It’s almost become a herald of Christmas…the debate begins. “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?” Honestly, I think those of us who remember it hitting cinemas in the summer of 1988 are the hardest to convince. Everyone else is like – “Huh? Of course it is a Christmas movie!”
As Reginald VelJohnson, who played Sgt. Al Powel, said this year… “It’s set at Christmas time, it’s full of Christmas music. And – John McClane’s wife is named HOLLY!” Debate over?
Well…what if it’s the wrong debate. What if we should consider the possibility that Christmas is a form of Die Hard? I don’t mean the modern trappings of Christmas…I mean the Bible’s description of the birth and life of Jesus? What if this story…has more similarities to the movie…than we realise?
Remember, Die Hard is basically a tale about an everyman cop from New York, coming to LA to meet his estranged wife Holly Gennero with the hope that they will rebuild their marriage. Hans Gruber and his group of entertaining thieves disrupt the party at Nakatomi. And very quickly “move up” from thievery to terrorism, murder and kidnapping. McClane crawls through ducts, is ripped to shreds by broken glass, is tricked by Hans Gruber (Bill Clay), and is horrified at the prospect of jumping from the top of the building before the roof blows off. He’s frustrated in his attempts to save Holly by:
- the terrorists (Who says we’re terrorists?)
- the media (Did ya get that?)
- the police (I’ve got 100 people down here and they are covered in glass!)
- the FBI (You asked for miracles? I give you the FBI).
Yet McClane is supported and encouraged by the help and encouragement of a second everyman – Sgt. Al Powell, who is just a simple beat cop with a desk job, constantly on the radio and ready with words of encouragement. Yet he’s also ready to beat his own demons and saving McClane at the end by shooting the last remaining bad guy.
If ever there was a movie with the message that, “The everyman has the power to beat the odds and save the day”…it’s got to be Die Hard?
If ever there was a story that says an everyman has the potential to transform the world…its Christmas.
Jesus’ Birth was a Struggle
Jesus’ mother Mary has a struggle on her hands to find a safe place to rest and give birth. Jesus’ entry into this world is a race against the clock…it’s touch and go from the start, and they had obstacles to overcome on the way
“…the time came…she gave birth to a son…and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.” (Luke 2:7, The Msg)
The Local Authorities Decided to Eliminate the Baby
Unwittingly, some scholars who had been waiting for the birth of an important child told King Herod about it. Herod quickly decided he would “move up” from being an unpleasant ruler, to practicing infanticide. He arranged for all the newborns in the small hamlet of Bethlehem to be killed, in the hope that Jes/us was amongst them. While he missed his target…I do like to think that Alan Rickman would have played an excellent Herod (I’m going to count to three. There will not be a four.)
“Herod … flew into a rage [and] commanded the murder of every little boy” (Matt. 2:16, The Msg)
Jesus Lived the Life of an Everyman
We don’t know a lot about what he did as a child. There are clear hints he possessed wisdom beyond his years. Yet, he lived and worked in a humble setting as a carpenter, surely the most normal occupation at that time? He was such a no one, that when his public ministry began, many in his community refused to take him seriously.
“What’s this wisdom that has been given him? … Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas…” (Mark 6:2-3, NIV)
Yet this everyman recognised our danger, and chose to save us from it
Ironically, the work Jesus was born for did not involve “waxing terrorists”. It did, however, involve doing the hard job of making a way for us to escape the danger we face.
I’m always struck by the scene at the end of Die Hard when, after Gruber’s death, people are able to finally walk out of the building to safety. McClane saved them from a fiery, roof top death. The FBI guys weren’t so lucky (We’re gonna need some more FBI guys, I guess?). And Sgt. Powell finally brought an end to Karl, who managed to struggle out of the building with murderous rage in his eyes. The FBI were happy losing 25% of the civilians…but John McClane and Al Powell managed to save everyone!
The Bible’s message about Jesus’ mission is that he came to save everyone from the destructive effects of our broken lives…our ongoing decision to reject God and live life our own way… and all the pain that this brings. Jesus made a way out of this doomed building for us so that we could walk to safety at the end of our lives. So that our own story has a happy ending.
We thought he was an everyman. But actually – he was our personal saviour. And there’s nothing ordinary about that.
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21, NIV)
You know…here’s a final thought. Maybe all of our myths and stories of the everyman facing down incredible odds to save the day for us…have a single root. They are actually rooted originally in the life of that carpenter Jesus who was born in Bethlehem, and whose life, death and resurrection still resonates in our word today?
“Inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour…” J R R Tolkein