I’d wanted to watch The Christmas Candle (2013) ever since I saw the trailer. The film’s high-quality production impressed me. So did its cast: Samantha Barks from Les Miserables (2012), British singer Susan Boyle, James Cosmo from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005), Barbara Flynn, Hans Matheson, and others. When a local library acquired the DVD this week, I eagerly borrowed it. But the film was a sore disappointment. Not only that, it was blasphemy. The ironically named Christmas Candle “put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20). “Blasphemy?” you say. “What a loaded word. This is a Christmas film about miracles!” Is it, really? Instead of the miracle of Jesus Christ’s birth, I saw only occult-like superstition and witchcraft. Pastor David Richmond tries to sweep it all away with the gospel, but he fails in his task.
This film begins with the centuries-old legend of the “Christmas candle.” One night, an angel visits a Gladbury candle-maker and touches a single candle, making it glow. The candle-maker then gives this candle to an orphan, telling her to “light it and pray.” She receives a miracle on Christmas Eve – adoption. The angel repeats his visit every twenty-five years. Each time, after lighting the candle and praying, someone receives a Christmas Eve miracle. When the film turns to the present day, it is November 1890 and Gladbury is scheduled for another angelic visit.
This visit comes after Pastor Richmond moves to Gladbury. He is angry about the “Christmas candle” delusion but wrongly calls it a “fairy tale.” Most fairy tales don’t consist of witchcraft in real time, which is exactly what I witnessed in this film. One night, tiny angels appear like lightning bugs as a female angel makes objects levitate before touching a single candle and disappearing. Candle-maker Edward Haddington and his wife Bea wake up, watch, and wonder. Should they? No. This is the occult and it has no right to be called “Christmas.”
I haven’t read Max Lucado’s novel, so I don’t know how well this film conforms to it. But if it’s close, then I question Lucado’s conversion and theology. Angels are heavenly beings of light. Instead of doing silly stunts like lighting candles, they deliver verbal messages from God to humans. Angels aren’t tiny, don’t glow, and don’t make anything levitate. That belongs to Satan and his demons. Angels aren’t male or female either; gender division is unique to humans (Genesis 1:27, Matthew 22:30). Still, in the Bible all angels appear like men and all have male names, so a female angel is ridiculous. Therefore, which unearthly beings appear in this film – angels or demons? Or is the plot itself the fruit of someone who doesn’t know sound Christian theology or doesn’t care?
Pastor Richmond cares. On each Advent Sunday and on Christmas Eve, he gives parishioners sound theology about both the meaning of Christmas and the person and work of Jesus Christ. Everything Pastor Richmond says is biblical, but since he insults the “Christmas candle” legend, his parishioners initially refuse to listen. They would rather cling to the darkness of superstition than embrace the light of Christ, from the cradle to the cross and empty tomb. Jesus is “the light of the world” (John 8:12, 9:5, 11:9). So are good works done through him, which inspires Pastor Richmond to lead the way as neighbors help neighbors in Gladbury (Matthew 5:14-16).
Jesus Christ came to banish the darkness of sin and death. The “Christmas candle” delusion is no exception, but superstition wins the day. Pastor Richmond tries to bring progress to Gladbury with electricity and the gospel. But after he turns on recently-installed electric lights in church on Christmas Eve morning, the circuit overloads and starts a fire. The burning altar produces one man’s fatal heart attack. So everyone returns to lighting candles. All this time, thanks to Edward and Bea’s deception, parishioners having been praying after they lit the candle that they wrongly believed was “touched by an angel.” Their misplaced faith is little better than a rabbit’s foot, yet it produces real miracles that they recite in church on Christmas Eve night. A blind man dies and sees Jesus. A boy speaks again after having been struck dumb by his mother’s death. An old man recovers from tuberculosis. A single woman finds a husband. The list goes on.
The final straw is what happens to the candle that the angel did touch. Edward and Bea give it to their son Thomas, owner of an electric lighting company in London, hoping he will visit. He does, but only to announce his marriage and return the candle. Then Lady Camdon convinces the pair to give it to Pastor Richmond. He accepts the candle and, with Emily Barstow, lights it on Christmas Eve night in order to find Ruby, a young woman in labor. The candle produces a large, bubble-like glow that guides them to Ruby. This is no miracle but witchcraft, albeit ridiculous.
The true “Christmas candle” is Jesus Christ, “the light of the world.” His “life [is] the light of men” and he came to bring “light to every man” (John 1:4, 9). But except for Pastor Richmond’s sermons, one won’t find Jesus in this film. The darkness of superstition and witchcraft snuff him out. Christmas with a Capital C (2011), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Little Women (1994), and Silent Night (2012) are better modern films on Christmas.