An Unlikely Christmas Movie

I know that nobody thinks of “Wall Street” as a Christmas movie, but hear me out.

When April and I were in college, on weekends they would show a late-night movie on campus, as something to do for those who didn’t have cars and didn’t want to go to frat parties. By the time we graduated, there was a nice movie theater in the student center, but when we were first-year students, the movie was shown in a lecture hall, so no frills. These were dollar movies that were wrapping up their theatrical run. (Given that this was before DVDs were a thing, much less streaming services, I’m teetering over a rabbit hole about what life was like in college in the late 1980s.)

In April of 1988, one of those movies was “Wall Street,” the Oliver Stone-directed ode to greed that won Michael Douglas an Oscar (and Darryl Hannah a Razzie, the rare movie with both a best-actor and worst-actress award). It was a December 1987 release, so technically in the Christmas season of what was an incredible year for movies. Listen to this list: 

  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles
  • The Princess Bride
  • Lethal Weapon
  • Full Metal Jacket
  • Predator
  • Dirty Dancing
  • Robocop
  • Fatal Attraction
  • The Untouchables
  • Moonstruck
  • Raising Arizona
  • Good Morning Vietnam
  • Three Men and a Baby
  • No Way Out

I could go on. It was also the year of “Ishtar,” “Leonard Part 6,” and “Police Academy 4”. Truly the best of times and the worst of times. 

But “Wall Street” was the movie that was on when I first held April’s hand, and after which we first kissed. And so it is one of our favorite movies of all time.

We’ve gone back to the place where we watched it, and the tree under which we first kissed, and we’ve even performed in the show we were working on when we first met, but we’ve never re-watched “Wall Street” and probably won’t. We don’t love the movie for anything *about the movie*. We love the movie because of what it means to us and our story.

I was thinking this year about how Christmas is sort of like what “Wall Street” means to us. We can argue (a lot) about how awful the world is or how wonderful the world is, and the truth is, both arguments have their points. But the Christian claim at Christmas is that God loves *us*, this mess of a creation and this throng of complicated people, so much that God becomes one of us to be *with* us. Not because we’re good, nor because we’re bad, but because *that* is the depth of relationship God wants with us. Whether we’re good or bad – whether we deserve an Oscar or a Razzie – is irrelevant. Christmas isn’t about our performance; it’s about what we mean to God and our story together.

If you’ve ever been in a conversation where everyone is trashing something – a show or a restaurant or a food – and someone is brave enough to say “But I love that,”- because it’s the show I watched with my parents or the restaurant where my friend works or the dish my grandma used to make – it doesn’t just stop the conversation; it changes forever what you think of that thing. You may still think it’s awful, but you also know that it means a lot to someone you care about, so you can’t quite detest it in the same way you did before. In truth, it’s hard not to have some second-hand affection for it.

That’s what Christmas is all about, to steal a line. We can’t ever be so fed up with each other that we ignore that God chooses us, values us, in a way that we have to honor. Even if we don’t quite get what God sees in us. Our value doesn’t come from us; it comes from what we mean to God. 

And that’s what “Wall Street” taught me about Christmas.

(To save you the search, “Die Hard” was 1988.)

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