There are Christmas movies set in churches and Christmas movies that feature clergy, but the films we're looking at today aren't among those. Still, churches play cameo roles in both of these films, and they are interesting cameos.
You don't usually see While You Were Sleeping on lists of Christmas films, but it is one, of course. Sure, it's a rom-com, but it's all set in the Christmas season. The story's activating incident happens on Christmas day. The man (Peter Gallagher) that Lucy (Sandra Bullock) has been the secretly longing for is pushed onto the tracks of a Chicago L train. His injury leaves him in a coma (the “sleeping” of the title), and while he’s is the hospital, through a series of rom-com misunderstandings, Lucy is mistaken for Peter's fiancee. Zaniness and an eventual happy ending ensue.
There are three churches in the film. Lucy’s father used to take Lucy to see the church where he married Lucy's mother, who died when Lucy was young. It's a pilgrimage. For many people, christenings, marriages, and funerals are the only reasons for going to a church. It's interesting that some of the most important events and memories are still connected with churches..
The next church we see is the Catholic Church that Peter's family regularly attends. The priest, as part of the prayer for the people, prays for Peter (still in a coma). Peter's father and brother discuss business during the prayer, but church attendance is obviously important to them. Peter's grandmother says, "I liked the Mass in Latin better. It's nicer when you don't understand what they’re saying." Peter's family doesn't seem to fully understand why going to church is important, except for the tradition of it. But that is a reason.
Finally we see Lucy and Peter (after he awakens from his coma and is convinced he forgot about his engagement) in the hospital chapel for their wedding. I'm not too impressed with the pastor performing the ceremony who apparently hasn't even taken the time to ask the couple he's marrying how long they've known each other.
A single church plays a significant role in Home Alone. (Actually, that one church is portrayed by two churches: Trinity United Methodist of Wilmette, IL, provides the exterior, while Grace Episcopal Church of Oak Park, IL, provides the interior. I guess the Home Alone church is a Federated Church.)
Young Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) is accidentally abandoned by his family in their suburban Chicago home when they leave for a Christmas vacation in France. Kevin finds himself pursued by criminals in his neighborhood, and he runs toward a nearby church. He hides in the life sized Nativity scene on the church lawn. The crooks will not go near the church. It's a sanctuary.
On Christmas Eve, Kevin is lonely and afraid. He goes back to the church and goes inside this time. He takes off his hat and studies the statues and stained glass. He then sees an old man, the neighbor who his older brother had said was a mass murderer. But since they're in church, Kevin allows the man to sit next to him.
Kevin admits he's feeling rotten. The neighbor tells him "This is the place to be if you're feeling bad about yourself." He also assures Kevin that "You're always welcome at church." Outside of his own home, church seems to be place where Kevin seems to feel most secure.
Note: This post first appeared at Dean and Mindy Go to Church 12/18/2014
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