My roommates in college could spiritual even the most mundane events; they questioned me about the eternal impact on any event from a bad grade on a term paper to a rotten burrito from Taco Bell. My interest in movies became more serious during that time, so after hiding in the garage for two hours with my VHS from the local rental store (Oh, God, how long ago was this?), I began to prepare myself for questions like, “So what did you gain from watching Blazing Saddles?” or “What relevance did Scarface have on your life?”
So it is with this critical eye that I watch the most beloved Christmas movies and ask, “What relevance do these stories have on the birth of Jesus?” Unfortunately, when I put serious thought into the relevance of our most beloved holiday films, I have to suppress a lot of cynicism.
A Wonderful Life becomes a film about a man who thinks he has a crummy life but reconsiders on Christmas. Miracle on 34th Street is the story of Santa, who is the classic deflection from the true meaning of Christmas. A Christmas Story is the nostalgic tale that reminds us all of our childhood in the 1950s when we got exactly what we spent weeks pining and pining for. Even the classic A Christmas Carol doesn’t hold up. Whether it’s the version starring Fred Flintstone or Star Trek’s Jean-Luc Picard, the story climaxes with the stingy old man running amuck throughout the city buying things for the people who were nice to him.
Each of these films has a common thread – emphasis on the saved rather than the savior. During my search for a film that truly represented the reason for the season, I came across a late-night, edited-for-television version of Die Hard, in which Bruce Willis jumps off the Nakatomi building after overdubbing to himself, “John, how the ‘heck’ did you get into this ‘crap?’”
Consider the plot: a foreigner comes to town. Sure, a New York cop in Los Angeles doesn’t exactly count as a foreigner, but it’s a greater distance than Galilee is to Nazareth. McLane sacrifices his own life to save a bunch of upper-middle class Americans from the forces of evil, or rather from Europeans who want to rob them. He has skeptics like the police chief who thinks he’s one of the terrorists, just like the Pharisees that thought Jesus cast out demons because he had a demon.
When you think about it, Die Hard is a great illustration of Christ, at least after you subtract all the machine guns and violence and “mofos.” If I were still living with my roommates, I would argue, “Die Hard, now that’s a story that truly represents a savior. Yippee kye aye!”
Note to shoppers: Die Hard, Die Hard II, Die Hard with a Vengeance, and Live Free or Die Hard are all available on netflix.com. Special holiday rates are still available.