cases this act of compassion becomes a way to believe that that there is light in this world, that there is hope. There is a powerful scene where the boy in J.T. reflects on the idea that the darkness does not need to be the final word. In Prancer, this young girl’s persistent faith in this reindeer flows out into the world as a beacon of trust in the idea that there is more than just the tragic stories of this world. In the tragedy we find beauty.
Christmas beckons us towards such a childlike faith. It shines a light on the idea that what we long for, what we hope for will one day come to fullness in the person and revelation of Christ. And it is through this Christ like living towards acts of kindness, faithfulness, giving, service, compassion and love, that what we hope for and long for can be made known even when the questions persist.
In both of these films, ‘why” and “I don’t know” find a welcome place in the mystery of the season. These are the very questions in fact that can help ensure that we remain open to seeing the light.