I have my favorite Christmas movies. They have to be watched, or it doesn’t feel like Christmas. Charlie Brown, The Little Matchgirl, Elf…. but aside from Santa, there’s not much that makes these movies actually Christmassy…. you know, as in real meaning of Christmas, real Jesus-coming-to-earth-incarnation stuff.
So here’s an alternative Christmas movie list. They probably won’t all fill you with warm fuzzies and holiday cheer. But probably will get you thinking about Jesus and what he was all about! (Click the links in the titles to watch the Previews).
Jesus, the Refugee
Salam Neighbour : This documentary is about life in a Syrian refugee camp. Meet real refugees fleeing from war. See up close what it’s like living in limbo, waiting to find out if you can go home, or make a new life for yourself somewhere, all the while trying to process the trauma of war. Jesus’ family fled political persecution as a child (remember that whole, “Joseph, take your family to Egypt so King Herod doesn’t kill your kid along with every other 2 year-old baby” part of the Christmas story?”).
And then to be filled with good cheer:
- Watch this clip of a refugee being reunited with his family in a Dallas airport after 3 years of separation.
- Watch this boy writing to President Obama and inviting a refugee family to live with him.
- Watch these refugee kids in Canada experiencing their first snow.
- Read this book by World Relief on the Refugee Crisis, and answer the question they pose: “Which will rule in our heart? Fear or compassion?”
Jesus, the minority, the prosecuted, and the executed.
13th: We forget that Jesus was a Jew under Roman rule. He was part of the social group with the least amount of power. In sociology, we call that a minority group. Jesus didn’t just stay a sweet baby in a manger. He grew up and was tried and executed by the State. While as Christians we believe this was all a part of God’s plan for our redemption, we should at least also be able to acknowledge at the same time that the whole process was unfair. Remembering that Jesus was tried as a criminal is part of helping us find compassion for those who are incarcerated– many who are minorities, and many who experience injustice at the hands of the State. Guys, this documentary is PACKED with all the top criminal justice reform experts of today. If you hate reading (or you’ve seen me recommend books about race or criminal justice reform and want to read them but have no time) just watch this. ALL THOSE PEOPLE are in here. Bryan Stevenson (Just Mercy), Michelle Alexander (the New Jim Crow)… and directed by the director of Selma.
Then, if you need some cheering up:
- Watch Bryan Stevenson discuss Grace, Justice and Mercy with pastor Tim Keller.
- Watch formerly incarcerated turned reform activist Shaka Senghor talk about how your worst deed doesn’t define you.
- Read about 5 things your church can do to engage in criminal justice reform.
- Read what Prison Fellowship, a leading evangelical organization, has to say about criminal justice reform.
Jesus, the Stranger
The Stranger: This documentary put together by the National Association of Evangelicals tells stories of real people who are living in fear and anxiety because of America’s current immigration laws. Meet real people whose families may be split up if Obama’s DACA is overturned. Meet real people who are afraid to go to the grocery story in case they never see their children again. Remember that Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.” I think you can watch it online here.
- These stories of undocumented students who came to the US as children.
- Under the Same Moon, a fictional movie based on Enriques Journey.
Jesus, the Poor
Poverty Inc: Okay, so we don’t actually know if Jesus was poor. But the fact that his parents gave doves when they took him to be dedicated at the temple indicates they weren’t that wealthy (that was the sacrifice for people who couldn’t afford more). Hear stories of people facing poverty, and be inspired at their ingenuity and strength in the face of it (and figure out how to actually help without causing more harm).
- Well, okay, this is a listen, but this series on Welfare reform in the USA (and how much it screwed over poor people) from “The Uncertain Hour” is a really good listen.
OK, over to you! What un-traditional Christmas movies would you add to this list?