I love the Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street (1947). It’s an oldie, but a goodie with top-notch acting and many great scenes. Jody and I watch it every year! The movie is a stirring look at the commercialism in Christmas. In the movie, the main character, an elderly gentleman (Edmund Gwenn), believes that he is THE Santa Claus. The movie starts on Thanksgiving Day- just moments before the Macy Day Parade is to begin. The elderly gentleman is hired to save the day and replace an inebriated impostor “Santa” in the parade. But the very next day, Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) discovers that the Santa Claus she just hired may be “nuts.” Doris asks for her new hire’s employee card and finds that on the card he gave "KRIS KRINGLE" as his name. And on the card for his age, Kris wrote, “As old as my tongue and a bit older than my teeth.” Doris panics and starts to fire Kris. But because of Kris’s popularity with the big boss, Mr. Macy, not only does Doris not fire Kris, she invites him to her home! There Kris meets Doris’s precocious young daughter, Susan (Natalie Wood). Soon Kris finds himself right in the middle of an exceptionally challenging environment – he is surrounded by people who do not believe in Christmas, much less Santa. But Kris loves getting to know Doris and her daughter because they embody the very thing he has spent his life fighting against: cynicism and lack of faith in Christmas. Now the most iconic scene in the movie is the one that takes place in Macy's Christmas Village. Kris is on his throne in a look-like North Pole inviting children to sit on his lap to tell him what they want for Christmas. A well-dressed woman walks up to Kris, a.k.a. Santa, and relates that her newly adopted daughter wanted to see him. She goes on to explain that the little girl is an orphan from Holland and doesn't speak English, only Dutch. She tells Kris that she tried to dissuade her new daughter from trying to talk to Santa because she was afraid that the little girl’s heart would be broken when Santa couldn’t understand her. Then, the little Dutch girl smiles up at Santa! Kris promptly picks her up, puts her on his lap and greets her in Dutch. The two of them share a priceless conversation in Dutch and start singing, "Sinterklaas Kapoentje!" The little girl’s adoptive mother, and Kris’s new young friend, Susan, look on in amazement. Just the thought of this beautiful scene brings tears to my eyes! This movie is a holiday classic. If you haven’t yet seen it, rent it or buy it! You won’t be disappointed.
But for the purpose of today's blog, the scene that has been playing over and over again in my head is the one where Santa and Alfred, a young janitor, are in the Macy’s employee locker room. Alfred is sweeping the floor while Kris is adding finishing touches to his costume. The manager of the toy department walks in and gives Kris a list of toys over-bought by the department store. The manager tells Kris to encourage undecided children to request one of these toys and in so doing, help Macy’s to get them off the shelves. After the manager leaves, Kris crumples up the list and tells Alfred how sad this makes him – he is sincerely worried about the future of Christmas. Alfred joins in and says in his thick Brooklyn accent, “There’s a lot of bad isms floating around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism!” I agree – commercialism is at its worst at Christmas time. And in marriage, consumerism is just as bad! Keep reading, friends!
Let me explain. In marriage, consumerism happens when we treat the holy covenant we made with our spouse and God as a mere business transaction. This happens when we look at marriage as a commodity – when the marriage is no longer producing or pleasing, we sell and get out of the agreement. It also happens when we desire an upgrade! In today’s life, a great example of the consumer relationship is the one we have with our cell phone carriers. We have no allegiance to any one company. Whichever one offers the least expensive deal wins our business. And if a competitor drops its price or ups the sweetness of their deal with a blinged-out new phone, we jump ship and take the new deal! Consumers always look for the best deal, the best price and the best product. This is wise in the financial world – it is capitalism at its best. But subtly, this consumer mindset has crept into the way some view marriage. Some long-time spouses look across the dinner table at their disheveled spouse shoveling food in their mouth and babbling about the same old stale topic discussed the night before and think, “Hey, I wonder what life would be like with a newer model? I bet the new model would have better table manners, be easier on the eyes and engage in more interesting dinner conversations!” This, my friends, is consumerism in marriage.
I blame consumerism in marriage, in part, on the new method of courtship: the on-line dating service. The service takes your information, analyzes it, compares it with thousands of others in its data bank, and spits out for you a list of potential “perfect fits.” You read about them, look at their pictures and try to decode the truths in their profiles. Then with the help of the service, you reach out and contact one of them. But no worry. If things don’t go well, you can reach back to the list and pull up the next potential “Mr. or Mrs. Right.” Now I have known some great matches that were made with one of these services, but the couple had to immediately shift gears and accept that the consumer part of the arrangement was finished. The consumer part of the courtship was null and void the moment they stood before a minister and made that covenant before God: to have and to hold, through sickness, poverty and until death do they part. But not everyone makes that very important and necessary shift from contract to covenant!
Now we would never treat our relationships with our children in this way, would we? We would never look across the dinner table at our little darlings eating with their fingers, making messes all over the floor, talking with their mouths full and think, “Hey, I wonder if someone will change children with me? I’ve had enough of these, and I don’t think they will amount to much!” If you were to do this, you would be shamed and made an outcast from society. So in general, our culture considers the parent-child relationship to be a covenant. Why? Our children are gifts from God, and we don’t treat God’s gifts with the detachment we have with our cell phone carrier. But some people do look at their spouse as a commodity … as a cell phone … waiting until a new and improved model presents itself. Yes, I am being purposefully sarcastic and over the top, but there is some truth here. Have you ever known a Christian to divorce for anything other than adultery or abuse (Matthew 19:8-9, Malachi 2:16)? It happens. Christian couples divorce for economic reasons and because of incompatible personalities, weight gain, physical limitations, sickness, problems with in-laws, pressures from raising children, and addictions, to name just a few. Now hear me be clearly – divorce is NOT an unpardonable sin. Sometimes divorce is necessary. But, it must be the very last resort. It must not be the first thought! Guard your heart from consumerism, my friends! If you keep chasing after God, you will hopefully never get to that place where divorce looks like the only logical next step.
Consumerism in marriage has slowly cheapened the whole concept of marriage and has devalued the covenant we make before God. And often, divorce is the evidence of our lack of faith. We don’t truly believe that God can heal our marriages, change our hearts and help us to forgive our spouses of their sins. When the path gets difficult, we can no longer handle it all. We get discouraged and can find no hope. At this point we must depend on God. Again hear me be clearly – there is nothing that God cannot do! God is the answer to each and every issue in your marriage today. He is your hope during this holiday season and all year long. Now, I’m not encouraging you to stay trapped in a loveless marriage. Instead, I’m encouraging you to allow God to heal your marriage and refill it with love, His love! Believe that this is His desire for you! Pursue God – on your knees. Now I know that it is easier to write this truth than it is to put it into practice, but I know that you and your spouse, depending on God, can do it! If you are not in church, find a church home and get connected. Seek Christian counselling, and keep pursuing God in all these matters. Keep reading, my friends. I know God has your exactly what your marriage needs. Have faith!
Now back to the conclusion of the movie, Miracle on 34th Street. Near the end of the movie, a NY circuit judge dramatically rules that Kris Kringle is “the one and only Santa Claus!” Defending Kris is an attorney, Fred Gailey (John Payne). Fred is also Doris’s boyfriend. Fred and Doris are both fond of Kris. And at the end of the movie, they come to realize that Kris Kringle truly is the one and only Santa Claus! This revelation comes to them when they notice a walking cane, just like the one Kris uses throughout the movie, left in the corner of the living room of a house just like the one Susan had had asked Santa Claus to give her for Christmas. 😊 Your heart will swell as you watch the scene unfold. Watch the movie and enjoy the Christmas Miracle! And continue to petition God for the miracle your marriage needs. Keep those bad -ISMS at bay- commercialism out of your Christmas holiday and consumerism out of your marriage! Keep reading, friends!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.