Wisdom, Chapter 17, Verse 8-10
8 For they who undertook to banish FEARS and terrors from the sick soul themselves sickened with ridiculous fear. 9 For even though no monstrous thing frightened them, they shook at the passing of insects and the hissing of reptiles, 10 And perished trembling, reluctant to face even the air that they could nowhere escape.
Darkness afflicts the Egyptians, while the Israelites have light!
wake again, for the LORD sustains me. I fear not the myriads of people arrayed
against me on every side.
Nativity of Our Lord, Or Christmas. Sunrise
OF THE SECOND MASS.
The Introit of this Mass reminds us of the temporal birth of Our Savior in Bethlehem. A light shall shine upon us to-day, for Our Lord is born to us, and He shall be called Wonderful, God, the Prince of peace, the Father of the world to come, of Whose reign there shall be no end” (Is. ix. 6). “The Lord hath reigned, He is clothed with beauty; the Lord is clothed with strength, and hath girded Himself” (Ps. xcii. 1).
Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that we who are filled with the new light of Thy incarnate Word, may show forth in our works what faith displays in our mind. Through the same Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen
EPISTLE. Titus iii. 4-7.
Dearly Beloved: The goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared: not by the works of justice which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the labor of regeneration, and renovation of the Holy Ghost, Whom He hath poured forth upon us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Savior: that, being justified by His grace, we may be heirs, according to hope, of life everlasting in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What does St. Paul teach us in this epistle?
He teaches us what God has done and is doing that we may have eternal life, and why He does it. Not by our own merits, but according to His mercy, He has saved us by holy Baptism, for we were conceived and born in sin. Let us show by our lives that we are renewed by the Holy Ghost, and animated by the hope of life everlasting.
Why did not God have mercy on the fallen angels?
This is a mystery which should heighten our love to God, but should also fill us with fear and trembling, for if we do not use the goodness and kindness of God to our advantage our punishment will be severer than that of the fallen angels.
GOSPEL. Luke ii. 15-20.
At that time the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath showed to us. And they came with haste: and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child. And all that heard wondered: and at those things that were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
How could the shepherds know that the new-born child was the Savior of the world?
The angels had given them a sign: “You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laid in a manger,” and seeing, they believed, fell on their knees, and adored the child. They then praised God for the graces they had received, and made known what they had heard and seen to others.
What do we learn from Mary in this gospel?
That we should ponder the divine truths in our hearts, and, by this heavenly nourishment, strengthen and preserve our souls in spiritual life.
The popular American greeting "Merry Christmas" is generally taken as a wish for a joyful feast, but in reality, it has a different meaning. "Merry" originally meant "peaceful or blessed," not jocular or happy; it was an adjective for heavenly serenity, not earthly mirth. The phrase, "Merry England," for example, referred to the spiritual character of the country. And in the carol, "God rest you merry gentleman," the word "merry" does not refer to "gentleman." Rather, it should be read, "God rest you merry, gentleman," -- "that is, God rest you peacefully, gentleman."
Like other high points of the liturgical year, Christmas was the occasion of devout mystery plays, dramas held in church after Mass which explained the meaning of the mystery being commemorated. By the late Middle Ages these plays had become elaborate pageants, public entertainment (usually held outside the church on a movable stage) that consisted of various scenes from history or legend.
Many Americans may be surprised to learn that the Christmas custom of exchanging gifts does not always occur on Christmas morning. In some countries, the Feast of St. Nicholas (December 6) is the traditionally preferred date, while in France -- for adults at least-- it is January 1st. Still other countries, such as Italy, imitate the Magi by presenting their gifts on the Feast of the Epiphany. (Epiphany is also the day when gifts are exchanged in the Eastern churches.) Finally, some areas of Europe exchange their gifts on Christmas Eve before or after attending Midnight Mass. The giving of gifts may also be spread over the duration of Christmas (hence, the carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas:" see below). December 26, for example, is called Boxer Day in England and Canada because on this day the poor boxes of the church were emptied by the priest and their contents distributed to the needy. The day after Christmas has thus become a traditional day for giving gifts to servants or to one's paperboy, mailman, barber, etc. In some places, some of the gifts are withheld on Christmas to be given on Epiphany. This has the advantage of prolonging children's delight in receiving presents, as opposed to over-saturating them on Christmas Day.
It is only fitting that the season celebrating the Flower that comes from the root of Jesse (Is. 11.2) should be so strongly associated with various plants, some of which are included below:
Holly: Why do we deck the halls with boughs of holly? Simple but profound in its symbolism, holly represents two sacred events: the revelation of God's Holy Name to Moses on Mt. Sinai and the Crucifixion of our Lord. On the one hand, the prickly leaves and red berries of holly call to mind the burning bush from which Yahweh spoke; on the other they symbolize the Crown of Thorns and the drops of Blood shed by our Lord during His Passion. The point seems to be that in order to recognize the infant in the manger as the Godman, one must look backward to His self-revelation in sacred history and forward to His saving action on the Cross.
Mistletoe: Mistletoe was considered to be a powerful and sacred healing agent by the Druids. It was considered so sacrosanct, in fact, that enemies who met under it were forced to lay down their arms, embrace each other, and vow not to fight until the following day. When England became Christian, mistletoe was retained as a token of good will and friendship (along with the custom of kissing under the mistletoe), while its association with healing was transferred to Christ, whom the Advent hymn for Vespers calls the "Cure for a sick world" (languidi mundi Medela).
Ivy: Ivy was originally banned from Christmas celebrations because of its pagan associations with bacchanalia. It took several centuries for the distaste of this symbolism to wear off, but when in the Middle Ages it finally did, its natural qualities could be appreciated anew. Seeing in its desperate clinging to rock an allegory for human dependence on divine strength, Christians made ivy became a popular Christmas symbol, as well as a favored indoor plant year-round.
Laurel (Bay): Whereas ivy suffered from its pagan meaning, laurel benefited. As the ancient Roman symbol of victory, laurel became the first plant to be used as a decoration for the newborn King. The Christmas wreath hung on our doors also comes from this symbolism. The Romans considered wreaths symbols of victory and celebration, placing them on their doors when an occasion merited it.
Rosemary: As a Christmas symbol, rosemary is almost as old as laurel. An ancient legend, explaining the reason for its use at Christmas time, states that when the Holy Family was fleeing to Egypt Mary stopped along the way, washed Jesus' tiny clothes, and spread them out to dry on a rosemary bush. Since then God has rewarded the bush with a pleasing fragrance.
Poinsetta: The most recent addition to the Christmas plant pageant is the glorious poinsettia from Central America or, as it is called in Mexico, the flower of Holy Night. It is of no consequence that the plant's flaming red "petals" are actually its leaves; the poinsettia is a perfect reminder of the fiery star that led the wise men to Bethlehem.
The Christmas Carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas"
The singing of hymns and carols, even in an age which has lost the ability to sing, remains a fixed and cherished part of Christmas. Unfortunately, we cannot adequately examine the vast history or catalog of Christmas songs. Instead, we will focus on one famous but misunderstood Christmas carol. Most holiday revelers do not realize that the popular carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," is actually a hidden catechism for Catholics. From 1558 to 1829 the Catholic Church was persecuted in England, making the transmission of the faith from one generation to the next exceedingly difficult. One solution was to veil the basic tenets of the faith in the symbols of a song. If caught, a Catholic could claim that it was merely an innocuous ditty, or even, if pushed, a Protestant catechism (since most of the song's teachings were also shared by the Reformers).
Here are the verses of the song, followed by its meaning:
The Twelve Days of Christmas
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.
On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three french hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, five golden rings, four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, six geese-a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, seven swans-a-swimming, six geese-a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eight maids-a-milking, seven swans-a-swimming, six geese-a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, nine ladies dancing, eight maids-a-milking, seven swans-a-swimming, six geese-a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, ten lords-a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids-a-milking, seven swans-a-swimming, six geese-a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eleven pipers piping, ten lords-a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids-a-milking, seven swans-a-swimming, six geese-a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords-a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids-a-milking, seven swans-a-swimming, six geese-a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
The Carol's Meaning
· My true love = God
· Me = every baptized person, the Church
· A Partridge in a pear tree = The Word made flesh, Jesus Christ (The portrayal of Christ as a mother partridge is inspired by his lament: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered thee under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but thou wouldst not have it so..."). The pear tree signifies the wood of the manger (and also of the cross), while the fruit reminds us of the reason for the Incarnation: God's desire to save us from the sin introduced by Adam's and Eve's consumption of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil. The fruit also reminds us of the Tree of Life in the midst of the Garden.
· Two Turtle Doves = The two parts of the Sacred Scriptures [Old and New Testaments]
· Three French Hens = The three theological virtues, given from God and poured into our hearts [Faith, Hope, and Charity]
· Four Calling Birds = the four Gospels/Evangelists [Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John]
· Five Golden Rings = The first five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch" [Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy]
· Six Geese a-Laying = The six days of creation
1st Day: Creation of light and its separation from darkness
2nd Day: Creation of the firmament and division of the waters
3rd Day: Collection of waters (sea) and formation of dry land (earth); creation of plants according to their own likeness
4th Day: Creation of heavenly bodies in the firmament (sun, moon, and stars)
5th Day: Creation of sea creatures and winged fowl from the waters
6th Day: Creation of cattle, creeping things, and beasts from the dry land; creation of mankind, male and female
· Seven Swans a-Swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
7. fear of the Lord
Also, the seven sacraments of the Catholic faith [Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony]
- Eight Maids a-Milking = the eight Beatitudes [Mt. 5.3-12]
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
2. Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
3. Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.
4. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
6. Blessed are the clean of heart: they shall see God.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
8. Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Nine Ladies Dancing = the nine choirs of angels (in ascending order)
- Ten Lords a-Leaping = the Ten Commandments
1. I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
3. Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day.
4. Honor thy father and mother.
5. Thou shalt not kill.
6. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
7. Thou shalt not steal.
8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.
- Eleven Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles [Simon Peter, James the Great, John, Simon (the Zealot), Jude (a.k.a. Thaddeus), Andrew, James the Less, Matthew, Phillip, Bartholomew, and Thomas]
- Twelve Drummers Drumming = the twelve articles of the Apostle's Creed
1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth.
2. And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord:
3. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
5. He descended into Hell; on the third day He rose from the dead.
6. He ascended into Heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
7. From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9. The Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints,
10. The forgiveness of sins,
11. The resurrection of the body,
12. And life everlasting. Amen.
The "Twelve Days of Christmas" is still an excellent expression of joy in the Incarnate Lord and a well-rounded summary of the life of Faith. And, by giving us something on which to meditate for each day, it is also an ideal way to spend the twelve days of Christmas. It even reminds us (by virtue of its history) of the cost many generations had to pay in order for us to receive the Good News we celebrate during this holy season.
Nativity of Our Lord, Or Christmas. Full Daytime
OF THE THIRD MASS.
The Introit of the third Mass reminds us of the spiritual birth of Christ in our hearts. “A child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called the Angel of great counsel” (Is. ix. 6). “Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle, for He hath done wonderful things” (Ps. xcvii.1).
Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the new birth of Thine only begotten Son in the flesh may deliver us, who are held by the old bondage under the yoke of sin. Amen.
EPISTLE. Heb. i. 1-12.
God, Who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all in these days, has spoken to us by His Son, Whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by Whom also He made the world : Who being the brightness of His glory, and the figure of His substance, and upholding all things by the word of His power, making purgation of sins, sitteth on the right hand of the Majesty on high: being made so much better than the angels, as He had inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels hath He said at any time: Thou art My Son, to-day have I begotten Thee? And again: I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son? And again, when He bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, He saith: And let all the angels of God adore Him. And to the angels indeed He saith: He that maketh His angel’s spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire. But to the Son: Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: a scepter of justice is the scepter of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved justice and hated iniquity: therefore God, Thy God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows. And: Thou in the beginning, O Lord, didst found the earth: and the works of Thy hands are the heavens. They shall perish, but Thou shalt continue, and they shall all grow old as a garment. And as a vesture shalt Thou change them and they shall be changed: but Thou art the self-same, and Thy years shall not fail.
How magnificently does this epistle set forth the kindness and love of God the Father, Who, for a teacher, has given us, not a prophet, but His only Son! how beautifully does it prove the divinity of Christ, since God has begotten Him from all eternity, and created the heavens and earth through Him, Who is always the same, and His throne forever and ever! Learn, O Christian soul, from this epistle, how much thou art obliged to love God, to trust Him, and to follow Christ thy example, for without imitating Him thou canst neither belong to His elect, nor have part in His redemption.
O heavenly Father, I thank Thee with my whole heart, for having spoken to us through Thy only begotten Son, Whom Thou hast made better than the angels. I will, O Father of mercy, listen to Him with gratitude, and use His sublime teachings for the perfect enlightenment of my mind and heart.
GOSPEL. John i. 1-14.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him and without Him was made nothing that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him. He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light, that was the true light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, He gave them power to be made the sons of God; to them that believe in His name. Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
· What does St. John mean by the “Word”?
He means the Son of God, Who is called the Word of the Father, because He was begotten as the word is produced from the thought, but in a manner more beautiful and mysterious. In His divine nature He is one with the Father; but in person distinct from Him; as the word spoken is at the same time one with Him Who speaks, and yet distinct from Him. He is also called the Word because it is through Him that the Father has declared to us His will.
· What is the meaning of, “in the beginning was the Word”?
It means that at the beginning of the world the Son of God already was, and, therefore, was begotten of His Father from all eternity. Thus, at the beginning of his gospel St. John teaches Christ’s eternity, divinity, and equality with the Father.
· What is the meaning of, “all things were made by the Word”?
That the Son of God, Himself true God, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, created all things that were made, both visible and invisible, in perfect order and beauty (Prov. viii. 30).
· What is the meaning of, “in Him was life”?
That, as the living God, He was the source and fountain of all life.
· How was the “Life the light of men”?
The Eternal Son, Who was the life, was also the light of men, because He was the Truth to enlighten them with the knowledge and love of God, that, avoiding sin and ignorance they might walk with safety in the way of salvation.
· In what sense are we to understand the words, “and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it”?
Christ made known the true knowledge of God to men who were in spiritual darkness, that is, in error and ignorance, but they would not receive His holy teaching. This is still the case with those who, notwithstanding the preaching of the Gospel, Will not believe, and particularly with those hardened sinners who will not return to God, although He pours upon them the light of His grace to move them to penance.
· Who is meant by “him who came to bear witness of that light”?
St. John the Baptist, who endeavored by his preaching to prepare the Jews for the coming of Christ, and who testified before the whole world that He was the expected King and Messiah.
· How are we made children of God?
By the grace which we receive in holy Baptism.
· What is to be understood by, the Word was made flesh?
We are to understand by it that the Word was not changed into human nature, but that He became incarnate by the Holy Ghost, of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, uniting in one person the two natures, divine and human. He was the Godman, Who walked among men thirty-three years, marking every step by favors and benefits. He assumed, says St. Leo, the nature of man, who was to be reconciled to God, in order that Satan, the author of death, might be overcome by that same nature which he had before conquered; and thus Our Lord and Savior vanquished our most cruel enemy, not in majesty, but in humility.
· What is the meaning of, “and we saw His glory, the glory of the only-begotten of the Father”?
The evangelist hereby indicates that he and his fellow apostles were permitted to see the glory of the Godman; for instance, on Mount Tabor; in His miracles; in His glorious resurrection and ascension. Thus, they saw Him and knew that He was the true Son of God, the fountain of all good, from which all receive life, and light, and grace (John i. 16).
O God, Father in heaven, Who, in the form of an amiable child, hast given to us poor sinners this past night Thy only begotten Son, born of the immaculate Virgin Mary, to be our Mediator and Redeemer, we thank Thee with all our hearts for this inexpressible grace, and beseech Thee, of Thy goodness, to preserve in us the perpetual memory of it, that, in all our adversities and temptations, we may have comfort and consolation, with strength to love, serve, and praise Thee, in holiness and purity, until the last hour of our lives. Amen.
Christmas - The First Day
The purest of Virgins gave us our God, who was this day born of her, clothed in the flesh of a Babe, and she was found worthy to feed him at her Breast: let us all adore Christ, who came to save us.
Ye faithful people, let us all rejoice, for our Savior is born in our world: this Day there has been born the Son of the great Mother, and she yet a pure Virgin.
O Queen of the world, and Daughter of a kingly race! Christ has risen from thy womb, as a Bridegroom coming from the bride-chamber: He that rules the stars lies in a Crib. — Antiphon from the ancient Church of Gaul
· Day One activity (Christmas Drama)
· Day One recipe (Breton Nut Bread)
20 Christmas Movies
The following movies have been evaluated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops according to artistic merit and moral suitability. The reviews include the USCCB rating, the Motion Picture Association of America rating, and a brief synopsis of the movie.
Browse your TV listings, video store shelves, or your movie service website to find one of these classic gems and recent favorites to share with your family.
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Delightful romantic comedy set in a Budapest department store where two clerks (James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan) nurture a mutual dislike of the other while each exchanges love letters with a lonely heart’s pen pal until ultimately discovering they have been corresponding with each other. Director Ernst Lubitsch treats the workaday friction between the clerks with some wry humor while building sympathy for both, then brings them together in an emotionally satisfying conclusion that has charmed viewers ever since. Romantic complications. (A-II) (NR)
The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)
Director Leo McCarey's sequel to "Going My Way" (1944) pulls out all the emotional stops in a sugary confection that takes happy-go-lucky Father O'Malley (Bing Crosby) to a poor parish with a crumbling school run by overworked Sister Benedict (Ingrid Bergman). Though their conflicting views on education have less to do with the plot than the chasm between their personal relations, Bergman's shining performance as the idealistic nun is still worth watching. Sentimental yet warm picture of Catholic life in an age of innocence. (A-I) (NR)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Seasonal favorite about the joys and trials of a good man (James Stewart) who, facing financial ruin on the eve of Christmas, contemplates suicide until his guardian angel (Henry Travers) shows him how meaningful his life has been to those around him. Director Frank Capra's unabashedly sentimental picture of mainstream American life is bolstered by a superb cast (including Lionel Barrymore as a conniving banker) and a wealth of good feelings about such commonplace virtues as hard work and helping one's neighbor. Young children may find the story's dark moments unsettling. (A-II) (NR)
The Bishop's Wife (1947)
A debonair, smartly tailored angel (Cary Grant) uses his heavenly powers to help the neglected wife (Loretta Young) of a busy Episcopalian bishop (David Niven) renew her husband's ministry to those in need rather than in raising the money for a new cathedral. Director Henry Koster's sentimental Christmas fable has the virtue of a good script, sincere performances and some amusing moments with Grant's angelic powers and Monty Wooley as a softhearted old cynic. Most of the family will find it charming entertainment. (A-II) (NR)
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Familiar seasonal favorite follows a department store Santa (Edmund Gwenn) as he strives to convince a lonely little girl (Natalie Wood) that he's the genuine article, despite the objections of her rigidly pragmatic mother (Maureen O'Hara) and a court trial that hinges on the U.S. Post Office. Director George Seaton's amusing romantic fantasy has its sentimental moments while spreading a reasonable amount of holiday cheer, largely due to Gwenn's charming performance as Kris Kringle. Problems of single parenthood. (A-II) (NR)
Three Godfathers (1948)
After robbing a bank, an outlaw trio (John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz and Harry Carey Jr.) pause to help a dying woman (Mildred Natwick) deliver her infant son on Christmas Eve, then take the babe with them as they are pursued across a desert wasteland. Dedicated by director John Ford to Western actor Harry Carey, Sr., the story may be unabashedly sentimental, and the action romanticized, but its lyrical images and religious resonances celebrate the myth of the Old West and its rugged heroes with good hearts. Off-screen suicide of one of the principals. (A-II) (NR)
Come to the Stable (1949)
Sentimental but amusing picture from Clare Booth Luce's story of two French nuns (Loretta Young and Celeste Holm) trying to establish a hospital in New England with some help from an eccentric artist (Elsa Lanchester) and a cynical songwriter (Hugh Marlowe). Director Henry Koster gets some smiles from the nuns' adapting to American ways and the bemused reactions of the locals to the newcomers' otherworldly simplicity, with mostly heartwarming results. Unpretentious, generally high-minded fun. (A-I) (NR)
A Christmas Carol (1951)
This British version of the Dickens' classic has worn well over the years principally because of Alistair Sim's zestful performance as Scrooge, the old humbug whose transformation into a loving human being is a pleasure to behold. Director Brian Desmond Hurst's period piece does well with its 19th-century London setting and the ghostly visitations are done simply but with considerable flair. The result is dandy family viewing. (A-I) (NR)
White Christmas (1954)
Cheerful but synthetic musical comedy about two World War II veterans (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) who use their popularity as entertainers to make a success out of the winter resort opened by their wartime commander (Dean Jagger). Directed by Michael Curtiz, the post-war feel-good plot is less memorable than Kaye's clowning and Crosby's crooning of the title song among other Irving Berlin numbers originally written for the earlier, better "Holiday Inn" (1942) pairing Crosby with Fred Astaire. While not a classic, it offers some good family entertainment. (A-I) (NR)
A Christmas Story (1983)
Adapted from Jean Shepherd's nostalgic piece of whimsey, "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash," the movie re-creates what it was like to be a boy (Peter Billingsley) yearning for a genuine Red Ryder air rifle for Christmas in the Midwest of the 1940s. Director Bob Clark gets some good performances from Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon as the understanding parents and the period atmosphere is nicely conveyed win what is essentially a warm celebration of a more innocent, less sophisticated America. A few vulgar syllables. (A-II) (PG)
The Fourth Wise Man (1985)
Adaptation of Henry Van Dyke's vintage short story "The Other Wise Man," tells of a fourth Magi (Martin Sheen) who is delayed in following the star to Bethlehem, then finally catches up with it in Jerusalem some 33 years later in an encounter which fulfills his life's search for truth. Produced by Paulist Father Ellwood Keiser and directed by Michael Rhodes, the 72-minute dramatization effectively amplifies the religious dimension of the original while adding some light humor from Alan Arkin as the Magi's servant. Family entertainment with the universal theme of bettering oneself by helping others. (A-I) (NR)
Sweet-natured Christmas story about a spirited 8-year-old farm girl (Rebecca Harrell) who cares for an injured reindeer believing it is one of Santa's team. While this "E.T." clone may have its fill of cranky adults and earnest moments, John Hancock's direction has a feel for rural community life that will please older viewers while younger ones will love the reindeer and the praise lavished on the spunky heroine for revitalizing the town's Christmas spirit. (A-I) (G)
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
In this sprightly version of Charles Dickens' ``A Christmas Carol,'' Muppets Kermit, Miss Piggy, the Great Gonzo, Rizzo the Rat and Fozzie Bear have incidental roles as Michael Caine portrays skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future so he can learn the true spirit of Christmas. Director Brian Henson retells the holiday classic with delightful musical numbers, though with less frenzied fun than the usual Muppet outings. (A-I) (G)
The Polar Express (2004)
Visually captivating, animated fantasy -- in which Tom Hanks plays five separate roles -- about a doubting young boy who is whisked away on Christmas Eve aboard a magic train bound for Santa's village in the North Pole. Based on the children's novel by Chris Van Allsburg, director Rob Zemeckis' hauntingly beautiful fairy tale celebrates childlike wonder and -- though secular in tone -- imparts a profoundly faith-friendly message about the importance of believing in things that can't be seen. (A-I) (G)
Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
Delightful yuletide comedy about a Chicago couple (Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis) who boycott Christmas after their daughter leaves home to join the Peace Corps, sparking unforeseen reactions from their militantly merry neighbors (led by Dan Aykroyd). The film is based on the novella "Skipping Christmas" by John Grisham. Director Joe Roth delivers a dose of holly-jolly fun that is, by turns, extremely funny and poignantly tender, and its warmhearted message of selflessness, family and coming together as a community clearly embodies the truest spirit of the season. Some suggestive humor, comic violence and mildly crude language. (A-II) (PG)
The Nativity Story (2006)
Dramatization of the New Testament birth narratives from the Annunciation to the birth of Jesus, focusing on the relationship between Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) and Joseph (Oscar Isaac) and their arduous trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem, with subplots tracking the journey of the three Magi and the efforts of King Herod (Ciaran Hinds) to prevent the prophecy of a messiah from coming to pass. A composite of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, embroidered with apocryphal traditions and the imagination of the filmmaker, the Bible story gets the prestige treatment in director Catherine Hardwicke's artful, reverent and affecting retelling, with soulful performances from an excellent international cast -- including Shohreh Aghdashloo as Elizabeth -- and impressive production design. Mike Rich's screenplay manages to flesh out Mary and Joseph while remaining faithful to Scripture, poignantly suggesting the humanity beneath the halos. Some violent images. A-I (PG)
Joyeux Noel (2006)
Intensely moving World War I tale of soldiers -- Scottish, French and German -- who spontaneously agree to a cease-fire on the Western front on Christmas Eve as they hear carols wafting from the enemy's trenches, intermingle and bond on a humanistic level, to the eventual disdain of their superiors. Writer-director Christian Carion's film, inspired by true events, is sensitively acted (by an international cast including Guillaume Canet, Daniel Bruhl and Benno Furmann) and conveys a powerful message about the senselessness of war, while there is an admirable religious underpinning in the character of a dedicated Anglican priest (Gary Lewis) who brings everyone together for a liturgy on that special night. Partially in English, partially subtitled. Battlefield violence with death, some profanity and crude language, discreet husband-wife bedroom scene. (A-II) (PG-13)
Fred Claus (2007)
A Christmas Carol (2009)
 Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896.
 Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896.