A First Century Scandal – Not Your Typical Hallmark Movie
This month I’ve seen enough Hallmark Christmas movies to last a lifetime. Three. I’m amazed at how popular Hallmark movies have become, so I did a little research to find out why.
According to forbes.com, “Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas slate of holiday movies delivered more households and female viewers than ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox on Saturday nights in the 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. time slot during its nine-week run. The movies attracted an average audience of 3.5 million viewers and 641,000 women aged 25 to 54, the target demographic.” The article goes on to say, “Hallmark can afford to take the jokes about its movies in stride. According to the company, Hallmark earned $600 million in advertising revenue last year.”
Not bad. Although, it will be interesting to see what effect this week’s controversial news will have on the bottom line.
So, why are these predictable, mawkish, and saccharine movies so popular? (And there are plenty of other choice adjectives I could use.) Bill Abbott, the C.E.O. of Crown Media, Hallmark’s entertainment company, believes their success is in the familiar, nostalgic scripts where you “get away from politics . . . from everything in your life that is problematic and negative, and [you] feel like there are people out there who are good human beings that could make you feel happy to be part of the human race” (newyorker.com).
Sounds like the Blue Pill from The Matrix. Take the pill, and you will wake up in your own bed with no worries and a normal life.
When I read the Christmas story from Luke’s and Matthew’s Gospels, I see two teenagers who took the Red Pill. Joseph and Mary chose faithful obedience to God, knowing it would cost them everything—reputation, friendships, and family support.
Undoubtedly, their story was a first-century scandal. Nine-months of awkward explanations. Furtive glances from those you once called friends. According to Roman Law, the male head of household was the only one required for a Roman census. So, why did Joseph drag his pregnant wife seventy miles to Bethlehem? Could it be to spare her the ignominy of giving birth in her hometown?
Philip Yancey concludes, “It seems that God arranged the most humiliating circumstances possible for his entrance, as if to avoid any charge of favoritism. I am impressed that when the Son of God became a human being he played by the rules, harsh rules: small towns do not treat kindly to young boys who grow up with questionable paternity” (The Jesus I Never Knew, 32).
Truth be told, the story of the Incarnation would more likely be aired on HBO than Hallmark. But, whichever channel you prefer, let us all rejoice that a young, unmarried couple took on such profound risk which has given us all such prodigious reward.
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, ESV).