Merry Christmas 2005

Writer Author  Richard S. Adams
Christian Article : Bible Study  - Fiction  No

Christian Author Writer The flu bug jumped on me a couple of days ago so I took time to just lay on the couch and watch a movie from Netflex. It was called Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel, 2005. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 78th Academy Awards.

The movie is inspired by a true story about the World War I Christmas truce of December 1914, depicted through the eyes of French, Scottish and German soldiers. It builds up to a wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Was I crying because of the movie or maybe the flu just weakened my resistance? After this powerful move of God the reactions of those in authority, including the church, made me sicker than I already was. What happened after Christmas 1914 is the point of the movie.

The story is built around six main characters: a Scottish Lieutenant named Gordon; a French Lieutenant called Audebert; Horstmayer, a Jewish German Lieutenant; Palmer, a British priest working as a stretcher-bearer; and German tenor Nikolaus Sprink and his Danish lover Anna Sorensen, famous opera stars. There are many minor characters with wonderful roles, including a barber who manages to have coffee with his mother through the kindness of his enemies. It is informative and instructive that a stray cat that has benefactors on both sides of the battle is eventually arrested for "High Treason."

The last survivor of the Christmas Truce of 1914, Alfred Anderson, died November 21st, 2005 at a nursing home in his native Scotland. He was 109 years old.

The movie has a nationalist beginning, brainwashing children, as well as a nationalist ending. As Lily and I were entering church on Sunday we noticed signs that said something about being global minded to serve a global God. Why do we forget that God is not an American to the exclusion of everyone else? God is neither Republican nor Democrat, conservative or liberal. It is just plain wrong to teach children to recite messages that praise their own country, but at the same time teach them hatred for other countries. This spirit of hatred, built and encouraged by wrong assumptions of others continues today.

In Scotland, the two young brothers, Jonathan and William, enlisted excitedly to escape what they thought was a boring, normal life. We have our modern media to thank for bringing us beyond the illusion of war being anything but pain and suffering, but we have yet to come to the realization that war is a game to those who move the chess pieces, oblivious to those who suffer.

These two Scottish brothers are joined by Palmer, their parish priest. There is a scene at the end of the movie where Palmer is rebuked by his boss, and yes, boss is the exact word I want to use. In a movie filled with poignant scenes this was the most disturbing. Palmer gets it. You can see it in his face. Something happened that was out of the control of those who move the chess pieces. There can be no misunderstanding this fact as the camera studies his face while we hear his boss talking to new recruits in the other room.

Nikolaus Sprink was interrupted during a performance to be recruited. French Lieutenant Audebert looked at a picture of the pregnant wife he was forced to leave behind because of the war. It just so happens she is in the occupied part of France in front of his trench. All of these characters lives are interwoven as they share much more than Merry Christmas. Like sheep we are often caught in circumstances that radically change our lives. I believe it was Richard Rohr who said, "It is the things that you cannot do anything about and the things that you cannot do anything with that do something with you."

Most of us have heard something about that special Christmas, but it is the relationships, the similarities between enemies, and the small acts of kindness that show what the human spirit is capable of through the transforming power of God's love. This and only this can make us partakers of the divine nature.

As war movies go this film does not focus on blood, bravery, horror, cowardice or the nobility of sacrifice. The focus is the human spirit and relationships. What would happen if enemies decided not to fight? This may seem incredible, but the fact remains it happened. One day in 1914, less than one hundred years ago, this remarkable thing happened.

There are many reasons why Christianity is hated. This movie reveals one. The chess players are helpless when the Spirit of God moves. If you subvert the status quo you unsettle every resting place. Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, "Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love." Love is the door we are afraid to open, the great secret we are afraid to hear, and when nailed to a tree Love refused to die. Robert Frost said, “... the secret sits in the middle and knows, while others dance round in circles and suppose.”

When it comes to the movie, What A Wonderful Life, I admit that I cannot think of a Jimmy Stewart movie I do not like, but I think Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel would be much more appropriate to watch this Christmas and every Christmas after, least we forget what Christmas is all about.

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