Let me share 3 absolutely wonderful lessons from Miracle on 34th Street. Share yours. I’m certain we are all familiar with the story. Personally I prefer the original 1947 version, but the 1994 remake shares these three lessons as well.
Lesson 1: The meaning of Christmas found in a Miracle on 34th Street
From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade we are ushered into a war for the heart of Christmas. From a drunk Santa to warring department store moguls, we see the wonder of Christmas disappearing. Doris and her daughter Susan are test cases. Neither has any room in their lives for intangibles. They are entirely practical.
Fred, our wonderful lawyer, points this out to Doris when he says,
“Look Doris, someday you’re going to find that your way of facing this realistic world just doesn’t work. And when you do, don’t overlook those lovely intangibles. You’ll discover those are the only things that are worthwhile.”
The power of intangibles
Kris Kringle takes on greed and unbelief. As he says,
“Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind… and that’s what’s been changing. That’s why I’m glad I’m here, maybe I can do something about it.”
He starts with the frame of mind centered in holiday shopping. Greed illustrated well by my favorite janitor, Alfred.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of bad ‘isms’ floatin’ around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism. Make a buck, make a buck. Even in Brooklyn it’s the same – don’t care what Christmas stands for, just make a buck, make a buck.”
Kris reminds Macy that his store exists to serve the customer. Suddenly Macy and Gimball are shaking hands as they put people ahead of profits. With greed in check, Kris tackles the difficult problem of faith. Fred sees the challenge as he confronts Doris right after quitting his job.
“Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don’t you see? It’s not just Kris that’s on trial, it’s everything he stands for. It’s kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.”
Will Doris find love? Will Susan believe? Will Alfred find kindness and joy or be stopped by an unhappy psychologist? The plot is rich. While focused on Santa the message is broader.
The importance of faith
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Heb. 11:1. We understand the broader meaning of Christmas to be rooted in faith. Faith in a babe who was born a wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father, Prince of Peace. Isa. 9:6. He showed us what love looked like. He taught us how to be generous. In Him we find joy. He is the hope of the world. The meaning of Christmas is found in the intangibles flowing from God through his son, Jesus Christ.
Lesson 2: Everyone needs an Advocate
As a lawyer I certainly appreciate the court scene. I love the character of Fred. He is a wonderful representation of a humble lawyer. He quits his job to represent someone in need. In fact, he tells Doris he wants to represent those who do not have a voice. They need an advocate.
Think about the story. An angry psychologist takes advantage of a situation to eliminate a perceived rival in Kris. He lies and manipulates. That is an accurate depiction of many situations playing out in courthouses every day in America. Someone in power seeks to manipulate the system to benefit themselves at the detriment of someone who is vulnerable. Older Americans are particularly vulnerable.
What would have happened to Kris without Fred? He would have lost. Christmas would have lost. Across the country people face the fear and complexity of court without help. As a result they often lose. They lose more than a case. They lose hope. But an advocate can make a difference.
This week the Federal Government published its first report demonstrating the significance of civil legal advocacy. This is particularly true at the intersection of civil legal aid, public safety and criminal justice, including human trafficking, consumer protection, elder abuse, domestic violence and reentry of formerly incarcerated individuals. People need an advocate.
Jesus is our advocate
Jesus Christ is our advocate before the Father. I Jn. 2:1. We need a lawyer to represent us before the Judge of all judges. He is not swayed by politics or people. Without an advocate we would lose our case. But Jesus intercedes and proclaims his blood and atoning sacrifice for our sins is sufficient so long as we acknowledge our sin and seek his forgiveness.
As Christ advocates for us, God continually ask us to advocate for others.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Prov. 31:9.
Lesson 3: Justice prevails not only in Miracle on 34th Street
Everyone loves a happy ending. For those who have put their faith in Jesus there is a happy ending. Life may take lots of turns and be full of uncertainties but the ending is happy. Absolutely in heaven. But honestly in the present. Joy is not tied to circumstances. Paul experienced joy in the midst of hardships. So can we. Jesus, our Prince of Peace, said
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid… I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Jn. 14:27, 15:10.
Justice prevails because Jesus prevailed.
In the movie we cheer to see the evil psychologist fired and Kris set free. We love the kindness shown the doctor who gets a new x-ray machine to help serve the elderly. We cheer for Alfred’s redemption of joy playing Santa. We rejoice when Doris finds faith and love. And we relish watching the transformation in Susan who chants,
“I believe… I believe… It’s silly, but I believe.”
It is foolishness to the world but we believe. Not in Santa, but in the intangibles he represents. The intangibles found in a real God and his son Jesus Christ. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” I Cor. 1:25.
I hope you will watch Miracle on 34th Street. I hope you will see the court scene in a new light and remember our neighbors in need of help and hope every day. Will you consider helping them this Christmas? Be like Fred. Step into the gap. Be an advocate and help us advocate for Justice and Jesus. Give today. Only takes a moment but the impact can be eternal.