What a phenomenon the Christmas movie has become.
Between the Hallmark networks and Lifetime, some 70 new Yuletide flicks will hit the small screen this year. And you know the drill: bright lighting, bold colors, snow, Christmas music, cookie-baking, lots and lots of ornaments and the obligatory boy-meets-girl storyline.
Not that we’re denigrating them, mind you: it’s a hugely successful formula worth millions and millions in advertising revenue.
Christmas, however, is the holiday that celebrates the birth of Christ, and one thing you won’t find in those movies is “the reason for the season,” to borrow a phrase from church parlance.
So where are the Christian Christmas movies?
Can’t faith-based filmmakers combine the best elements of the Hallmark/Lifetime approach with meaningful storytelling that points to the hope that came into the world on that first Christmas in Bethlehem all those years ago?
That’s exactly what we aim to do with “Miracle on Christmas,” which releases nationwide in early November.
The movie, which stars Erin Bethea (“Fireproof”) and Jason Burkey (“October Baby”), is uplifting and hope-inspiring and features many of the hallmarks (sorry, couldn’t resist that one) of those other Christmas movies. But it also tells a serious tale -- loosely based on the personal experience of yours truly -- and remains firmly rooted in the actual Christmas story.
The movie focuses on a female protagonist (Bethea) wavering in her faith because of personal loss and emotional trials, pointing to an age-old dilemma for Christians: does trouble bring us closer to God or push us away?
An unexpected visitor, played by Brett Varvel, refocuses her attention, and that of her extended family, on the hope that comes through Christ alone and which remains rock-solid no matter the challenges we face.
In light of the difficulties our country has endured this year -- coronavirus, racial strife, political violence -- the film’s release could not be more timely.
We also built in plenty of humor to lift the mood of the picture, which features a rollicking get-together of kith and kin that may remind you of some highs and lows of a Christmas Past or two of your own.
And by emphasizing universal virtues like love and fidelity in marriage, the support of family, forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption, we feel sure “Miracle on Christmas” has much to offer both faith-based movie fans and those who usually take a pass on such fare.
You can pre-order the film on DVD now at Amazon, Walmart and Target and it will be available on-demand and for purchase in the digital format when it releases Nov. 3, which also happens to be election day.
So whether your candidate wins or loses, spend the evening enjoying some inspirational Yuletide family entertainment that will remind you that our ultimate hope is found not in politicians, but in Jesus Christ, whose birth is the true “Miracle on Christmas.”
Thomas Bonifield is a Christian screenwriter/director and former journalist who worked for ABC News, Fox News Channel and NBC News, where he was Moscow Bureau Chief and Deputy Foreign Editor. “Miracle on Christmas” is his debut feature film.