Christmas turned the world upside down
"It's a Wonderful Life" is all about George Bailey triumphing over Mr. Potter. The unassuming Building-and-Loan guy beats the money-grubbing banker who doesn't care a whit about his community. The people in the town whom Mr. Potter sees as losers rescue the man who wants them to win.
The Grinch believes that the dear people of Whoville could have their Christmas ruined if only he hauled away all the stuff they expect as gifts. But Whoville is about love, not stuff, and even the Grinch's heart has to respond. The Rudolph story lifts up the misfits over the conformists. In "Love Actually," a British prime minister risks it all for his feelings toward a low-level staffer of modest origins. Choosing love over status is as Christmas as it gets.
In preparation for the commemoration of Christ's birth, the Roman Catholic calendar of readings for the Third Sunday of Advent this year included this passage from the 61st chapter of Isaiah:
He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor
To heal the broken-hearted
To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners
You don't have to be Jewish to experience the liberating message of the Exodus story. And you don't have to be a Christian to feel elation over the idea that a fallen world can be redeemed. The poor, the broken-hearted, the captives and the prisoners do not have to be left to their fate and their suffering. Every year at this time, we are called to renew our hope that cold indifference and smug complacency can be overcome by a humble and gentle love powerful enough to inspire wise men, shepherds, and even angels.
E.J. Dionne's email address is email@example.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.
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