As we head into the long Thanksgiving weekend and the official start of the holiday season, I wanted to share a list of ten of the top family-friendly Christmas films with you. This list was compiled by my friend and colleague Bob Waliszewski and his PluggedIn crew.
Sitting down together as a family to watch a movie can be a fun way to unwind. Films can also help us communicate values and truths to our kids.
For those of you who might be watching with children or grandchildren, Bob has included some suggested family discussion questions that will add a little substance to your time together.
Is your favorite Christmas movie on the list?
Here’s what they came up with:
1)The Nativity Story
The Nativity Story highlights Mary and Joseph as they make their laborious way from Nazareth to Bethlehem in obedience to the governmental edict and to fulfill the ancient prophecy of a Messiah to be born in the City of David.
a) The film revels in the idea that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Mary certainly manages this, despite asking, “Why is it me that God asks? I am nothing.” Discuss why God chooses certain people to accomplish specific tasks. What can we do to be more available to God for His purposes?
b) When Joseph tells Mary about what the angel said to him, the full power of the Gospel message is laid plain: “He told me that the child within you had been conceived by the Holy Spirit … You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” How do you suppose their parenting of Jesus was affected by the fact that both Joseph and Mary were aware how special their son really was (is)?
c) Some aspects of this film, while they could have taken place, aren’t mentioned in the Bible. How do you feel about that?
2) Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
An old, white-bearded man who identifies himself as Kris Kringle steps in at the last minute to play Santa Claus in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. He’s then hired to be the in-store Santa where he begins telling shoppers which stores have the lowest price on any particular toy. Who is this man anyway?
a) What is Kris Kringle’s biggest concern about what has become of Christmas?
b) Why does Mr. Macy not fire Kris K. once he discovers the would-be Santa is sending potential customers to other stores? What scriptural principles are underscored here?
c) What’s the one really big thing about Christmas that’s missing from this movie?
d) What else could we do as a family to honor Jesus in His birthday season?
3) It’s a Wonderful Life
An angel named Clarence helps a compassionate but deeply frustrated and suicidal George Bailey by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.
a) Just hours after complaining about living in an icebox, George rejoices, “Look at this wonderful old drafty house!” Clearly, contentment and joy are a matter of perspective. Discuss things that frustrate you and possible blessings that may be gained from them … if the right perspective is maintained.
b) Although out for more than 70 years, this film continues to be a Christmas favorite. Why do you think it’s so popular? Together, talk about how it made you feel and what resonates with you personally.
c) Consider the movie’s lax attitudes toward cigarettes and drunkenness. What has our culture learned about their dangers since this film was made? Read Ephesians 5:18 for a biblical take on sobriety.
d) The movie implies that angels are former human beings who’ve worked to earn their wings in the afterlife. How does that stack up to what the Bible says? Who are angels, and historically/biblically, what have they done?
4) The Lion, the Witch & The Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia)
Four children enter the snow-covered land of Narnia through a huge wardrobe where they must battle an evil queen and break an ancient curse with the direction of the lion, Aslan.
a) It’s obvious Aslan is a picture of Jesus. How is that shown in this film? What other scriptural parallels can be found?
b) How does Edmund’s selfishness affect others? How did he get so trapped?
c) This story is full of positive lessons about loyalty, courage, selflessness and sacrifice. Discuss several virtuous moments that stuck out to you.
Three decades ago on a Christmas Eve stop at a Catholic orphanage, Santa accidentally acquired one of its infant residents. Upon realizing the slip-up back at the North Pole, Santa and the elves unanimously decide to keep the boy, Buddy. One day, Buddy discovers he’s human and heads off to New York City to find his biological parents.
a) Buddy is innocent, caring, compassionate, loving and optimistic—all the while displaying a healthy naiveté. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Buddy’s biological father, Walter, a quintessential candidate for Santa’s naughty list. He’s a selfish workaholic who’s not above cutting corners at work. How can a person be more like Buddy and less like Walter?
b) Elf is about promoting kindness, staying upbeat, valuing others and knowing that it’s never too late to get removed from the naughty list. But it isn’t as pure as the driven snow. Describe the more negative aspects and why they show up in this film.
c) Buddy is forced to learn how to handle rejection (both his father’s and brother’s). How should you handle rejection when it happens to you?
6) A Charlie Brown Christmas
Not happy with the materialism he sees all around him during the Christmas season, Charlie Brown takes Lucy’s suggestion of directing the school Christmas pageant. But even that isn’t helpful…at first, until Linus explains the real meaning of Christmas by quoting passages from the Bible.
a) What does Linus suggest Christmas is all about?
7) Muppet Christmas Carol
Nasty skinflint Ebeneezer Scrooge is an intimidating figure who towers over his employees, Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog) and a team of bookkeeping rodents. His avarice and greed are joyless. His bitter, lonely existence … empty. But that “bah, humbug” is about to change when Scrooge’s sleep is disturbed by three otherworldly visitors on Christmas Eve. Some darker scenes may be too spooky for preschoolers.
a) Scrooge comes to learn that it truly is more blessed to give than receive. How does that happen, and how can one best share that counter-intuitive message with others?
b) The film includes a reverent nod to “the One who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.” What biblical parallel can be found in the story arc of Scrooge?
c) What role does “love” play in this story?
8) Heaven Sent
An angelic little girl shows up at the home of a couple who’re planning to divorce with an apparent plan – or something – to keep that from happening.
a) What role does prayer play in this story? What happens when two people of faith pray for totally opposite results? What does prayer mean to you personally?
b) Despite a theological misstep, this film underscores some aspects of God, angels and heaven that are true. Sort out the facts from the fiction.
c) How does this film’s “pro-life” message come through?
9) Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas
In Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas—based on the popular Hallmark series—four postal sleuths who run a fictional dead letter office have one more letter to tackle before Christmas Eve—a little girl’s last-minute mailbox drop—this one addressed to God.
a) How does this film underscore the real meaning of Christmas?
b) Discuss the movie’s theme of self-sacrifice here. How do characters display it? What could we as a family do before year’s end to also display it?
c) Several miraculous things happen in this film. Does God still perform miracles today? Why or why not?
10) Black Nativity
Langston and his single mom, Naima, are in a hard spot this winter. Instead of presents under the tree, Naima’s been given an eviction notice. She’ll need to come up with $5,000 in overdue rent or spend Christmas on the curb. With a heavy heart, Naima sends Langston to her estranged parents’ house for the Christmas season. Langston doesn’t want to go; he’s never even met his grandparents. But when Grandpa shows Langston his prized possession—an engraved pocket watch given to him by Martin Luther King, Jr. Langston begins to wonder: Could it be worth as much as $5,000?
a) Langston’s tempted to make some very bad decisions for what he considers the very best of intentions. Is that ever okay?
b) “How do you keep faith when so much bad is all around?” Langston asks his grandmother. Discuss this age-old dilemma of why bad things happen when God is so very good and what role faith plays in all of it.
c) Langston eventually has a change of heart. Describe what finally brought him around. Discuss your own personal conversion story with your family members (especially parents sharing what’s appropriate from their own testimony).
How does this list compare to yours?
I hope this list of suggested movie titles will help you and your family spend some real quality time together this Christmas season, reveling in the gift of Jesus Christ and looking forward with great anticipation to the celebration of His birth. As you do, I hope you’ll pause and ponder one of my favorite Yuletide Scripture passages. In Philippians 2:7-8, Paul says that Jesus “took the form of a bondservant and came in the likeness of men … And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” That’s the heart of the Christmas message, and that’s our goal here at Focus: to serve families in an attitude of humility and self-sacrifice.
From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!