I have a suggestion: let's all try to keep the cliche out of Christmas.
I gave up most Christmas specials a long time ago. I prefer traditional Christmas carols, or Vince Guaraldi's soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas, to endless versions of "The Christmas Song" or "I'll Be Home for Christmas." I'm not a Scrooge or a Grinch -- I've just seen enough Christmases to recognize the variations on a theme. A few years ago I helped put together a sort of hybrid cantata for our choir. We used songs from different previously performed cantatas and I wrote the narration. I realized it's hard to come up with a compelling, somewhat original take on the Greatest Story Ever Told. (My version was called "The Unexpected Messiah." It was a bit too long, but it seemed to go over well.)
So last night my mom called and told me about the children's Christmas program at their church. She said it was a touching story and she really enjoyed it. I suppose I shouldn't be critical of something I haven't even seen, but when she described the storyline I couldn't help but think it was a story built up of one stereotype after another. There was the grumpy, grinchy mayor, the adorable children, the wealthy and busy couple with no grasp of the meaning of Christmas, and the sweet young Christian mother. Of course, these things are always more enjoyable when you know the people involved.
Here's what bugs me -- too often we frame the Christian understanding of Christmas as an us-versus-them story. We're the ones who know the truth and the ones who don't are the enemy. We get irate about businesses and organizations that go with the generic "Happy Holidays," instead of "Merry Christmas." We agitate for the public display of nativity scenes. I'm afraid that sometimes in the midst of all this activism, we lose sight of the real gift of Christmas: Jesus came to earth to live and die and rise again, so that all the world might be saved -- even those people who don't "get it."
I'd like to see a Christmas program that operated from that premise, instead of going with the ready cliche. It might be a less simplistic story, but it also might be more satisfying, and closer to the truth. Maybe I'll write it myself.