As our Christmas celebrations have drawn to a close in the church (with us recognizing Epiphany, the magi’s arrival to adore the infant Jesus, this past Sunday), and as the decorations fade away from homes and elsewhere, I look back at this holiday season and realize one particular movie was played quite often in our house, at least. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is not everyone’s “film” cup of tea, to put it rather mildly. Honestly, I wasn’t wrapped in it until Sarah came along. And yet, many seem to connect with it, because they can relate to so many aspects of the production: finding the perfect Christmas tree that may not fit just right in our living room, proudly displaying outside lights all over our house as if to reveal the depths of our holiday joy (even if to the chagrin of next door neighbors), not to mention…interesting family dynamics with a good ‘ole cousin Eddie and an Art father-in-law. The drama/comedy keeps people watching seemingly every December since its release in 1989.
I would be lying if I said there was immense religious depth to the movie, especially with Aunt Bethany’s dinner grace prayer that doesn’t turn out to be much of a prayer at all. However, at the very beginning, the Griswold family are on their way to find that aforementioned perfect Christmas tree. Amidst some road rage, Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) starts in with the Lord’s Prayer and seamlessly inserts, “And forgive my husband, he knows not what he does!” leading to Clark’s (Chevy Chase) bold “Amen!” as he drives off the side of the road, airborne, but magically lands in the parking area for the long sought-after Christmas tree lot. Part of the build-up for the production is Clark not realizing what he’s getting himself into, not just with that driving, but with attempting to have some impossibly perfect Christmas with as much of the family as possible. And yet, those…interesting family dynamics lead to utter chaos. Again, another way where some viewers can relate (and may never say out loud), and not just during the holiday season.
In the end, perhaps that’s the theological connection that must be made, not just with a dramatic outdoor birth scene with a teenage mother and some dirty shepherds and foreign magi, but for all times and places. God insists on including absolutely everyone in the celebration, a celebration that’s not meant to stop after December 25 or January 6 (the actual Epiphany date in the church) even. It’s meant to be part of our normal standard day of operation, evidently. Granted, we can’t host dinner parties every evening, and have the in-laws stay every night, but here and there, we do what we can, to make people know they are part of God’s family with plenty of…interesting dynamics, to be sure; but still loved by God just the same. So, although yes, technically, Christmas is over with the Western calendar now; God insists the contagious joy and heart-felt meaning and family celebrations continue all year round. Thanks be to God, indeed!