The 8 Beatitudes in 8 Christmas movies
– By Sam Hendrian –
‘Tis once more the season to be jolly… and watch lots and lots of Christmas movies! Of course, we know as Christians that Christmas and the Advent Season are about so much more than cozying up in front of the television and watching a crotchety Santa Claus say, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” Nevertheless, if we look closely, the Truth of Christ can be found at the heart of many of our favorite Christmas flicks. In fact, different aspects of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount often lie beneath the surface of a well-made Christmas movie. Here are eight different movies that each reflect in some way one of the eight Beatitudes:
1. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
No matter what the particular theme, no Christmas movie list would be complete without Frank Capra’s 1946 masterpiece It’s a Wonderful Life (unless it was a list of worst Christmas movies). Many Beatitudes can be found within this heartwarming story, but the one that first comes to mind is, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” The film’s protagonist, George Bailey, consistently does the right thing even when it quashes all his lifelong hopes and dreams. When the sinister banker Mr. Potter offers him a job that would make his dreams come true at the price of his selfless soul, he is tempted to accept it at first, but he ultimately refuses the offer for the sake of the community that he nobly serves by running the Bailey Building and Loan. As one community member prays while George is being harangued by Mr. Potter for losing $8,000, “He never thinks about himself, God, that’s why he’s in trouble.” While George is imperfect, he consistently hungers and thirsts for righteousness, which wins him a loving community of family and friends who ultimately satisfy him much more than his selfish ambitions ever could have.
2. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.
A Christmas Story (1983)
“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” So goes the hilarious catchphrase from this timeless Christmas comedy classic. At its core, A Christmas Story is about the innocence, joy, and meekness of youth. Ralphie may get on his parents’ nerves with his persistent begging to receive a Red Ryder Air Rifle for Christmas, but he is ultimately a sweet and endearing young boy who we could all benefit from being more like. Jean Shepherd’s narration as the adult Ralphie gives the story its meek heart, as he warmly reflects on the innocence of his youth and the joy that this innocence brought him. As Jesus says in a different Gospel passage, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). A Christmas Story reminds us of the innocence we all still have within us, an innocence that can ultimately lead us to holiness.
3. Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Die Hard (1989)
Okay, this may be a bit of a stretch, but I just had to include it. When visiting New York City cop John McClane discovers that terrorists are holding his wife and several other people hostage on a lower floor of an L.A. skyscraper on Christmas Eve, he realizes that he is the only man in the building who can stop them. When he is finally able to make contact with outside forces (the L.A.P.D.) who he hopes will help him defeat the terrorists, he is lambasted for all the heroics he has performed so far and is even accused of being in league with the terrorists. Despite this unjust persecution, John continues doing all that he can to stop the terrorists and save the hostages. It does not matter what other people think of him; he knows what he has to do.
4. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
In this modern Christmas classic, an innocent and naive human being named Buddy leaves the Christmas elves who raised him to search for his birth father in New York City. Unfortunately, his father is a Scrooge-like businessman named Walter who wants nothing to do with Buddy. Buddy cannot help but be ecstatic with love for his father despite how crotchety he is, and he unintentionally embarrasses him at work on multiple occasions. Walter cannot find it within his small heart to forgive Buddy for these humiliations, and he cruelly tells him to get out of his life. Like the Grinch, though, Walter’s heart gradually grows, and he eventually not only forgives Buddy, but also begins to truly love him as his son. In turn, Buddy and the rest of Walter’s family forgive him for being so selfish, and this beautiful mercy transforms him into a completely new man.
5. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
While only a quarter of this classic movie musical takes place at Christmastime, it introduced the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to the world and is thus often regarded as a Christmas film. Mr. Leon Smith, the stern but loving patriarch of the well-to-do Smith family, has decided to move his family from St. Louis to New York City after Christmas for work reasons. His children are devastated, as they have never known any other home and have no desire to live anywhere other than St. Louis. The youngest child in the family, ‘Tootie’ (Margaret O’Brien) tearfully mourns the upcoming loss of her home on Christmas Eve, and her older sister Esther (Judy Garland) tries to comfort her with the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” This poignant song speaks to the hope that even if families have to leave their homes, they will always be together, which is the most important thing. Mourning of all sorts, whether it be the loss of a home or the loss of a loved one, is a natural part of life. Meet Me in St. Louis reminds us that our times of mourning can always be made bright by hope.
6. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
This wonderful Christmas classic tells the story of a sweet and gentle young reindeer named Rudolph who is bullied and ridiculed because of his unique red nose. Despite all this cruelty, Rudolph remains the pure-hearted gem of a creature that he is, and his pure, childlike heart helps him to be a good friend to fellow misfits on the Island of Misfit Toys. We could all benefit from a being a bit more like the sweet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
7. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
There has perhaps never been another cartoon character more genuinely poor in spirit than Charlie Brown. Un-athletic, not always the brightest, and by no means financially wealthy, Charlie is quite far from ever being classified as “rich” by the world’s standards. However, like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, Charlie has a heart of gold and many loving friends, which adds up to a wealth much greater than anything the world could ever generate. In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie demonstrates his paradoxically wealth-generating poverty of spirit by transforming a tiny little Christmas tree into a work of beautiful art and by expressing his frustration with the commercialization of Christmas (“Does anybody know what Christmas is all about?”). Charlie Brown may be clumsy sometimes and not always the most popular kid at school, but his poverty of spirit makes him a truly beautiful person.
8. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
When one thinks of a truly peaceful community, it is hard to imagine anywhere more peaceful than Dr. Seuss’s fictional Whoville. The tiny-hearted Mr. Grinch cannot stand the peace and joy of the perpetually singing-and-smiling Whos, especially at Christmastime, and he sets out to “steal” Christmas from them. What he does not yet understand is that true peace and joy is indestructible and can never really be stolen; the Whos continue to peacefully and joyfully celebrate Christmas even when all the commercial aspects of it (presents, etc.) are stolen from them by The Grinch. Moved by the Whos’ beautiful display of invincible peace and joy, The Grinch experiences a literal growth of heart and resolves to become a joyful peacemaker himself. If only we could all be constantly joyful peacemakers like the Whos…
Well, that’s all, folks. I am sure there are many other Christmas movies that fit one or more of the Beatitudes, so if you can think of any, please share!
About the Author
Sam Hendrian is a student at John Paul the Great Catholic University (Class of 2019) pursuing a double emphasis in Screenwriting and Directing.