Emmanuel and the 7 Deadly Sins in Christmas movies


Pride makes Clark Griswold do stupid things in Christmas Vacation. In fact, pride is a driving motivation for Clark in all the Vacation movies. His gloriously ridiculous light show, buying things for his family before he has the money and hiding his fears and problems from his family reveal the pressure he feels to measure up to the man he thinks he is supposed to be. When he finds out about his bonus Clark feels devalued by his boss and is devastated, not only that he might disappoint his family, but that in disappointing them he might lose their love and respect. Christmas Vacation is a reminder that love and worth are not determined by deliverables.

In The Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington envies Santa and wants his job. Bored with his own role as king of Halloweentown, when Jack discovers Christmastown he finds it so much more appealing that he tries to turn Halloweentown into another Christmastown. Eventually Jack recognizes that he can take the imspiration and renewed energy that he found in Christmastown and bring that to the work he is meant to do.

Ebenezer Scrooge’s greed and suspicious cynicism about the motives of others makes relationships impossible for him. Scrooge gets a rush out of amassing wealth. He has hoarded his fortune and isolated himself from others for so long that the way he is living feels normal. It takes supernatural intervention to get Scrooge to see himself as he really is. Eventually Scrooge discovers that giving makes having worth the effort of getting. There are many great versions of A Christmas Carol. Scrooged is great because it’s set in the greed-celebrating 1980’s.

In How the Grinch Stole Christmas the Grinch resents the idea that somewhere somebody might be having a good time. Christmas is the Whos’ ultimate celebration of joy and togetherness, and the Grinch wants to stop it. Because he is so self-centered and angry, the Grinch misreads the motivating forces behind the Whos’ celebrations and thinks that he can steal their joy by stealing their stuff. The remedy for the Grinch’s anger is for his heart to grow bigger; and the Whos’ heart to heart and hand in hand response to his meanness is the impetus for that growth.

Sloth is more than laziness. Elf portrays the apathetic, disconnected malaise that happens when people lose faith and wonder. Buddy disrupts the uninspired, routine celebration of Christmas in New York, especially impacting the lives of his father and girlfriend. Both Walter and Jovie have settled for small, tired, uninspired existences. The possibility of living big lives full of passion and purpose seems as mythic as Santa Claus. Buddy is their evidence that there is a different, more hopeful, but up to now, unseen reality. Elf is a celebration of wonder and joy.

Overindulgence is a Christmas rite and no one looks forward to the Christmas turkey as much as Ralphie’s Old Man in  A Christmas Story. He is described as a “turkey junkie” whose eyes “gleam with a wild and ravenous light” at the thought of that turkey. Between the Old Man, the Bumpases’ dogs devouring the turkey, and Randy’s “how do the little piggie eat” scene, A Christmas Story is my pick for gluttony, though this is not the real theme of the movie. And the family does manage to enjoy a unique Christmas dinner in spite of their devasatating loss.

One of the eight storylines about love and lust in Love Actually is the story of Harry and Karen, who seem to have a stale but stable marriage. Harry is flattered by the obvious attention of his beautiful assistant Mia and he buys her a necklace. When Karen finds out she feels devasated, betrayed, and invalidated. While Harry’s declaration that “nothing happened” is a relief, Harry’s emotional infidelity creates a situation for Karen in which life will always be “a little bit worse.” Sometimes love takes work. They are willing to work towards love and trust even when it doesn’t feel comfortable.

Pride, envy, greed, anger, sloth, gluttony, and lust reflect the human condition. We can’t redeem ourselves but we can choose to respond to these temptations with an Emmanuel attitude. Because Christ really is with us.

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