Recipe for a good Christmas plot line

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By Laura Margaret Burbach

I have very strong opinions about what makes a “good Christmas movie.” (Spoiler: it’s not the big-city-career-woman-falls-for-small-town-high-school-sweetheart Hallmark trope.) 

Essentially, a good Christmas movie should follow this plot: someone is disillusioned from the meaning and spirit of Christmas. 

Through the movie’s action, a community surrounds this character with love, joy, and singing — and probably baked goods — to rekindle the joy that decorates the Christmas season.

My adoration of this particular movie plot stems from my family’s annual Christmas Eve tradition. 

During the day, my mom, dad, and I are busy in the kitchen. Among other goodies, we make Christmas chocolates, meticulously filling my great-grandmother’s candy molds with red, white, and green-colored chocolate and lots of sprinkles. 

While working, we watch and sing along to Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. This earns my good Christmas movie stamp of approval. 

A quartet of friends reunites with their old major general, who is concerned that his Vermont lodge will see no snow and, thus, no guests this holiday season. 

The group calls for backup from their production team and their army buddies and uses their talents to put on a grand show, bringing joy, a crowd, and snow to their old friend.

That evening, after we’ve boxed up the goodies, we don our Christmas ties and dresses and head to Madison First United Methodist for the Christmas Eve service. 

As we read familiar verses and sing familiar carols, we are reminded how an act as simple as making a little extra room to help others can turn out to be quite miraculous.

As we come home from church, Dad checks to make sure we’re not interrupting Santa, and then we watch another certifiably good Christmas movie –  It’s A Wonderful Life. We see George Bailey consistently respond to his sense of duty, but he struggles to see the moonbeams he shines throughout his community. 

In the final scene, George helps us realize that what makes our lives wonderful isn’t the money we make or the presents we buy, but, rather, our friendships and the investments we make in those around us.

The common theme in all three of these stories — whether from the silver screen or Luke 2 — is radical kindness amidst a Christmas that isn’t going quite as planned. I count among my blessings how thankful I am to have grown up in a community where I have been able to share and receive such kindness year after year, during Christmas and beyond. 

Whether it’s putting on a show, reminding someone how loved they are, or finding extra room in our hearts, we all have the opportunity to headline this favorite plot of mine this holiday season.

By Laura Margaret Burbach

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