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by Anita Crane

Above all, Christmas is about celebrating the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. While many Christians try to faithfully rejoice, the holidays can be tinged with sorrow for any number of reasons, especially loneliness. Today, however, a sweet uplifting movie premiers. “The Christmas Candle” opens November 22 in hundreds of theaters across the U.S.A., hundreds more in the United Kingdom and still more in Australia and New Zealand. It is distributed by EchoLight Studios of Dallas, whose CEO is the Catholic former U.S. senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum. The film is well made, Catholic singer Susan Boyle triumphs in her big-screen debut, and Mr. Santorum spoke to Crisis Magazine about what makes this movie unique.

“It’s a Christmas movie about the real meaning of Christmas: which is ‘Christ with us’ and I can’t think of a single Christmas movie, other than a biblical nativity movie, that has that message—which is stunning in just saying it,” said Santorum.

Some of my favorite Christmas movies are “A Christmas Carol,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and the comedy “Trapped in Paradise.” But like Santorum, I couldn’t think of a single Christmas classic that centers on the birth of Jesus the Savior, true God and true man.

“It’s stunning that there’s not one single movie [set] in post-biblical times depicting the struggles that people have, the importance of faith and the miracle of Christ with us,” Santorum added.

“The Christmas Candle” is based on a bestselling novel by author and Evangelical pastor Max Lucado, a longtime friend of Santorum. It takes place in 1890 England, as businessmen are striving to shed light on society with electricity.

In the opening scenes, we meet Rev. David Richmond (Hans Matheson), who is clad in a Salvation Army uniform on the gritty streets of London. As he is feeding the poor, two women beg for his attention.

One is Lady Camdon (Barbara Flynn), who knows the power of his preaching. She asks the minister to return to his roots and become the new Anglican pastor in small-town Gladbury. The other is a homeless young woman with child, who is about to give birth. Without prejudice, Rev. Richmond finds shelter and help for the abandoned young mother; then he leaves London for Gladbury.

On his way, Richmond rescues Emily Bastow (Samantha Barks), a skeptical damsel in distress, and when he gets to Gladbury, everyone is abuzz about the legendary Christmas candle as she had warned.

Edward Haddington (Sylvester McCoy) is the town and parish candlemaker. Generations ago, an angel visited his ancestors to bless a candle and grant a Christmas miracle. Every 25 years, the angel returns to the Haddington candle shop, he blesses a candle and it is the candlemaker’s solemn duty to get that candle to a worthy person. This year, as many villagers suffer some sort of poverty or illness, the angel does not disappoint. Edward and his wife (Lesley Manville), hoping for the return of their long lost son, arise from their chairs with excitement, but they topple all the candles and no longer know which is the miraculous one.

With faith in the Gospel and the person of Christ, Rev. Richmond goes about town ministering to the ailing, he shows the villagers how to love their neighbors with corporal acts of mercy, but he scoffs at the idea of nineteenth  century miracles. Now the good pastor is determined to bring Gladbury out of the dark ages by installing electrical lights in their parish.

Meanwhile, the Haddingtons are handing out all their candles, urging their neighbors to light them and pray for the miracles of their hearts’ desires.

Santorum and the filmmakers hope that their new film will become a Christmas classic. He praises Lucado for faithfully representing traditions of a religion other than his own. He also sees “The Christmas Candle” as ecumenical, a way to unite all Christians, and I don’t disagree. Considering that many Protestants ridicule the Catholic tradition of making pilgrimages to pray before lit candles, the very essence of the story is surprising.

“The wonderful thing about this movie is that it’s written by an Evangelical pastor, but it is about a liturgical church and I think it’s very, very respectful of that tradition,” explained Santorum.

“You’ve seen the lighting of every candle on the Advent wreath throughout the course of this movie. And the points made in the movie—it’s a wonderful thing because it’s sort of ‘Mere Christianity,’ if you will, which I think is a wonderful place to be at Christmastime—areas that unite Christians in the faith.”

Moviegoers will enjoy the realistic sets, costumes, dialogue and acting, along with gorgeous cinematography. “The Christmas Candle” is directed by John Stephenson, Tim Atack wrote the beautiful soundtrack and Susan Boyle, who plays Mrs. Hopewell, is a loveable delight as both singer and actress.

Will the filmmakers’ dream come true? Will “The Christmas Candle” become a classic? Only time will tell.

My favorite lessons in the film are about the fundamental virtue of humility and loving our neighbors as Christ loves us. As a Catholic, it reminds me to keep the Lord Himself company in Eucharistic adoration, but also to celebrate Him with someone who is neglected. Now, as so many of our family and friends suffer anxiety or loneliness, why not treat someone to this movie and a cup of Christmas cheer?
I think i might go see this one, sounds uplifting.
A warning. My wife and I and several of our children saw this movie this past weekend. It was recommended to us by people we know from our local trad parish. It is not a Catholic movie even though at least one of the actors is Catholic and it's being pushed by Rick Santorum who is also Catholic. It is centered around an Anglican community. The makers of the movie are very confused about the purpose of miracles and they do not believe that it is in the Catholic Church that one is saved (of course). Some parts are charming but I think my youngest was confused by some of the scenes. Nothing obscene or anything but confusing for her. The only person she has seen wear a chasuble is a priest (and only in the church during mass) and since this charming fellow is not Catholic there were a few sense impressions left on her that I'll have to weed out. It may be uplifting to some but I was annoyed.