I Believe! (a true story)
Once long ago with Christmas near, the Dad gathered his family. 1 “Let’s see The Polar Express.” 2 The Mom was on board, yet the children did not share his enthusiasm. The youngest, already 18, noted it was a cartoon. But after some complaining, the children begrudgingly agreed.
Armed with terribly overpriced popcorn and sodas, they entered the theatre. Just enough space remained for them to sit together…20 feet in front of the giant screen. His neck already aching in anticipation, the Dad quietly led them to the seats. Mercifully, the movie soon began.
The film opens with a Boy on Christmas Eve. 3 Having seen fake Santas, he now doubts them all. At 11:55 pm, he awakes to a train arriving on the snow-covered street in front of his house. With great hesitation he boards, joining other children on an adventure to the North Pole.
The Dad looked at his family. The children, all settled in with popcorn in hand, are captivated by snowy forests, treacherous mountains, frozen lakes, and the story that played out before them. All but one, who seemed uncomfortable. Puzzled, the Dad turned back to the movie.
Doubt closes our ears, eyes and hearts.
The Boy encounters a Hobo who guides him on his way and asks if he believes in ghosts. “No,” he replies. The Boy mentions his doubts of a Santa, and the Hobo shouts, “You don’t want to be taken for a ride. Railroaded! Seeing is believing. Am I right?” The Boy agrees, and soon sees the Hobo vanish.
The Boy also meets a Conductor who leads him to the truth he seeks. In his journey, the Boy realizes he is where he should be when he is with the Conductor. And he listens when the man teaches, “Sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”
At the North Pole everyone hears the sleigh bells and sees Santa. Everyone except the Boy. As doubts fade, he shouts, “I believe!” Suddenly his ears can hear and his eyes can see. Father Christmas, moved by his outburst, gives him the first gift of Christmas…a sleigh bell. And with it a fuller life.
The Dad gazed at the screen. A hand shielded the tears rolling down his face. This was no longer a movie of Christmas fantasy. For him, there was a deeper message. He looked at his child, now angry and tense. Dark eyes stared through the screen. This child did not believe in a Heavenly Father.
Belief opens them to the truth we seek.
As credits rolled across the screen, the Dad gathered himself and asked if everyone had enjoyed the movie. One thought it was great, one good, two a little cheesy. But one child hated it.
Every year the Dad watches the movie. Always alone. Always in tears. Always praying for his child who does not believe…that one day God will bless him with eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that knows a faith that is sure of what is hoped for and certain of what is not seen. 4
Jesus is the true first gift of Christmas! He came into this world to save it…reach the lost…heal the sick…befriend the lonely…and be our example that we might follow Him.
As you carry Christmas throughout the year, remember those who doubt and refuse to believe. Pray that one day, they will hear the bell of faith ring true and see the loving face of their Heavenly Father.
Chuck Graham is Founder and Executive Director of Ciloa, an international ministry devoted to sharing God’s encouragement and teaching others how to “encourage one another as long as it is called Today!” He is also an author, speaker, teacher, and encourager. Chuck and his wife, Beverly, live in Lawrenceville, Georgia, USA. You can learn more about Chuck and Ciloa at www.Ciloa.org.
Footnotes: The original version of this Note of Encouragement, I believe… (a true story), was published December 14, 2015. (1) The Dad in I Believe is anonymous by request. (2) The Polar Express, Castle Rock Entertainment, Warner Bros. Pictures, 2004. (3) The boy is referred to as Hero Boy in the book and the credits of the movie, but is otherwise not named. (4) Read Hebrews 11:1.
Pictures: All images appearing in this Note of Encouragement were created for the movie The Polar Express, produced by Castle Rock Entertainment and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, 2004. The book The Polar Express was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1985. Its Author, Illustrator, and Cover Artist is Chris Van Allsburg.