What is your favorite Christmas movie? If you are older than 50 years old, it might very well be "It's A Wonderful Life." If you are younger than 40, it might very well be "The Christmas Story."
James Emery White of Church & Culture references an intriguing editorial in Time magazine that tells how "A Christmas Story" has become the quintessential American film for Christmas, replacing "It's a Wonderful Life." The article titled "Generation X-Mas," chronicles how an "upstart film became a holiday icon for the post-boomer set."
This is one of the "pop-cultural shifts," suggested Time -- such as football overtaking baseball, salsa defeating ketchup -- that "signals bigger changes." Perhaps because "A Christmas Story" is everything "It's a Wonderful Life" is not, the magazine noted, perhaps it is because of the changing relationship between the community and the individual. Now it seems the individual Christmas experience is what matters. Getting the BB-gun, instead of protecting the local Building and Loan for the poor, is the point. Or as Time put it, "It's the individual Christmas that matters. Bedford Falls can take a hike. ... It's not about angels getting their wings. Christmas is about the kids getting their due."
The great divide between "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Story" is more than just the radical individualism that marks our day. There is a more significant difference.
One film retains the idea Christmas is about the birth of the Jesus, and one does not. "A Christmas Story" does not have a single reference, symbol, picture or event that would suggest Christmas is about the birth of Christ, or has religious significance of any kind.
"It's a Wonderful Life," on the other hand, was rich in Christian identity, from traditional Christmas songs celebrating the birth of Christ (the climax of the movie is marked by the spontaneous outburst of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing") to the central character of an angel.
I think "A Christmas Story" is a really good movie. The nostalgia of the time and the sketches are funny but as White puts it, "A Christmas Story, it is not the Christmas story. For that we would need to return to Bedford Falls, or better yet, the little town of Bethlehem."
Kyle Ermoian is founding and senior pastor of Celebration Community Church.