By Commissioner Jolene K. Hodder

In our home, there is an established procedure for watching Hallmark Christmas movies. At the appointed hour, I run upstairs to change out of my uniform into a t-shirt and sweat pants, while my darling husband turns on the fireplace and the TV. Donned in my Hallmark-watching attire, I dash to the kitchen and prepare an enormous supply of popcorn. I love my husband, but in order to ensure that I don’t have to share, I generously slather the popcorn with olive oil and savory spices. He won’t touch it. Then, once I’m settled nicely on the sofa, my husband covers me with blankets. Finally, when the opening credits begin, all conversation ceases. A holy hush comes over our home. I am left free to immerse myself in a squeaky-clean world where love reigns and miracles transpire.

While there’s never been a Hallmark movie I didn’t like, Window Wonderland is one I just can’t forget. It’s all about window dressing. The story revolves around two Manhattan department store employees competing for the same job. Sloan Van Doren is a driven young woman determined to become the next window dresser at McGuire’s department store and uphold a 95-year-old artistic holiday tradition. Serious and professional, she’s the exact opposite of the happy-go-lucky Jake Dooley, who also wants the job. When Mr. Fitch, the head of advertising and promotion, sets before the two a creative challenge, the competition is on. Each is tasked to create a series of spectacular window display twice a week until Christmas, and whichever one attracts the most attention from passersby will get the job. Of course, the movie also includes a love triangle, a series of misunderstandings, and a truly magical ending. It’s terrific.

Now everyone knows that, if you watch carefully, you will find Christian elements hidden away in the scenery or discreetly woven in the plot of every Hallmark Christmas movie. You’ll see children’s pageants, nativity scenes, church choirs, angels, and heavenly miracles. And that’s as true for Window Wonderland as it is for every other Christmas movie.

But there is a danger here, because some might come to believe that the reason we celebrate Christmas is no more important that any other feature of the season. We run the risk of suggesting that the holidays are simply a time for presents, trees, lights, carols, parties, decorations, shopping, and eggnog – with a little touch of Jesus thrown in for good measure.

Webster’s Dictionary defines “window dressing” as “something that is intended to make a person or thing seem better or more attractive but that does not have any real importance or effect.” That reminds me of Matthew 15:8-9: “People honor me with their lips, but their hearts are nowhere near me. Because they elevate mere human ritual to the status of law, their worship of me is a meaningless sham.”  In the same way, and unless we’re careful, Santa and the commercialized version of Christmas could easily turn our attention away from Jesus.

Just like the characters in the Hallmark movies I watch, I want my story to be one in which love reigns and miracles happen. Everyone does. But I know that this will never happen if we’re distracted from the true reason for the season. The glory of Christmas doesn’t lie in all the trappings of the holidays. It isn’t found in parties or in presents, but in His presence. It’s only found if we place Him at the center of our lives.

Merry Christmas to you and yours this year.