Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Heidi and my Advent practice ...

Last Saturday night, my granddaughters and I snuggled up together on the couch and watched Shirley Temple's Heidi together. I love this film! This is not only my favorite Advent/Christmas movie, but simply my favorite movie ever. Watching Heidi is always a highlight of the Advent season for me.

What does the movie have to do with Advent? Let's start with its themes of unconditional love, of sin and repentance, of forgiveness and redemption. This movie connects with a deeper spirituality within me; it's not just a cute little girl capturing the hearts of everyone she meets. There's so much more that I become aware of with each viewing.

Unconditional Love
Heidi is left by her aunt to live with her grandfather, a recluse in a rugged hut high up a mountain, who is feared by the people in the village below. Heidi, though, approaches this man - a total stranger to her - with a wide smile and an acceptance and love for him just as he is, her innocent child's hands holding a bouquet of wildflowers she's picked on the long hike up the mountain. The sweet innocence of youth holds no judgement or criticism of her grandfather; instead, she offers him a sweet, pure love without any conditions, without any hesitation. Watching this the other night - my heart filled with Advent reflection - I thought that this is much like Jesus loves us, seeing our beautiful, perfect spirits within, loving us unconditionally. There is no "I'll love you if you'll love me back" from either Heidi or Jesus. There is simply "I love you."

Sin and Repentance
In the face of that love, the grandfather's self-imposed isolation turns to a a joyful embrace of this child's presence in his lonely life and he soon loves his granddaughter with a powerful protectiveness, the two of them singing and laughing through their chores and school lessons each day. When they read the story of the prodigal son together, the grandfather wistfully quotes from memory: "'But the father said, 'Bring the best robe and put it on him, and put rings on his finger. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. For this my son was dead and is alive again. He was lost and now is found.'"

The grandfather had rejected his son - Heidi's father - years ealier, when the son married a woman the grandfather did not approve of. And now the son was dead and the old man's regrets are etched in the softness and longing in his expression as he quotes the biblical passage. A tremendously moving scene, you get a sense that the man is talking with both his son and his God, repenting his past sins and asking forgiveness from them both. Then his expression softens further, and we understand that he realizes his son is truly "alive again", through his beloved granddaughter, Heidi.

Forgiveness and redemption
"If a man has a hundred sheep and one is gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go into the mountains and seek that which is gone astray? And if... [Heidi and her grandfather enter the church. Pastor Schultz pauses] ... And if he finds it, he rejoices more than of the ninety-nine which went not astray."

The grandfather's heart is so changed, that he decides to return to the village and take Heidi to church. As they arrive, the pastor is preaching the parable of the lost sheep. He pauses and all eyes turn to the Grandfather and Heidi as they walk up the aisle and take a seat. Whispers and smiles fill the church as the Grandfather and Heidi join in and sing with the congregation. After the service, the citizens of the village all gather 'round the two outside the church, eager to shake the grandfather's hand and welcome him back with warmth and caring. No judgement, no criticism, only joy at his return. A real God moment.

I know these thoughts are very simplistic; after all, this is the movies and Shirley Temple movies were crafted to tug at the heart strings with a three-part plot of happiness - crisis - happiness. Believe me, I know. (And that's why I like them.) But lately, I'm seeing evidence of God in so many things in each day and each moment. Why don't we have more movies like this today, movies that prompt us to live our own lives better and in closer connection with all that is good and wholesome? Movies that draw our thoughts toward God and peace and love toward one another. When Shirley sings "Silent Night", there is a deep sense of peace and calm in my spirit. This is how I want movies to make me feel.

Advent continues to help me see the sacred in all that is around me and explore how Heidi's lessons of love, repentance and forgiveness can be practiced in my own life.



Maureen said...

Rose-I adore this movie too! We love all those old Shirley Temple movies- she was such a little dumpling! My kids are older now so we don't have many of those old movies on DVD, but I remember a day when my eldest watched the VHS tape of The Little Princess nearly every day! You've reminded me of all the holiday movies my kids loved when they were younger! Sweet memories! Merry Christmas Rose!

Rose said...

When I was growing up we didn't even have a TV most of the time so I've never seen a Shirley Temple movie. When my kids were small there were so many movies available that they wanted to see that older movies never even came to mind. It was Annie that they loved to watch over and over and over again.

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Hi, sweet Rose! I don't get by here nearly often enough to visit you, but thank you so much for the well wishes for Christmas. I also wish you & your family a very special and blessed time this year too. enjoy the season & all that it encompasses. You're a beautiful person, inside & out!


Amber said...

I loved that movie, too, when I was a girl. It would come on TV once a year and was very special! I loved her grandfather. My kids and I snuggled up to watch "The Nanny Diaries" last night.

PAT said...

Hello Rose,

I was thinking of Heidi, only this morning. I've seen the Shirley Temple movie, but what stands out for me is the book. Heidi was one of my favorites, as a child. I can remember someone reading the book aloud and I can remember reading it, myself.

The reason Heidi crossed my mind, is a sort of silly one. I was having dark rye bread and cheese, for breakfast and it reminded me of Heidi having bread and cheese. Funny how that has remained in my memory all these years later. I remember all aspects of the book, of course. But, this morning,out of the blue, bread and cheese was a reminder of that wonderful book and the life lessons learned.

Thanks Rose!
Merry Christmas!

Nana Trish said...

Thanks so much for your insight into the "Heidi" story. We collect Shirley Temple cups and have several other items with her on them. I loved that movie and cried everytime when they were taking her away. This is the first time I've looked at your blog and it gave me such a sweet feeling. I look forward to reading it in the future. The Lord is so good to let us speak with other Christians all over through these blogs. Trish

Stewcarol said...

I have memories of getting teary watching Heidi...and it was a favorite. Wonder if my boys would watch it with me? Thanks for the memories and the correlations to redemption, forgiveness, and love. And the beautiful music.

Advent is a special time,
Carol (stewcarol)

Lynn said...

Heidi, what a beautiful movie, book, message.
I love you, Sister By the Stream Rose. Thank you so much for the gifts of your friendship, wisdom, prayers and love through this year. You have truly been a God-send to me.

Britt-Arnhild said...

I've never thought of Heidi as an advent story, but you are so right.

I don't have the film, but several old and new issues of the book. I might read it during the season. Thanks for the suggestion.

Lynn said...

Merry, Happy Christmas to you, beloved Sister. My wish is that you and all you love will be together, in spirit if not proximity and that all that is brightest and most meaningful to you will be yours on this Holy Day of Love and Gifts.

Thank you for all your blessings and gifts to me. I treasure you.

daisy cottage said...

Dear Rose,
I hope you and your family have the most merriest of Christmases - filled with love and sweet blessings.. thank you for being such a gift to all of us.

Much love,