It’s a Wonderful Life, on the other hand, was rich in Christian idea and ethos, from traditional Christmas songs celebrating the birth of Christ (the climax of the movie is marked by the spontaneous outburst of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”) to the central character of an angel.
A Christmas Story is marked by the complete and total absence of anything religious at all, much less Christian. No nativity scenes, no church services, no Christian music – even the department store, Higbees, honors the season not with shepherds or wise men, but with characters from The Wizard of Oz.
Yet this reflects more than the choice of one movie over another. An analysis of 48,000 hours of programming by the NRB (National Religious Broadcasters) in December of 2002 (again, a study I have not found repeated) found that 90 percent of programming did not have a significant spiritual theme. 7 percent had a religious or spiritual theme, but did not refer to Jesus or the biblical story of His birth.
Jesus was the focus of only 3 percent of all Christmas programming.
Yet I confess that A Christmas Story has become one of my favorite movies. The nostalgia of the time, and the way it reveals how Christmas often “works,” runs deep and familiar. But when I watch it this season, along with millions of others, I will remind myself that while it is a Christmas story, it is not the Christmas story.
For that I would need to return to Bedford Falls. Or better yet, the little town of Bethlehem.
This article on Generation X-mas originally appeared here, and is used y permission.