At some point on Christmas Eve I will sit with my children and watch Home Alone and at some point on Christmas Eve I will tell my children that it is ‘a perfect film’. Which it is, isn’t it?
It shouldn’t work, I know that. Who could believe that a family would leave their kid home alone on Christmas Eve? Yet they do, and it does. The power cut explains why they get up late. The spilt drink (‘Go easy on the Pepsi, Fuller’) explains why Kevin is asleep in disgrace in the loft. The nosey kid from next door explains the mistaken head count, and the two taxis and various plane seats explain why everyone assumes Kevin is with someone else. Once everyone is seated, and the plane takes off for Paris we have a perfect movie.
Sequels tend to major on the booby traps and pratfalls. They’re ok but none of them capture that sense of reality in the original movie. After the thrill of having ‘made his family disappear’ Kevin comes to the conclusion that he is actually home alone. He believes he is a kid in a grown up world and that he is going to have to grow up pretty quickly. So we see him cleaning the house and shopping for groceries – a man in his actions but still a little child at heart.
Too old to be afraid?
Then on Christmas Eve we see him go to church. There he finds his grumpy old neighbour ‘Old Man Marley’ watching the choir practice for the evening service. Kevin sits with him and asks him what he is doing:
Old Man Marley: I came to hear my granddaughter sing. And I can’t come hear her tonight.
Kevin: You have plans?
Old Man Marley: No. I’m not welcome.
Kevin: At church?
Old Man Marley: You’re always welcome at church. I’m not welcome with my son. Years back, before you and your family moved on the block, I had an argument with my son. We lost our tempers, and I said I didn’t care to see him anymore. He said the same, and we haven’t spoken to each other since.
Kevin: If you miss him, why don’t you call him?
Old Man Marley: I’m afraid if I call that he won’t talk to me.
Kevin: How do you know?
Old Man Marley: I don’t know. I’m just afraid he won’t.
Kevin: No offence, but aren’t you a little old to be afraid?
Old Man Marley: You can be a little old for a lot of things. You’re never too old to be afraid.
He’s right isn’t it? However old you are, you’re afraid of something aren’t you? Spiders, snakes and heights. They’re the top three. They’re the ones we admit to but there are deeper ones too: shame, defeat, sickness, loss and death. Old Man Marley is right, whether you’re six or sixty, you’re never too old to be afraid.
One of the themes of the Christmas story in the Bible is fear. Read it yourself and you’ll see that pretty much everybody was afraid. Whether it was angels appearing in the sky or news of a new king or wise men fleeing the country, everybody was afraid.
Don’t be afraid
However, throughout the story there is a Kevin McCallister; somebody saying, ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Read the story again and you’ll see angels coming to frightened people saying, ‘Don’t be afraid, I bring good news of great joy.’ Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, like Old Man Marley, all have a Kevin McCallister saying, ‘Go and see for yourself.’ Find out. At least then you will know.
Back to Home Alone. Why does that scene bring a tear to my eye? Because I totally understand Old Man Marley’s predicament. He’s too scared to call and be turned away. That would be a terrible thing for a proud old man but the alternative is terrible too.
Old Man Marley can see the world passing him by. Each year he sees his granddaughter – she’s a year older and a year further along without him in her life. Old Man Marley knows exactly how long he’s been without her, but what’s worse is that he fears that in a year’s time nothing will have changed except that everybody will be a year further along.
Old Man Marley knows that as time passes by the resentment will harden and the opportunity to put things right will shrink and Old Man Marley knows that in the eyes of his son and his granddaughter he will become the old man who said horrible things and wouldn’t say sorry.
All that is left for Old Man Marley is that he will become lonelier and more insignificant. A forgotten old man.
Don’t miss out
This is dark and actually the Bible describes the world Jesus came into in similar ways. The message of the Bible is that you and God are like Old Man Marley and his son. Something happened a long time ago, things were said and done and the consequence was that you, me and a billion other people ended up living apart from God. As a race we’ve done some good things and some bad things but, good or bad, the painful truth is that we’ve lived with a nagging feeling that we’re missing out on something.
The Bible says that what we’re missing out on is family. We are missing out on knowing God as our loving Father who cares about us and the friendship that comes with that. That’s why it’s so important to understand Christmas. This is the time when, as a world, we celebrate that God came into the world as a kid like Kevin McCallister. Jesus came with the glorious news that we can be reconciled to God – reconciled is a big word that really just means ‘called your son!’
I don’t know how you found this article. Perhaps you subscribe to this magazine or perhaps you don’t. Perhaps someone left it in the barbershop you’re sitting in waiting for your haircut. Maybe it’s still Christmas and you’re looking forward to New Year or maybe it’s the middle of summer and you found this old magazine under a pile of newspapers. Who knows? Can I suggest though, that if you’re reading this, it is because God wants you to know this great news?
You may not believe me. You may be 99% sure there is no God. You may be 99% sure that if there was a God I’d want nothing to do with him. You may be 99% sure that if there was a God and I did want something to do with him he would not want anything to do with me but you can’t be completely sure can you? There is something inside you that hopes, something that says, ‘Could it be true? Could it be possible? Is there something in this universe bigger than me, that cares about me, that loves me?’
Don’t let another Christmas pass you by. Don’t settle for pretending that God doesn’t exist and that this doesn’t matter. If this is true it means the end of fear. Why not find a church this Christmas? Speak to a Christian. Read the Christmas story. Pray to God. Listen to little Kevin McCallister. Find out – at least then you’ll know.
Call on him while he is near.