This is my address for the midnight service on Christmas Eve……
The first time I watched the film ‘Love Actually’ I switched it off after a few minutes. I just didn’t understand that its plot was a complex mix of multiple story lines. Now, after getting to grips with it, this romantic comedy is one of my yuletide favourites alongside such seminal works as the Muppets Christmas Carol. Since, for all its bizarre happenings even to the point of buffoonery, Love Actually does say something valuable about love at this best and worst of times. Indeed, it starts by saying that on 911 all the phone calls made were of affection and concern and not of anger and revenge. It concludes that love is indeed all around us.
Yet behind its facade of humour, this movie has its moments of deep pathos. The widower trying to find words at his wife’s funeral, the sister sitting on Christmas Day with her mentally ill brother and, most poignant all, the story thread of the devoted mother and wife played by Dame Emma Thompson. For we see her crying alone at her husband’s infidelity as Jodie Mitchell sings:
I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From WIN and LOSE and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all.
Perhaps tonight, nothing I have said so far echoes with you. And if that is so, I am happy for you in your blessing. On the other hand, you too may be concluding that you not know life at all. Perhaps troubles dog your footsteps. Your life story at the moment may complicated and multiplex. Or your spirits are low just at the meanness of modern Britain. Put bluntly, you may indeed feel the supposition that love is all around is illusory.
Now saying all that seems far too gloomy for Christmas. Yet, if we never thought that way, there would be no need for Christmas.
Because when we strip away the sugar coating of the nativity, we see a near enough homeless couple giving birth to a child in a shack. For them, God was born as a baby. Similarly, the shepherds were one step away from penniless tinkers. But, for them too, God was born as a baby. Perhaps most telling of all, the wise men in following a faintly ridiculous dream ended up under official surveillance. For these visionaries of happier times, God was also born as a baby. There then was love actually.
Ah you can say – nice music but the sad words are still there all the same. In truth, why does the fact that God came amongst us as a vulnerable child change our bitter sweet personal worlds?
Well, probably the most memorable scene sequence in Love Actually is little Sam’s dash through Heathrow security to tell his child beloved of his feelings. She, if you remember is flying home to New York on Christmas Eve. His cause seemed to be hopeless and his determination seemed so naive. Because his dream is just too unattainable. Of course, he wins through and finds his fair maiden’s kiss. So too, this very night, God pushes through all the security gates we have around our hearts pursued by the heavies our deepest doubts. So too he seems on a hopeless quest since we are determined to be out of the country for him this Christmas. So too, we ask what can a kid actually know of love. Then it comes to us, who else knows better. Since in that wee bairn given to us in a few moments, we don’t so much see love actually rather we are re-found by love eternally.
And that alone will cheer us and change us for living again and anew.
For as Jodi Mitchell completes her song:
Oh, but now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost but something’s gained
In living every day
With every blessing for Christmas