One of my favorite scenes from the marvelous movie, “A Miracle on 34th Street” is a brief moment at the end of the film. It is Christmas Day and young Susan, her mother Doris, and attorney Fred Gailey are attending a Christmas party at an old folks home. Susan had asked Santa to bring her a new home for Christmas, and is terribly disappointed when there is no evidence of it under the Christmas tree. She sits alone in a chair holding the doll she received and says despondently, “I believe, I believe. It’s silly, but I believe.” The story line has focused on Susan and Doris’ practical and jaded approach to all things fantastical, but eventually both of them have been won over by Kris Kringle. Susan’s disappointment in not receiving the gift she longs for is palpable, and while her words express belief, her monotone delivery and her slumped-over posture betray her conflict.
Whoa. Ever been there?
Have you ever experienced a moment of disappointment that was so profound that it rocked you to the very core of your deeply-held beliefs? Life can do that to you. The betrayal of a spouse, the discovery of a loved one’s addiction, the diagnosis of a terminal illness, getting fired from a job you love, a teenager’s rebellion…the list goes on.
In the 9th chapter of Mark, there is an amazing story about a man who brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus to be healed. The focus of this story is not so much on the healing, but what happens to the father’s beliefs:
Mark 9 (The Message)
21-22 He asked the boy’s father, “How long has this been going on?”
“Ever since he was a little boy. Many times it pitches him into fire or the river to do away with him. If you can do anything, do it. Have a heart and help us!”
23 Jesus said, “If? There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.”
24 No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, “Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!”
25-27 Seeing that the crowd was forming fast, Jesus gave the vile spirit its marching orders: “Dumb and deaf spirit, I command you—Out of him, and stay out!” Screaming, and with much thrashing about, it left. The boy was pale as a corpse, so people started saying, “He’s dead.” But Jesus, taking his hand, raised him. The boy stood up.
We are almost at the end of this ADVENT-ure that we’ve been on. Advent has been a time of rediscovering the miracle of Jesus’ birth, of centering ourselves on the manger, and of diving deep into the prophecies and discovering the Messiah in a new and personal way. But at the core, our journey has been about belief.
Do you believe? Do you accept the glorious ridiculousness of the immaculate conception, God-made-flesh, angels surrounding the hillsides, and peace on earth?
I believe. And I believe that belief is a life-long journey. I believe it is not unheard of to stand before Jesus in moments of deep crisis and say, “I believe. Help me with my doubts!” This isn’t contradictory, it’s HUMAN.
“I believe. I believe. The world tells me it’s silly, but I believe.” To the Susan who lives within all of us, know that it is OK to sugar your beliefs with doubts. It’s just not OK to be content with staying doubtful. That’s why we go to scripture every day, to help us with our doubts.
When Advent is over, we will quickly approach a new year. Let us continue this journey into a deeper belief by being in the Word every day…together.
At the end of the scene in the movie, a miracle of circumstances leads Susan, Doris, and Fred into a subdivision where the exact home that Susan has requested sits, with a For Sale sign in the yard. As she runs through the empty house squealing in delight, Fred and Doris give voice to their doubts and in the same breath, confirm their belief in all things good: reconciliation, marriage, hope, family, a future together in that house…and Santa. They gaze off to the fireplace, and there sits Kris’ familiar cane. Their belief is rewarded!
So, too, will yours.