One of the joys of Christmas is discovering a new Christmas movie. We watch many different types of Christmas movies throughout the season, ranging from classic era TCM-inspired favorites to modern classics to hallmark/Lifetime repetitive plot trifles. Yesterday, we watched a couple from TCM that are not part of our normal rotation: The Man Who Came To Dinner and Beyond Tomorrow. The Man Who Came To Dinner is a fun comedy with razor sharp wit and a holiday setting. Beyond Tomorrow is a fantasy melodrama in the vein of It's a Wonderful Life. Of the two, Beyond Tomorrow has a couple of great themes that I would like to explore.
Filled with wonderful character actors like Harry Carey and C. Aubrey Smith, the film centers on the a trio of rich but lonely heads of an engineering firm who invite three strangers to dinner on Christmas Eve through an interesting test. Only two show up, James and Jean, who fall in love and become friends with their three benefactors. After a tragedy befalls the group, the film seeks to show whether true love can triumph over all (with a little assistance that is).
One of the more interesting themes in the film is regarding purity of heart. The film opens with the quote above from Benjamin Franklin on a title card. For the Christmas dinner, the three older gentlemen were originally preparing to have dinner with more prestigious guests, who cancel at the last minute. One of the engineers, George Melton, is convinced the cancellation is because of his dark past. The darkness in his past and soul runs through the movie and provides him with one of the most intriguing quotes in the movie.
To be born innocent is natural, but to die pure of heart, that's a gift.
George Melton, Beyond Tomorrow
George says this to James, the cowboy from Texas. You can see George admires James' youth, his morality, his naivety, in many ways. His lack of corruption. George may be cynical and remains wary as the events unfold, but his hope is for James and for Jean to remain unchanged.
Purity is something I think we often dismiss. With the world as it is how can we expect anyone to remain pure. We're too cynical, too jaded, too worn to believe that we or anyone else could maintain it, and when we find it, we often label those who possess it simple, naive, or sheltered (as if those were always bad things to be).
I think we also focus far too much on sex and sexuality when we discuss purity, for it goes far beyond that. Purity goes to one's very essence - to purity of heart and thought. "Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God." The Greek word used for pure here is katharos, meaning clean, blameless, unstained. It can refer specifically to that which is purified by fire or by pruning. A pure heart has no hypocrisy, no guile, no hidden motives. It is child like in its innocence.
But sadly, we are destined to become stained, to become dirty. One constant view across the denominations is that man is inherently sinful - man will inherently make himself impure. We need an external force to make us pure again.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
It's fitting through a Christmas film to have a reminder of why the Savior needed to come at all. Of why the whole pageantry was assembled in the first place. Without the child in the manger, there would be no way to die pure of heart. That gift would be unavailable. But through the child, who would become the pure and spotless Lamb, whose internal purity would allow Him to pay the penalty required for impurity, He allowed us to be purified.
Now that purification may come through fire or pruning. It may not be a pleasant experience to work through. But just as a vine must be pruned to be healthy, and gold must be melted to remove the imperfections, so to must our lives be inspected and revised to make us pure and blameless before Him. To remove the corruption, the cynicism, the guilt, the shame, the wear, the tear, and the decay. And to restore our joy. Exceeding great joy. To allow us to see the world fresh through His eyes.
Lord, create in me a pure heart, and restore the exceeding great joy of this season. May we all seek that gift, to live a life pure in heart for the rest of our days.