If it is Christmas, it must be time to see one of my favorite movies again. “The Bishop’s Wife” is a movie classic from 1947 with a beautiful, magical Christmas story that the passing of time has not been able to diminish.
If you have not seen it you should give yourself a gift and watch it. In this wonderful story an angel, Dudley, in the guise of a mortal, appears to answer the prayer of an Episcopal bishop, Henry Brougham, who has become so involved in fund-raising for his new cathedral that he has managed to forget his family, the people of his diocese and the real meaning of Christmas.
At the beginning of the movie Dudley notices the bishop’s wife, Julia, gazing through a store window at a beautiful hat. Dudley follows Julia to a Christmas tree lot, where she meets Professor Wutheridge and shares with him her sadness that her husband, the bishop, seems to be interested only in raising money for his cathedral.
Later on, right after the bishop has asked God for guidance, Dudley mysteriously appears in the bishop’s study.
I don’t want to tell you the rest of the story—you should enjoy the movie with your family–but I can guarantee you that it will move you to recognize what is really important during this Christmas season. We worry about so many things–things that may seem so necessary at the time–that we forget the big picture in our lives. In the case of the bishop he was unable to see that his wife and daughter were a gift of God for his life, and that he had put money and material things ahead of his family.
One of the most moving scenes takes place at the end of the movie when Bishop Henry begins to read what he thought was the sermon that he had prepared and instead finds himself reading a sermon that Dudley the angel had written. I believe that it is one of the most moving sermons that I have heard:
“Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking. Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child’s cry. A blazing star hung over a stable and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven’t forgotten that night down the centuries; we celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, the sound of bells and with gifts. But especially with gifts. You give me a book, I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer, and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe.
We forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled – all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It’s his birthday we are celebrating. Don’t ever let us forget that. Let us ask ourselves what he would wish for most, and then let each put in his share. Loving kindness, warm hearts and the outstretched hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.”
Let us take into our hearts this message, and let us be sure to make room for the child born in a manger. Let’s give him the gifts of love and caring that he desires and thank him for the gifts of life, family and friends. They are the best gifts that we can enjoy this Christmas.
The Rt. Rev. Leo Frade, Bishop of Southeast Florida