The Christmas Candle-Movie Discussion
These movie discussions are intended to help you connect your Christian faith to the modern world by:
1. Helping you learn to see echoes of redemptive truth all around you.
2. Challenging you to help other Christians see that their relationship with Jesus cannot be confined to church but must invade our every activity…even our movie-watching.
3. Equipping you to speak Christ into culture by pointing out entry points for significant discussions with non-believers. Many non-believers won’t accept an invitation to come to church, but they will talk about a movie they’ve seen recently…so we want to help you turn that conversation into an eternally significant discussion.
Rick Santorum has, for the time at least, turned his attention to film making as the CEO of EchoLight Studios, and The Christmas Candle is their first release. It’s a movie written by Max Lucado about faith and hope and miracles. I’ve read some of the reviews and feedback, and it’s interesting: the results are bi-polar—people either love it, or they hate it. I didn’t see a single response that was middle of the road. One of the favorable responses compared it to Les Mis and A Christmas Carol. I might find Les Mis a stretch, except for the fact that Samantha Barks is in both (Eponine, Emily Barstow), and Susan Boyle does sing a song—but beyond that I couldn’t really compare the two. I do however agree, there is a definite Christmas Carol-ish feel about it, from the costumes, to the sense of magic and wonder.
A young pastor, David Richmond, who has left the pulpit for a more pragmatic mission, helping the poor and needy on the streets, is reluctantly convinced to pastor a small parrish in Gladbury, England. When he gets there, he finds that the town centers around a miraculous tradition. An angel blessed a candle and gave it to a poor soul, telling them to “light it and pray.” When they did, a miracle happened. Each twenty-five years, another candle is blessed, and the recipient receives a miracle on Christmas Eve.
This raises some questions for the minister. Why only one miracle, why not fifteen, a hundred? Who is to say which person should have their prayers answered? What if the candle fails? Is it healthy to have all your hopes in one candle? Are you waiting on a miracle when you could be busy helping fix the problem yourself? And this was only the beginning of his struggle.
The bigger struggle David faced was the reality of his own disappointment with God and prayer. His wife and daughter previously died of consumption, despite his prayers and faith that God could save them. When he found that faith and prayers weren’t enough, he left the church, riddled with doubts. Thus began his more pragmatic ministry (where he was at the start of the movie). He might not have been able to believe in prayer and miracles anymore (since they failed to saved his loved ones), but he could believe in good works. It was easy to see how simple things like feeding the hungry, getting the poor a coat to survive the winter cold, providing the homeless with housing and getting them off of the street could work salvation in the lives of others.
When David came to Gladbury, he began to challenge the people in his parish to start being the answer to other people’s prayers. Some of the “miracles” the townspeople were praying for were really simple things that the community could come together and solve—food for the poor, house repairs, a companion for a lonely widow, etc. David challenged them with scriptural truths that we are to do good works, just as the residents continued to challenge him that along with good works, sometimes the miraculous is needed…and available—also just as scriptural.
David and the citizens of Gladbury were at opposite ends of the spectrum. Both were right about their one side, but imbalanced in a way that was crippling. Gladbury’s hope was all in one candle, one miracle, every twenty-five years. They believed, to be sure, but they were limited in that belief. They didn’t think that more was possible. It never dawned on them that other miracles were possible, or that maybe they could help be someone else’s miracle. They were so focused on the super natural, they couldn’t see the natural.
David, on the other hand, had lost his faith in miracles, in God’s willingness and/or ability to get involved, so he put all his hope in good works. Because of his practical approach, a lot of good was done in the natural, but at the end of the day, there were still problems that were bigger than his or any man’s ability to solve—problems which still required a miracle, for which David had no faith.
Interestingly, David’s doubts did more to inspire and encourage the faith in the town than destroy it, as is so often the case. Lady Camdon says, “Your doubts don’t trouble me, reverend. On the contrary, they inspire my faith.” She goes on to challenge him that so often, something which seems like a devastating problem ends up being a good thing. She tells about how a reverend lit a Christmas candle one year to pray and burned the church down. It would seem that God had not answered his prayers. However, they discovered a hidden treasure in the ruins, enough to rebuild the church AND to help provide for the impoverished families so in need that year. In the end, God had, miraculously, answered their prayers.
Similarly, it seemed like a very bad thing when the Christmas candle, blessed by the angel, was lost by the candlemakers. They didn’t want anyone to know, so they secretly gave everyone in the town a candle and told them to light it and pray. The whole town, thinking they had the candle, prayed with all faith, fervency and confidence that they had been given a candle that guaranteed them an answer to their prayers.
When the debacle was exposed, David was furious, thinking the candle makers had been giving the town false hopes. It seemed a bad thing. In the end, however, the townspeople found it a very good thing. In the ruins and the mess a treasure was found. Thinking they all had the Christmas candle, they had all begun to pray with hope, you see. And those prayers had been answered. Some were answered through the revolution of good works that David had inspired in the town. Others were answered through means of more divine intervention. And some were answered in surprising, unexpected ways—answered nonetheless. Testimony after testimony revealed that the townspeople had all felt that their prayers had been answered, in one way or another.
The faith of the people in the town grew exponentially at this point. Before they only had hope for one answer to prayer every twenty-five years, based on whom the candle was given to. Now they began to have hope in the God who blessed the candle in the first place, and hope that He would hear any of their prayers, at any time. They could now “approach the throne of grace with confidence,” not in a candle, but in their God.
Lady Camdon told David that “miracles are a part of our inheritance.” She was right. The town had an inheritance of miracles but their faith in them was too small, too limited. It was a deep faith, but it wasn’t wide enough. Miracles aren’t just for a select few or a select time or at a select location. Miracles only have two limiting factors: our faith and God’s discretion.
When miracles began to happen all over the town, the people’s hope for miracles changed. Most notably, the candle maker’s wife, Mrs. Haddington, had been praying for their son. She felt she had to have the Christmas candle if they were to have the miracle of his return. Seeing all the answers to prayer around her, however, gave her the confidence to believe that God would answer her prayer, whether or not she saw it. She was finally able to trust in God’s timing and His ways, and it was because of the stories all around her of answered prayer.
In the end, I don’t know if it really matters as much whether you liked the movie or not, because, like it or not, the movie is going to get you thinking about faith and miracles and what your faith is in, and so forth. It’s also going to provide you a lot of opportunities to have those conversations with anyone else who saw it. Every conversation I have had about the movie has immediately centered around those topics, and not because I steered it there, but because it’s what you almost have to talk about if you see the movie.
Questions for Discussion:
- Did the candle makers give people false hope when they gave them a candle and said to light it and pray? Why or why not?
- What do you think the people’s hope was in, a blessed candle, or the God who blessed the candle?
- How might their lives be different if they prayed with that kind of hope and fervor and belief all year long?
- What is the tension between faith and good works in the movie?
- In the pendulum of faith and good works, which side do you lean to more? Why?
- How can swinging too far to one side or the other of faith and good works prove damaging?
- The people were told to light the candle and pray. Where was the real power? In the candle, or the prayer? How do you know?
- Whoever had the Christmas candle was inspired to pray with confidence. At the end of movie, Mrs. Haddington was inspired to pray with confidence, not because of the candle, but because of the stories of answered prayer around her. What things inspire you to pray with confidence?
- Why do you think God told the Israelites to tell the stories of his faithfulness to them to future generations? Why do you think it might be important to for us to all the stories of how God is answering prayers in our lives?
- Did you agree with the ending of the story? Do you think it’s realistic that so many people would have gotten their prayers answered? Why or why not?
- David prayed for his wife and daughter to be healed, and they weren’t. Have you ever prayed for something and been disappointed? How did you respond?
- Why do you think God chooses to answer some prayers and not others? How do you feel about that?
- What does the Bible say about prayer, about miracles, about faith?
By Stacey Tuttle
 Hebrews 4:16: Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need