Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Polar Express (2004)


     Well, it’s December, and we all know what that means: CHRISTMAS! So this month on Reel Christianity, I’ve decided to talk about three Christmas movies (or, at least, movies that are usually watched most at Christmas), and to start off, I’d like to share with you “The Polar Express”—which is, ironically, one of my least favorite Christmas movies. I guess it’s not that bad, I just wasn’t that interested in most of that movie, especially after reading the book and realizing how much filler they put in the film to make it longer. But there’s still a pretty cool message in it that is a nice reminder for us at Christmastime.

     Tom Hanks, who worked with director Robert Zemeckis before on “Forrest Gump” and “Cast Away”, plays several different characters in the film, as the movie is done in all motion-capture animation. (Don’t know what it is? Look it up.) The main characters are a boy, whose name we never hear, and the conductor of an express train called The Polar Express. On Christmas Eve, the boy falls asleep with little Christmas spirit, figuring that Santa Claus isn’t real and that there’s nothing really special about the holiday season.

     But then, out of nowhere, the Polar Express pulls up into the boy’s front yard. The conductor encourages the boy to come aboard the train, and the boy, after refusing at first, decides to hop on and join lots of other children aboard the train. Two other children he meets are a girl (also without a name) and a lonely boy named Billy who always keeps to himself. While on board the train, a bunch of stuff happens that I won’t tell you about to save time. But among those events, the main boy meets a hobo on top of the train who basically serves as a conscience for him telling him not to doubt.

     Through everything that happens, these three children start to bond and discover that maybe they shouldn’t be so uptight about the holiday season and be a little more cheery. Eventually, the Polar Express arrives at its destination: none other than the North Pole, where the kids will get to be in the town square with some creepy-looking elves, if I do say so myself, to see Santa give a select child the first gift of Christmas and then fly off with his reindeer to deliver presents to children all around the world.

     Long story short, Santa picks our “hero boy” (as he is billed, mind you) to receive the first gift. And the boy picks a rather strange gift, but a significant one. As he and the other children were preparing to see Santa, elves came into the square with the reindeer jingling bells on their harnesses. But to the boy’s ears, there was no jingling sound. Other children heard it, but the boy did not, and he could not take it any longer. When a bell fell off one of the harnesses, the boy picked up and said: “Okay. I believe. I believe.” And when he really believed in the spirit of Christmas (and the person of Santa Claus), he could hear the sound of the jingling bell.

     So Santa lets the boy have the bell and takes off to deliver presents. And the next morning, the boy enjoys Christmas morning with his family, holding a bell from Santa Claus that only he and his sister (a young girl who also believes) can hear.

     Now, to automatically say that this whole story might be an analogy for faith in Jesus Christ would be… well, probably right. But it’s one thing to realize this and then to actually find inside ourselves that we have doubts too. Maybe you’re reading this and you don’t actually believe in God or Jesus—people around you do, but you don’t have the same hope that they might have. It’s hard for me to explain proof for God because I’m not that smart when it comes to that. But all I can say is, God did a work in my life, and He revealed Himself to me in a way that made me believe, and I’m not looking back.

     Maybe God wants to do a work in your life, and you can’t find the strength, or the faith, to let Him in. But that’s what it takes for Him to work: your faith. One of the most quoted verses in the book of Hebrews is in chapter eleven, verse one: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” It seems really simple when we write it out or say it out loud, but actually having faith that a God who we can’t see is actually there is really hard sometimes, especially in the face of hardship.

     But the conductor tells the children something in the movie that sums up this idea of faith pretty well:

CONDUCTOR: Sometimes seeing is believing… and sometimes, the most real things in the world are the things we can't see.

     If we have faith to believe in Santa—err, God, we will find Him, and my prayer for you this Christmas (and for always) is that you would. Keep following “Reel Christianity” as we see more examples of faith in Christmas movies.

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