By JC Mitchell
So this week I found out that the classic Pyrex
liquid measuring cups have been redesigned.
I agree with those at American
Test Kitchen that the redesign is awful, and we need to look for the older
designed ones at thrift stores. I posted
about this on Facebook with pictures of my set of four and said I was livid,
self-aware that this is not really a big issue, but having some fun as I found
it ironic people were up in arms about Twinkies, but not this awesome kitchen
tool that encourages cooking over processed foods. In full disclosure, I was a pastry chef prior
to being a minister, so I am quite aware this is truly something I am
passionate about and others would not be, but it was a post in response to my
silly rant that read, “Is nothing sacred?” that got me thinking.
That is the question I was really asking, just as
those who were upset about the end of the Twinkie. What makes my sacred more important? Honestly, in these two cases I would say “nothing,”
as they are more sentimental reasons for calling them sacred. Now in the season of Advent, the question,
“is nothing sacred?” comes up often. This
time of the year many traditions pop up in church, families, and even
businesses, and if you change them you run the risk of someone asking, “Is
I found myself asking that very question when I
saw advertisements for Rise of the
Guardians, for I could not understand how Santa could be presented with
weaponry. I do have problems with that,
but when I started reading reviews, I read one that said something of the sort
that it is hard to enter the realm of Christmas specials. That is the key: how do you retell the story
in a new way? It is not easy. My gut tells me that the Rise of the Guardians falls short, but so do many attempts to
retell the story.
The key element, I believe, is that the
forgiveness of Easter that must be present to tell the Christmas story. This is why It’s a Wonderful Life is repeated every year. It is not simply the good acting; it is truly
the story of Christ, even if it is not about the baby Jesus. I will start with what is missing: it is what
Saturday Night Live aired as very
funny alternative ending, and that is vengeful violence. I must admit when I saw SNL’s alternate
ending, I laughed. However, this is the
important message of the movie: that there was no call for revenge. True, it is not clear that the $8,000 was in
Banker Potter’s pockets, but it would not take long to realize who is
benefiting from the loss of that money, even if he did not take it directly; it
is clear that greed is the villain, and personified in Potter.
George Bailey yells this at his Uncle Billy, “Where's that money, you silly
stupid old fool? Where's that money? Do you realize what this means? It means
bankruptcy and scandal and prison!
That's what it means! One of us is going to jail... well, it's not gonna be me!” And that
sets up the story, not just his adventure with Clarence, but the human
story. See George is looking at scandal
in a purely moralistic human view, rather than through grace. We know that George is innocent of this
scandal or this offense, and he searches for revenge, but he takes the extreme
violent act of suicide as the answer. If
it was clear that Potter was the villain to him, he may have gone after him as
SNL suggests, or even worse, a murder-suicide, which are all too common.
The movie goes along making us realize that George’s
life is worth something, and I believe that is true and wonderful. I suspect that the writers, actors, and
director were working with that as the main story line; however, the cross
story truly invades this story, and makes it the classic Christmas story. We know that Jesus went to the cross
willingly, but it was absolutely not suicide, he was crucified. So if George jumped off the bridge he would
have been responding with vengeful violence, but when he runs home and states
it is wonderful he is going to jail, you realize George as the innocent victim
has forgiven the villain, the system of sin that brought him to the bridge
where he essentially said, “Why have you forsaken me?” to God.
It would not be a Hollywood movie without a happy
ending, but I see the ending not just as happy, but a demonstration of humanity
following the model of the forgiving victim.
True, many respond even before seeing George’s witness, but there is no
call for revenge, and the abundance seems to reflect a great abundance that is
The answer to the question, “is nothing sacred?”
is not really the right question. It
should be “what is sacred?” The moralistic view of what George did in the world
is equal to Santa with swords doing and defending what is right. It is actually George’s willingness to go to
jail, and not to seek revenge, to forgive without looking for an apology, that resonates
with us every year. It is the good news
that the Christ’s cross is so sacred it infiltrates the story. We see we are all forgiven and do not need to
respond with violence. We are all able
to celebrate a new world order in which we understand the reality of the
forgiving victim shows us the way, not the moralistic avenger.
Traditions are not what are sacred, but within
them are the sacred breakthroughs leading us to ask the question the Dr. Seuss
ponders in How the Grinch Stole Christmas,
And the Grinch, with
his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it
be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages,
boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the
Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought,
doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
Christmas is even more than we can humanly
understand: non-violent, loving, immeasurable,… grace.