Now that December 25 has come and gone, the crush and pressure of getting all the gifts wrapped and under the tree is also past. Since the Christmas season continues for many more days yet, the days after the 25th are precious. There are less expectations, perhaps, more time for movies, board games and reading. These are the days of visits to friends and family, or simply just days of quiet, days of reflection and prayer. Perhaps now is when we can enjoy Christmas more fully.
Like the other decorations, the Christmas tree is still up. During the relative quiet of these days, this is a great time to take a closer look at some of the items we hang on the tree. Since I personally have spent many years, at different phases of my life, working at Hallmark Gold Crown stores, most of the ornaments on my tree come from the annual Hallmark ornament collections.
Somewhere along the way during these years of working retail, I began to connect the process of artistic creation on a small level, so apparent in each of the ornaments produced by the Hallmark artists, to the great process of creation God undertakes with each of us, as He forms and molds us in the different experiences and circumstances of our lives, helping us become the idea He had in mind at our creation. "All men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece," as St. John Paul II wrote in his “Letter to Artists.”
With this in mind, I studied some of the ornaments on my tree more closely. What could I learn from them? How is God revealed in the artistic expression of each ornament, especially at this time of the year, the Incarnation of Christ? How can it help me to see the child in the manger a little more clearly, the one who came to give us the ability to be co-creators of the Kingdom of God?
Taking one of the new ornaments for this year, an ornament commemorating the Disney movie Bambi’s 60th Anniversary, I came up with the following thoughts.
Disney’s Bambi: the Meek and the Vulnerable
This year is the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the release of Bambi. We are all familiar with the basic story of this movie. Bambi is born, he spends some happy, innocent days growing as a fawn before his mother is cut down in the prime of her life, at a time when Bambi himself is fully in need of her guidance and protection. He has to make it on his own to adulthood. As the movie shows, he is successful in growing and maturing and eventually becomes a mature adult male, himself.
This movie in particular is a study of the meek and innocent. Much of the movie is spent detailing the lives of Bambi and his woodland friends as they play and hide and yet, somehow, still survive and make it to adulthood so that they can rear their own families. Many of the themes in this movie can help illuminate the birth of Christ, such as the mother who would give her life for her son, the son who spends much of his time in the company of his friends, and above all, the portrayal of the meek and the innocent in the face of violence. At his trial before Pontius Pilate, Jesus himself says "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." (John 18:36) In Jesus’ kingdom, true and everlasting peace will be achieved. Violence will finally be at an end.
A big part of the hope of Christmas is the world it points us to. This is the world of the end times, which the Jewish people fervently anticipated. The coming of the Messiah signaled a time of emancipation from violence, particularly at the hands of the Romans. It meant a time of peace when they would be able to worship God in both word and deed, without fear of retribution. It ushered in a time of great internal, and therefore, external, freedom, a world where the lion would lie down with the lamb, where there would be peace on all God's holy mountain.
We still long for, look for, and pray for this same world.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.