Believe it or not, you might find Jesus hiding in your favorite Christmas movies.


The Jesus Hiding in Your Favorite Christmas Movies

Caleb Mathis

14 mins

Don’t look now, but I think Jesus is playing Where’s Waldo in your favorite Christmas movies. And finding Him just might have the power to change your season for the better.

You remember those children’s puzzle books, right? The ones that stole hours from your childhood as you scoured intricately detailed illustrations of hyper-crowded scenes to find a little guy in a red and white hat. I’ll be honest, I kind of hated those books. Mostly because of all the look-alikes. Just when you thought you’d finally finished, you had more searching to do. Waldo was sneaky like that—I kept thinking I’d seen him already.

Christians have a stereotype for doing the same with Jesus. We tend to find him in the most unlikely places—in pink plastic movies and Disney+ shows, best-selling arena tours and sports rivalries, the sadness of putting down a beloved dog, and the shock of seeing an elephant in the wild. And yes, even in Christmas movies.

Rewatching my favorite Christmas films this year, I kept finding Jesus. He was hiding just behind some of the most iconic characters and scenes in all of Christmas-movie-dom. Unlike Waldo, each Jesus was different—or, to say it more clearly, each hidden Jesus put on display a different aspect of His identity. They’re all Him, but they’re all different.

No matter how you’re thinking about the upcoming holiday, I’m guessing a face-to-face with one of these Jesuses might do you good. So grab a bowl of popcorn, fire up the heated blanket, and let’s get to searching. Who knows where we might find our birthday boy.

Old Man Marley — Home Alone

It turns out that the old man who lives next door to Kevin McAlister wasn’t actually the South Bend Shovel Slayer after all (don’t ever listen to Buzz). Instead, he was a father, willing to step into danger to protect those around him.

Accidentally left behind by his family, Kevin goes out to the store to pick up some supplies. While there, he runs into Old Man Marley face-to-face, and while the interaction doesn’t last long, we do see the old man has a freshly bandaged wound through the palm of his hand. (Remind you of anyone else with a wounded hand… possibly from hanging on a cross?!).

The Jesus Hiding in Your Favorite Christmas Movies

They meet again when Kevin runs into the local church, and we learn the old man’s history. He’s painfully estranged from his son due to a disagreement that happened years earlier. They haven’t spoken to each other since, and the old man has to come to choir practice just to hear his granddaughter perform. He and Kevin shake hands at the very end of their chat, and we notice his hand wound is now covered with a bandaid.

Kevin puts up a pretty amazing fight against the Wet Bandits, but with his back against the wall (literally, hanging from a hook by his sweater), it looks like the end of the road for the 8-year-old master trap-setter. That is, until Old Man Marley quietly enters from behind, his trusty metal shovel in hand, and wallops both of the baddies, rescuing Kevin and calling the cops. (Did we really think a PG-Disney movie would’ve let Joe Pesci bite off a child’s fingers?)

As the film comes to a close, Kevin is reunited with his family. With Christmas snow falling, he looks through the window and sees another reunion taking place—Old Man Marley has reached out to his estranged son. They hug in the front yard, and his granddaughter jumps into his arms. The Old Man sees Kevin watching him and waves, with a fully restored hand, no bandage in sight.

Fans have theorized the state of Marley’s hands is a reflection of his emotions. They start bloodied and poorly bandaged from the estrangement; they begin to heal as he finds hope from his conversation in the church with Kevin (band-aid), and by the time he waves to Kevin at the end of the film, the wound is completely healed.

That closing scene gets me misty-eyed every time—because in Old Man Marley, I see Jesus as a Father. The estrangement from his son hurts him deeply. He doesn’t want to be apart, and he takes action to be reconciled. Though we don’t see how it happened, we can infer that Old Man Marley picked up the phone and made the difficult call, overcoming his fear and reconciling with his son.

It’s not a perfect one-to-one comparison, of course. Jesus isn’t an old man, he doesn’t salt sidewalks, and he hasn’t done anything to estrange himself from his kids. That being said, I do believe he feels that separation palpably. Jesus is a Father who doesn’t want any of His children to miss out. And much harder than picking up the phone and making an apology, Christmas is about the lengths Jesus went to in order to fix our estrangement. He left the perfection of heaven to live on earth as one of us, pointing the way to God before willingly dying as a sacrifice so nothing could separate us from God’s love again.

While we often think of God as Father (and rightfully so, since that’s how scripture refers to him), Jesus states that anything true about God is also true about him (John 10:30). In Jesus, we see the passion of a loving father to protect (John 18:1-11), feed (Matthew 14:13-21), heal (Matthew 15:21-28), forgive (Matthew 9:1-8), and be reconciled (Matthew 23:37) to His children.

He might look scary, from afar, but Kevin’s lesson is for all of us. The closer we get to Jesus, the less intimidating He becomes. He is powerful, but He is also good. He wants to protect, feed, heal, and forgive You as well.

500 years before Jesus was born, a prophet named Isaiah spoke about the coming Messiah, describing Him as a “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6, emphasis is all mine).

That Everlasting Father is still working to be reconciled to His children. Open yourself up to Him, and the wounds that get healed through that interaction just might be your own.

John McClane - Die Hard

Speaking of bleeding heroes, no one takes the cake (or maybe I should say punches) quite like John McClane.

Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way. Yes, Die Hard is a Christmas movie—and it’s nearly a Hallmark one. Boy meets girl; boy and girl have some problems; boy goes to an unfamiliar place to try to reconcile with girl; through an unexpected turn of events, the girl sees something new in the boy; they kiss, it “snows,” and it all happens over Christmas. Boom.

Of course, there are also German terrorists. And hostages. And explosions. And “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho.” And about a trillion other quotable one-liners. And one badass hero who reminds me a lot of Jesus.

The Jesus Hiding in Your Favorite Christmas Movies

It’s a shame that most of the artistic depictions of Jesus show him looking about as tough as a pre-teen bag boy at the grocery. Yes, I do believe the Messiah was gentle, but he wasn’t a pushover. He was kind to people who were hurting AND he powered up against the religious authorities. He blessed children AND he endured the most grueling form of capital punishment in the history of the world. He healed the effects of violence AND he didn’t chastise his followers for carrying weapons.

In John McClane, I see Jesus as a fighter—one willing to go toe-to-toe with the evils of the world, in order to rescue the ones he so dearly loves.

It might not sound Christmasy, but an all-out war against the forces of darkness is exactly what began on that night in Bethlehem. Not content to let the evil one and his minions continue to harass, harm, and hunt down His people, God sent a champion. Albeit, one no one expected. He came not as a political leader, a military commander, or a cultural icon—though he certainly is all three. He came as a human, a baby, to endure the harassment, harm, and hunting of evil on our behalf, and to conquer it once and for all.

While Jesus died looking like he’d lost the war, his resurrection sealed the fate of Satan and his lot. And one day, He will be Immanuel again, God with us, this time as a conquering king.

Scripture’s final book, Revelation, pictures Jesus as warrior-king, riding a white horse, coming in righteousness and wrath to destroy the works of evil that have corrupted God’s designs. He leads all the armies of Heaven, with a sword in hand, tattooed with a name: King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I could keep going, but honestly, you should read it for yourself. As much as I love Tolkien, the Battle of the Pelennor Fields is nothing compared to this.

Jesus doesn’t just cuddle lambs and pat babies on the head. He’s a warrior who thinks you are worth bleeding for. He is coming back, bringing his army with him, to make everything sad, broken, and deficient, whole again. That includes us.

Happy trails, Hans… I mean, Satan.

Linus - A Charlie Brown Christmas

Is there a more faithful friend, in the storied history of Christmas movies, than Linus?

When Charlie Brown is having a tough time with Christmas, Linus offers a listening ear and a gentle perspective. When Charlie Brown gets his little twig of a Christmas tree, Linus is the only kid who doesn’t boo him for his decision. When Charlie finally reaches his boiling point about Christmas, it’s Linus who takes center stage and reminds everyone what Christmas is all about. And when Charlie tries to find hope, daring to hang an ornament on his little tree and causing it to collapse, it’s Linus who swoops in to save the day.

The Jesus Hiding in Your Favorite Christmas Movies

I never thought it was such a bad little tree after all,” he says after Charlie runs away in despair. Bending down to prop it up with his trusty blanket, Linus drops the secret sauce that makes him such a great friend. “Maybe all it needs,” he continues, “is a little love.”

That’s what Linus gives to Charlie Brown—no matter what kind of day Charlie is having, what kind of mood he finds himself in, or what kind of trouble comes his way. Linus is always there, blanket in hand, encouraging, supporting, and loving his bald-headed friend.

Linus is a friend like Jesus—faithful, kind, and true.

It seems trite, at first, to call Jesus a friend, when he is so much more than that. But in my own life, that’s the space I need to see Him the most. I can understand Jesus as a conquering king, with the authority to give commands and be obeyed; I can see him as a father, with love and compassion for his kids, but I don’t often picture him as a friend.

Someone who listens. Someone who cares about my thoughts and emotions. Someone to laugh with, cry with, and yes, just hang with.

With loneliness growing to epidemic levels, and some reports showing 60% of Americans feeling lonely on a regular basis, this just might be the most revolutionary identity of the lot. Jesus had friends on earth. He spent time with them, he laughed with them, and he cried with them.

While we build our lives around efficiency and usefulness, Jesus, with the most important task in the history of the world, wasn’t a workaholic. Every interaction with his disciples and friends wasn’t a teaching moment. He celebrated holidays with them, got away from the crowds to pray and be together, and spent time with them in their distress. In fact, He’s the one who used the word friend to describe his followers—maybe it’s high time I took him up on it.

Because I see Jesus as Lord, I tend to think about our relationship more like a boss and employee: Jesus tells me what to do, or what He expects, and it’s my job to implement that. He certainly has the right, and sometimes, that’s the card that gets played. But more often than not, He’s a kinder, better, teacher than that. The Bible explains that it is God’s kindness, not His wrath, that leads us to Him in repentance (Romans 2:4).

I’m not saying we don’t have needs for friends with skin on—that’s certainly the case. But our feelings of loneliness and listlessness (yes, me too) might be broken if we realized we are constantly in the presence of a good and faithful friend. He just doesn’t carry a blanket.

More Than a Baby

As I write this, it’s early morning, and the automatic timer on the Christmas tree just popped on. My wife is sleeping in the next room, as are my three kids upstairs. For the moment, it’s just me and these words.

Shortly, though, I’ll make breakfast and get the kids ready for the day. I’ll be a father. I’ll assist my wife with some chores and deliver coffee to her in bed. I’ll be acting as a husband. Then I’ll get in my car, drive to the office, and if everything goes to plan, spend 8 hours doing good work. At that point, I’ll be an employee. Over my lunch break, I’ll call my friend Steven to check in; I’ll be a friend. On the way home from work, I’ll call my dad, who just retired, to see how he is doing. Then I’ll be a son. When I get home, it’s back to dad and husband mode.

Which aspect of my identity is truly me? Well, all of them. I never stop being a husband and father, even at work, like I don’t stop being a son and friend when I’m having family dinner. And, yes, I do sometimes get my best work ideas after hours. I’m more just than just one of these identities, I’m all of them.

Likewise, Jesus is more than just a baby born in a manger. I believe He is God, our Messiah and Lord, but I’m certain there are aspects of his identity I’m missing.

What about father, desperately making moves to reconnect with His kids?

What about fighter, coming after all the broken things in the world?

What about friend, a listening ear, and a safe place to land on hard days?

He is all of these and even more.

This Christmas, perhaps the best present you can give yourself is to try to see Jesus in all his resplendent beauty. He is more than just a baby—He is a father, fighter, and friend. And I believe He is looking for you.

Pay attention, and you might even find Him hiding in your favorite Christmas movies too.

Disclaimer: This article is 100% human-generated.

Caleb Mathis
Meet the author

Caleb Mathis

Dad of three, husband of one, pastor at Crossroads, and at the moment would rather be reading Tolkien, watching British TV, or in a pub with a pint of Guinness.

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