The Christmas Candle is an inspirational new movie based on the novel by Max Lucado. Set in late 19th-century England, the film offers a Dickensesque quality of Christmas-story magic not found in many contemporary holiday films, which often make light of, or even valorize, modern culture’s consumer-obsessed season. The Christmas Candle is, in this sense, at once both refreshing and timeless. It serves as a reminder of how a period piece is sometimes needed to take us out of ourselves and back to a time when Christmas meant something simpler. More importantly, it reminds us of how we can restore the meaning of that old-fashioned holiday magic.
At the heart of the story is the fictional town of Gladbury, a rural community in England with a 200-year-old legend: every 25 years, an angel visits the home of the village candlemaker and blesses one candle. Whoever in the village lights the candle while saying a prayer will receive a Christmas miracle. Worlds collide, however, when the progressive young minister, David Richmond (Hans Matheson), takes the post at the local parish, bringing with him both electricity and skepticism about the existence of miracles. “For too long the church has been stumbling in the Dark Ages,” he says to his congregation, “when it should be lighting the way.” As a man who believes in charity rather than faith in the supernatural, he teaches the villagers how to create their own miracles by reaching out to one another rather than waiting for their prayers to be answered. But in the end, he learns about the power of believing in what becomes Gladbury’s most memorable Christmas miracle.
Visually, the film is beautiful, with high production quality and artful cinematography, capturing the mood of A Christmas Carol England that combines romantically dreary landscapes with the warm glow of a nostalgic, candlelit Christmas. However, some of the mysticism of the Christmas candle angel—the messenger of miracles—is lost in the film’s rather melodramatic special effects. The angel’s very literal appearance also diminishes some of the magic and wonder of the legend, which, if kept concealed until the end, could have provided the film with more dramatic tension. Many of the actors seem to play types rather than people, with the exception of Matheson and the luminous Samantha Barks as Emily. The minister is remarkably dynamic as a protagonist, and the fact that his skepticism does not diminish his value as a morally sound character adds a certain complexity to this pro-faith film.
The message of The Christmas Candle is Christian, but like the Christmas holiday itself, it offers universal messages of love, charity, and faith—both in religion and in each other. Ultimately, the most powerful magic of The Christmas Candle lies less with its message of prayer than with its lesson of acceptance. The town learns to accept an outsider and his progressive ideals, and he in turn learns to appreciate and embrace the traditions and beliefs of the past. While the film endorses the intervention of a higher power in granting miracles to those in need, the most profound miracles seem to be the small, everyday ones granted not by God but by friends and neighbors who put their faith into action by helping others. In this, The Christmas Candle offers a holiday message that can inspire us to have faith in the unexpected and to never stop believing in the possibility of many kinds of miracles.
The Christmas Candle is currently showing in theaters. Learn more about the film by visiting its website, thechristmascandlemovie.com.