Every year I find myself glued to the TV screen watching a cheesy Hallmark Christmas movie. Within the first five minutes I can usually gauge what the characters will be like, who will end up falling in love with whom, and how the ending will turn out—which we all know is “happily ever after.” Even though I know which route the stories will take before the program even begins, I still find myself, year after year, drawn to their quirky stories and quintessential endings. When the movie wraps up and the credits roll, there always seems to remain a tinge of disappointment—a feeling that there’s got to be more to love and the holidays than these movies have to offer. Then, within a few minutes, another movie begins … and so the cycle continues.
What These Movies Miss
There’s a reason the disappointment lingers. As I watch these movies, thoughts scroll through my head that lead me to see my life through an unsatisfactory lens. The characters are beautiful, handsome, and the picture of what a “happy person” should look like from an earthly point of view. They live in beautifully decorated homes and look out for the best in one another. They celebrate the holidays with fancy parties and fellowship with friends and family, and the two main characters always fall madly in love within the last ten minutes of the story.
But there’s something missing in these movies. Despite the various, often complicated and completely unrealistic storylines, these movies aim to move us towards a feeling of hope, comfort, and peace—but the fuzzy feelings they provide don’t last long. Life goes on when the story ends. Suffering and sorrow still happen in real life. For many people, the holidays are some of the most painful days of the year to walk through, and many enter the Christmas season enduring the pain of loss. Family gatherings bring out the worst in some people, and even finances become more strained around the holidays. What these movies ultimately fail to offer viewers is a hope that doesn’t disappoint, even when life does, and that hope is only found in Jesus Christ—the true meaning of Christmas.
Longing for What?
Deep within our hearts we long to experience love, to witness “Christmas miracles,” and behold true peace on earth. We ache to see the good guys win and to believe that “happily ever after” is possible, even with life’s unexpected twists and turns or unprecedented roadblocks. Hallmark Christmas movies clearly speak to a longing woven into every human heart, and in 2017 they were estimated to draw the attention of approximately 85 million viewers consisting primarily of women between the ages of 18–54. We are flocking to these stories in an attempt to cure our lonely hearts, only to find them still lonely when the story ends.
When I was in my early college years, I especially found myself loving these movies, even watching them for hours
at a time, longing for a man like the ones I saw “save the day” in these movies. The handsome appearance, charming smile, and eventual commitment to the woman he pursued made my heart ache for a man who would one day do that for me. However, I found myself dreaming of the man I saw on the screen, rather than my Savior who set a different example of true love—a love that isn’t dependent on my looks, abilities, or accomplishments. My longing for a husband and my expectations for what he should be like were shaped by what I saw in these movies, and not in a positive way.
The longing I experienced was ultimately for a love that would not fail me, leave me, or disregard me, and for a hope that would not disappoint me, deceive me, or mislead me—all of which could never be found in a man. This longing, woven into my soul and being, was put there by God to be satisfied by God Himself, and it all traces back to where the Story began, in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1–3). God made us to be satisfied in Him as we reflect His image and enjoy true fellowship with Him. However, the fall of man tainted God’s perfect creation, and we’ve been longing for God ever since, only to search for Him in all the wrong places. Ultimately, everything in the world fails us. Only through Christ, God’s master plan to redeem us, do we find true satisfaction.
Hallmark movies reveal this longing, but don’t point us to the Answer. Jesus is the fulfillment of the ache within our hearts.
What Jesus Offers Us
Jesus offers us more than a Hallmark Christmas movie ever could attempt to give. He doesn’t leave us when times get tough; He stays through thick and thin. He doesn’t change His mind; He is faithful to the end. He isn’t flighty or emotional like many of the characters in these movies; He is stable, steadfast, and sure. He won’t disappoint us; rather, He takes our setbacks and turns them into a blessing as we draw nearer to Him. He doesn’t require us to look a certain way, accomplish something great, or fit into a special mold in order to come and be loved by Him. He sacrificed His very life so we could experience true, eternal life in Him.
Hallmark movies leave us wanting more, but Jesus leaves us satisfied.
Hallmark movies stir discontentment in our hearts, but Jesus delights our longing souls (even in our current circumstances).
Hallmark movies cause us to miss out on the joy right in front of us, but Jesus enables us to experience a lasting joy that defies all odds.
Ultimately, Jesus offers us the answer to why we long for “happily ever after,” because we were ultimately made for this kind of ending in Him.
This year, whether you find yourself glued to the Hallmark channel or not, let your longings lead you to the One who was made to fill them. When you surrender your life to Him, you too will know how the Story ends, and one thing I can promise is this: the ending to the love story offered in Christ will never disappoint.