The things we can’t see

Published 12:08 pm Thursday, December 21, 2023

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Over the weekend, I had a movie night with my friends, and we watched The Polar Express––arguably the best Christmas movie of all time. 

Listen, I know how controversial that statement is. In fact, I hear more often than not that The Polar Express’s animations are “weird” and that the characters’ eyes are too real and blah blah blah. 

Me? I love that movie. I also love trains, the Christmas spirit and the ambiguity of the story that not everyone is meant to understand at first glance. 

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Dear diary: It happened in the Chronicles of Narnia––growing up, letting loose of childhood belief. When Susan (the eldest sister of the bunch) grew up, well. . . she became part of the world. 

The “world” in C. S. Lewis’s sense was far more symbolic than just forgetting the magic of Narnia. It meant that she grew away from her foundational beliefs. 

In The Polar Express, a little boy is inching away from his belief in Santa. And to be fair, the story never confirms or denies Santa’s existence. At the end of the movie, the audience is led to believe that the little boy’s whole experience on the Polar Express was a dream (perhaps). 

The story isn’t about his belief in Santa. It’s about the Christmas spirit and not losing it. 

See, this mysterious Santa Claus gifts the boy a bell from his sleigh. Upon holding the bell up to his ear, the boy heard the bell on Christmas morning. Santa had told him, “This bell is a wonderful symbol of the spirit of Christmas. . . Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.”

The boy’s little sister, as she matured out of her adolescence, could no longer hear the bell. Neither could their parents. The boy, however, could hear it’s ringing long into adulthood. 

The story offers viewers a glimpse into their own hearts. As we grow, my friends, we drift away from the Santa Claus fantasy and no longer have that thing to project our Christmas spirit upon. 

There’s no eloquent way to say that Christmas simply loses its luster for adults. Whether the child in The Polar Express went on to believe in Santa forever, we don’t know. When that belief goes away for adults, the spirit of Christmas seems to flutter away with it. 

What we do know from the movie is that the boy’s Christmas joy is renewed in his heart, no matter if his whole North Pole experience was a dream or not.  

Christmas spirit, we learn, as well as the child, is not about seeing something in order to believe in it. 

Love, leadership, courage, God Himself––all of these are things we cannot see. Adulthood just skews our vision of them. When we have nothing tangible to lay our beliefs upon, faith––yet another invisible thing––must hold it up. 

The conductor even pointed out, “Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”

Merry Christmas, my dearest readers!