"Miracle on 34th Street," "White Christmas," and "It's a Wonderful Life" are among my favorite Christmas movies. All three stories revolve around people, connections and miracles.
In "Miracle on 34th Street," Natalie Wood plays Susan, a second-grader raised by her mother, Doris, to be practical and not to believe in miracles.
But Susan's skepticism fades after she sees a department store Santa (Kris) talk to another girl in her native Dutch. Santa is accused of being crazy and taken to court for presenting himself as Santa Claus, but after the post office delivers Santa mail to him, the case is dismissed.
Susan, who wants a home for Christmas, is disappointed when she does not receive it on Christmas morning. But, driving home on Christmas Day, Kris persuades Doris and his attorney, Fred, to take a different route. On the way, Susan spies the house of her dreams with a "for sale" sign out front. Stopping, Fred and Doris become engaged and decide to buy the house. Kris' cane is spied in a corner of it.
In "White Christmas," the miracle comes in the form of Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, two successful entertainers who change their plans for Christmas to help out their former commanding officer, retired General Thomas F. Waverly, who has fallen on hard times. Betty and Judy Haynes, sisters who sing and dance, are caught up in the show. Betty, who has fallen for Wallace, mistakenly believes that Wallace is out for himself rather than for the general. Disheartened, Betty leaves the show and goes out on her own.
Wallace and Davis continue to produce the show, and put out a plea for others in their old regiment to help. The finale takes place on Christmas Eve. The show goes on, the regiment men show up for General Waverly and Betty returns to Bob.
"It's a Wonderful Life" begins on Christmas Eve, 1946. Facing hard times, George Bailey stands on a bridge overlooking an icy river and contemplates suicide. When he sees a person in the water struggling to swim, George's focus on his own life is replaced by his concern and action to save another's. He jumps into the river, saving the life of what turns out to be an angel, second class, Clarence Odbody.
Clarence's mission on earth, (which will lead him to get his wings if he succeeds) is to turn George's life around, leaving him once more in good cheer.
Clarence does this by leading George through a retrospective journey that outlines the impact his life will have if he doesn't kill himself: saving the life of his brother, Harry (who later becomes a war hero and saves others' lives); stopping his boss, the druggist, from dispensing the wrong medicine and poisoning a child; marrying Mary, who would have otherwise become an "old maid"; saving the Bailey Building & Loan Association with his honeymoon money during a run on the bank (thereby saving the homes of many of the townspeople); starting an affordable housing community called Bailey Park; and fathering two children.
George was contemplating suicide because a misplaced bank deposit was threatening to result in the closure of the Bailey Building & Loan. He had tried to borrow from Henry F. Potter -- the cantankerous, Scrooge-like character in the story -- but was turned down.
Clarence's journey through George's life shifts George's focus away from his financial problems and onto the positive effect he has had on others. George realizes that he does want to live and that he has a wonderful life, no matter the money difficulties. Racing home to his family, he finds friends there who have gathered the funds needed to save the bank.
In the end, all turns out well. As George's family and friends gather around him, a bell on the Christmas tree rings, signaling that Clarence has earned his wings.
All three movies speak to us about the possible miracles of Christmas: the miracles that occur when we put others' needs before our own, the miracles that come from the connections we make and the joy we find within our own communities; the miracles that may come true if we simply leave ourselves open to the possibility that miracles exist.
So, dear readers, I wish you a merry Christmas; may the miracles you're looking for come true.
Jackie Gingrich Cushman is the co-author, along with her father, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, of the book "5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours." Read more reports from Jackie Gingrich Cushman — Click Here Now.
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