Clustered with some guys at a social gathering, the conversation turned to what channel would come on next time our TV power button got pushed. For me, it’s always a news or sports station except, I admitted, between Thanksgiving and Christmas when movies of holiday love and magic run non-stop on the hallmark channel. I wander there when the other two options come up short. All the other guys smiled and eventually confessed to watching it, too.
The story lines are essentially the same. A pretty girl named Holly or Noel, flanked by her friend, Ivy or Carol, is chasing happiness at year’s end. She encounters an old guy with a white beard named Nick or Kris, who mysteriously connects her to a handsome man named Chris or Nick—whichever name the old guy didn’t take. The young couple usually gets snowed in or is otherwise pushed together; there is often a gingerbread contest or other local competition in their village (called Evergreen or Wonderland). Together, they win the prize and discover majestic love, being saved by each other, just in the nick of time, from whatever destructive path their lives had been on. Predictable and corny, the stories keep retelling the mystical journey from seeking worldly material success to receiving otherworldly magical grace.
I remember encountering a lady many years ago who attended daily Mass. She said: “I don’t know why I keep coming back each day to watch these re-runs but I’m really drawn to it.” I suggest here that holiday love stories give us a taste of the divine love story in ways that we are drawn and, unlike the heavenly version, can grasp. These stories of rare magic found in today’s secular Christmas, in some ways, re-present the rarer miracle found in the sacred events of Jesus’ existence long ago. Human romantic love in a yuletide setting is easier to grasp than is divine sacrificial love in a rancorous setting—yet we are really drawn to both.
Most of us don’t believe that there is one perfect soul mate out there for each person nor that the magical hand of a saintly ole spirit can toss us together into the mystery of true love. Or do we? The young couples I encounter during the process of marriage preparation believe that the person they marry was chosen not only by them but for them (through God’s grace). Some kids, guided by parents or priests, even begin praying for their future spouse long before they ever meet. Whatever common circumstances—or odd and mysterious ones—bring a couple together, many contend that the hand of God was central to the magnetic pull, even if they’d prefer to call it mystery or magic.
Of course, the real life stories don’t end there; we continue chasing happiness in our physical existence and human experiences. But I think this search is symbolic of greater wanderlust and higher pursuits. “Advent” means the coming. It is exciting to anticipate the coming of a holy day miracle. Though on a spiritual level it is always beyond our grasp, on a physical level it can be realized in a gift under a Christmas tree or a kiss under the mistletoe or wherever the spiritual and physical worlds converge in the magic of the season. In these days when our human spirit is drawn to the Christmas spirit, let it direct our Advent wish allowing us to be united with love beyond the human story.