The Christmas Candle, a movie based on a novel written by Max Lucado, is set In 1890 in a small English village that eagerly awaits a miracle that happens only once every 25 years. The village of Gladbury has passed on a legend over the years that every 25 years an angel visits the village candlemaker and touches a single candle. Whoever lights this candle receives a miracle on Christmas eve.
The current candlemakers, Bea and Edward Haddington (played by Lesley Manville and Sylvester McCoy), prepare for the visitation while yearning for a reconciliation with their estranged son who started an electric company that threatens their business. A new pastor, David Richmond (Hans Matheson), arrives in Gladbury to fill the pulpit after tragedy pushed him out of pastoral ministry to the streets of London where he served the poor with the Salvation Army. No longer able to dismiss Lady Camdon (played by Barbara Flynn) Richmond accepts his new charge.
Upon entering town he is greeted by another skeptic, Emily Barstow (played by Samantha Barks), who longs to live in London by is at home caring for her ill father, William Barstow (played by John Hannah). He then takes up residence with Herbert and Eleanor Hopewell (played by James Cosmo and Susan Boyle) and promptly begins to upset the villagers with his disregard of their Christmas Candle tradition.
A twist is thrown after the angel visits the Haddingtons as the candles are knocked to the floor and they can not keep track of which of the 30 candles was actually touched. They decide to give one of those candles to each of the villagers as one would surely receive the Christmas candle. Meanwhile the skeptical Richmond decides to “be the miracle” for his parishioners by attending to their needs and prompting the church to show the light of Christ through love and good deeds.
My wife and I attended a screening with 200 other Iowans at the Jordan Creek Century 20 Theaters in West Des Moines hosted by Rick Santorum and his new company EchoLight Studios. They are the distributors for the movie in the United States. The movie is set for public release in 400 theaters nationwide on November 22nd. In Iowa the movie will be shown in theaters in Cedar Rapids, Johnston, Sioux City and West Des Moines.
The movie carried a simple message – God still does miracles. The movie was well cast and well acted (with the one exception of Boyle whose musical talent surpasses her acting ability). It was well written – something I have come to expect from Max Lucado. The set appeared authentic to the period. The plot held a tension between belief and disbelief, faith and works that will keep viewers engaged with the movie as Richmond struggles with his skepticism and Elizabeth Barstow with her lack of faith.
The Christmas narrative is prominent throughout the movie which is not typical of Christmas movies unfortunately. So the focus of Christmas remains on the birth of Christ who, born of a virgin, enters humanity in order to seek and save those who are lost. In The Christmas Candle Emmanuel, God is with us, is celebrated throughout the Advent season that takes place during the movie.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and I plan to bring the family to see it on opening weekend. It is one that will provide for some great discussion afterwards if parents want to use it as a teaching tool with their kids. It didn’t minimize the struggle that Richmond faced. We were able to peak into Richmond’s grief that led to his skepticism of miracles without it being addressed in some cliché manner that would minimize his grief.
I also appreciated the tension between works and faith. The people of Gladbury were longing for a miracle. Richmond encouraged them to act as the Church has been called by Christ to be salt and light to demonstrate His love to the world. At the same time Richmond was confronted with the limitations of our works. Also addressed in the movie is worthwhileness of prayer while at the same time seeing Richmond’s reluctance to engage in it.
Faith without works is dead, but we must have faith. We can do good works, but ultimately God must work.
I have seen too many “pie in the sky” faith-based movies that seem to act as though believers don’t have crisis of faith and deal with this tension in a cheap and cheesy manner. This movie was not one of those. It was authentic. It was well done, and I highly, highly recommend it. It is a great Christmas movie that is appropriate for the entire family (it’s rated PG).
Santorum during the pre-movie remarks (video below) and afterwards encouraged those who watched to share this movie on social media, with friends, family and church members. You can find resources for the movie here.
Watch the trailer below:
Here is the video of Santorum’s pre-screening remarks.