An instant Christmas classic from my childhood, Home Alone provides a hilarious, albeit impossible premise. At eight years old, Kevin McCallister is left home alone by his family who travels to Paris. Of course, Kevin meets with some hijinks as two burglars have targeted the McCallister house. Hilarity prevails as Kevin enjoys being the man of the house and has fun planning surprises for the burglars as well as the pizza delivery boy.

One character that develops a connection to faith is Old Man Marley. While Kevin’s older brother Buzz scares him with rumors that Old Man Marley is a murderer who turns his victims into mummies, Kevin eventually meets Old Man Marley face to face. He meets him in a rather unlikely place: church.  After a brief conversation about Kevin being a good boy or not, Marley observes, “This is the place to be if you’re feeling bad about yourself.” This commentary on church is rather wise in my opinion. Where would be a better place to go when you are feeling bad about yourself? Taking a part in corporate worship, surrounded by fellow believers, hearing the word and promises of God can certainly enable a person to go from feeling bad to encountering joy. A church is certainly a place where we can hear of God’s forgiveness and love in Christ. Hearing those things can remove guilt and instill joy like nothing else.

But that is not Marley’s only worthwhile observation about church in his conversation with Kevin. He also says, You’re always welcome at church. I think the real question is if you are always welcome at church, who are you welcome by? If Mr. Marley means you are always welcome at church by God, he’s correct. If Mr. Marley means that you are always welcome at church by the congregation, well, that’s another story. After living abroad for a few years, I’ve come to observe that Americans, in general, simply aren’t that good at hospitality. Many of us don’t know how to properly welcome strangers and make them feel comfortable in our homes, at work, or in our places of worship.

I think churches can do better. How? Strategies can be made and critiqued, but I don’t think anybody will figure out how to properly welcome others until they truly desire to build relationships with new people. Until that truth is a part of a person’s life, they cannot properly welcome anyone into any aspect of their life. An interesting reality is that Mr. Marley doesn’t stop in his observation about church. The fuller quote is, You’re always welcome at church. I’m not welcome with my son. After years of not speaking with his son, Mr. Marley is feeling some serious guilt and regret. Not only that, he knows he is not welcome, even with his own son. Families are complicated. I hope your family doesn’t have  estranged members. I pray any brokenness your family is experiencing can be reconciled soon. While Mr. Marley is estranged from his son, the only way our estrangement from God can be reconciled is through God’s Son. God accepts separation from His beloved Son, so that through Christ, we might be no longer separated from God.

That’s what Christmas is about: God intersecting this world with the incarnation of Christ, born as a baby in Bethlehem. Kevin does a pretty great job of encouraging Mr. Marley to overcome his fears, speak with his son, and try to mend the brokenness. Kevin is a smart kid in more ways than just home security.

Another character development example comes from Kevin’s mother. Whenever I watch Home Alone, I can’t help but think that she really is a terrible parent. She encourages Kevin to wish for a new family, she forgets him (as does everybody else), and she fails to properly communicate with the police about the situation. She doesn’t think to rent a car to drive home, but instead rides in a van with a crazy polka band. I don’t know. I’m just not a giant fan of hers.

Her one redeeming line is when she yells at the ticket agent in Scranton, This is Christmas! The season of perpetual hope! Kevin’s mom does find hope. She finds her way back home and finds Kevin largely unharmed. But she’s right; Christmas is the season of perpetual hope. For many kids, the hope is that they’ll get the toys they want. For many adults…it’s the same hope. But I think the true hope of the Christmas season is that no matter what goes wrong, no matter how crazy the family gatherings are, Jesus Christ still comes to us on Christmas. The angels still sing. The shepherds still worship. The wise men still come with gifts. The earthly life of our Savior begins. Our hope for salvation begins in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. A lot can go wrong at Christmas, but one thing went right in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago that reminds us that we have a loving God in whom we can place our hope, in whom we can place our joy.

Contributed by seminary student, Andy Jones.