The True Meaning of Christmas

Brad Miner | January 6, 2024

This is not a sermon such as Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) gives at the end of the film The Bishop’s Wife. And no angel has intervened to write this. Not as far as I know anyhow.

But this does come from watching Christmas movies, which, for a fortnight, television featured at Christmastime. Some were sweet and charming, and others were the more “serious” Biblical narratives that span the Greatest Story from the Incarnation to the Resurrection.

A few of those Biblical epics deal only tangentially with the beginning and end of the life of Christ on earth, focusing instead on stories derived from the persecution of the early Church – films in which St. Peter is a central character, although rarely the star:

Quo Vadis, 1951 (Finlay Currie as Peter)
The Robe, 1953 (Michael Rennie), and its sequel,
Demetrius and the Gladiators, 1954 (Mr. Rennie again)
The Silver Chalice, 1954 (Loren Greene), and
The Big Fisherman, 1959 (Howard Keel).

This last is a total mess, even worse than The Silver Chalice, in which Paul Newman “starred,” a lifelong embarrassment to him. The final scene in The Big Fisherman has Peter in a boat with an Arabian princess setting sail for heaven knows where. Rome, I suppose.

Only in Quo Vadis is Peter’s martyrdom portrayed – dramatically and properly.


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