A Modern Christmas Carol

  Every year, Hollywood exploits the holiday spirit by releasing a slate of films with Christmas themes. Most of them are secular distortions of the Christian holiday. And, this year is no different, with one notable exception: The Family Man. This modern redemption tale puts a twist on two touching Christmas classics, A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life, and offers a refreshing contrast to the self-serving messages found in so much of today's media. The Family Man follows the story of Jack Campbell, the president of a Wall Street investment firm. He's a single man who has it all -- the best suits, a great car, and a fantastic Manhattan apartment. He's even about to close a $130-billion merger deal. And, he thinks he's truly happy. But when Jack encounters an angel on Christmas Eve, he's forced to consider what's truly important to him. The angel gives him a glimpse into what his life might have been like if he had made different choices, prompting Jack to come to a startling conclusion. Well, this is not It's a Wonderful Life. Jack isn't shown how good his life really is; rather, he's shown how good his life could be. When Jack wakes up the next morning, he finds himself next to his former girlfriend -- the one he would have married if he hadn't sacrificed their relationship for his career. But now she's his wife. He also lives in New Jersey with two kids and a dog, and he sells tires for a living. Far from Wall Street, this is Jack's worst suburban nightmare. He doesn't like this glimpse one bit. He grows frustrated with the crushing blandness of this life that "might have been" and the wasted potential. He just can't figure how anyone could possibly be content with such an existence. In the end, however, Jack comes to his senses and learns an important moral lesson in the process. He had everything he thought he wanted, but he realizes what the Bible teaches us: that a life without love is empty. In his new life, Jack lacks power and wealth, but he has the blessings of a great family and a wife who really loves him. This, he learns, is what really makes life meaningful. The film makes it clear that the love between Jack and his wife flourished precisely because of the sacrifices they made -- which is the exact opposite of Jack's real-life choice to sacrifice love and family for the sake of his career. And that's why The Family Man is such a great Christmas story. Sacrificial love is what Christmas is all about. To its credit, The Family Man isn't a stereotypical Hollywood movie where everything turns out perfectly. I won't spoil the ending for you, but the film's message is one audiences really need to hear: You can't undo your sins, but you can repent from them and go forward, forgiven and transformed. Because of occasional strong language and adult themes, the film is not for children, and be warned yourself. But all the same, The Family Man has a great theme for the Christmas season. Only when we give of ourselves, just as Christ gave himself for us, can we find meaning and redemption in life.


Chuck Colson


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