I was in my early teens when my friends and I went to the movies to see National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. This was one of the first PG-13 movies I remember seeing in the theaters (do you remember those? Before March, we used to go to this building called a theater to see movies) Now it’s a must watch every year in December. It was released on this day, December 1, thirty-one years ago.

The movie has become engrained in our Christmas-time culture that any person who goes remotely over-the-top in decorating their home exterior becomes known as Clark Griswold. Every annoying, well-to-do, but we love em’ anyway relative becomes known as Cousin Eddie. To top it off, how many families have jokingly started a mealtime prayer with the Pledge of Allegiance? Come on, you know your family has!

Like in many movies, there are some great moments that shape a Gospel according to Christmas Vacation

Our expectations

We all have expectations, especially this time of year. Clark is doing his best to put together the perfect Old Fashioned Griswold Family Christmas. He is expecting a big bonus check. He seems to be the only one who doesn’t know that perfect can be the enemy of good. Ellen even says to Clark, “I know how you build things up in your mind.” She knows how this is going to go down.

We should expect something to happen at Christmas. A baby in a manager born in Bethlehem tells us that we should expect something wonderful, even miraculous. It also tells us that the greatest things are often happen in ways that we don’t expect. We get so busy trying to make our expectations come to life that we miss what God is doing in our midst.

Always buy a tree that fits in your space

Clark cuts down the perfect Christmas tree for the Griswold Family Christmas. The only problem is that the tree is too big for their living room. In life, we too “buy the perfect tree only to find it does not fit our space. You cannot live someone else’s life and no one can live your life. We have different gifts and different calls on our lives. It does no good to be envious of another’s life or gifts. Our unique path can only be walked by us. When we attempt to live lives other than the life God intends, we are buying a tree that does not fit the space.

Love difficult people

This is a tough one. No one did it better than Jesus. There’s a reason that people say “it’s a good thing Jesus loves you.” A lesson learned throughout the movie is loving difficult people (even Cousin Eddie, Margo, and Todd) is the most always the right move.

Give yourself (and others) some grace

After finally receiving his Christmas bonus, which is the Jelly of the Month club membership, Clark finally loses it. He has a bit of an episode right in the living room in front of the whole ha-ha- happy family. Give yourself and others some grace. There are times when things simply don’t go our way. There are times when life overwhelms us. Sometimes we need to break down and let it all out. Give yourself and others the room and the grace to do so. We are all just trying to make it through.

Don’t lose hope

Don’t lose hope. Yes, it’s a movie and yes movies always seems to work out, but more often than not, life works out as well. By the end of the movie, all employees at Clark’s company have their monetary Christmas bonus’ restored. The family stands in the living room caroling, just like Clark imagined. Christmas wishes have been fulfilled. Hope is powerful. Always hold on to the hope that all will be made well.

Since the movie is on multiple channels at multiple times during the season, you have no excuse not to watch. I’ll be watching with a new eye on things and I hope you will as well. Oh, don’t be like Cousin Catherine and cook your turkey too long this holiday season.

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