Posts Tagged ‘The Polar Express’


Robert Zemeckis’ 2004 adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg’s “The Polar Express” is not for those who are easily upset by sadness and nostalgia in movies.  But if you can manage it, you’ll find some gems worth pondering.

lonely boyFirst, there is the unnamed “Lonely Boy” who almost doesn’t hop aboard the Polar Express.  And when the train arrives at the North Pole, he remains on the train while all the other kids are being shepherded out to wait for Santa Claus’ appearance.

“Hero Boy” (Daryl Sabara), the main character, immediately goes up to the Conductor (Tom Hanks) and asks: “What about him (Lonely Boy)?”

The Conductor’s response is brief and to the point: “No one is required to see Santa.”

We could learn a lot about sin and hell from this part of the movie.  God excludes no one — it is we who enclose ourselves within our great loneliness by turning away from Him, by staying in our private trolleys while others go to see Santa (in this case, Jesus).

polar express bellNow I think I’ll skip to the end.  The narrator (also Tom Hanks), who is none other than Hero Boy as an adult, declares that he alone of all the kids on the Polar Express’ journey was able to hear the sound of Santa Claus’ bells into adulthood.  Even his friend Sarah (Isabella Peregrina), who was perhaps the biggest Christmas enthusiast on the trip, would slowly lose the magic.

I see a definite faith analogy here.  The wonder of the world as seen through the lens of faith in the Blessed Trinity is awesome.  But even when we maintain this faith intellectually, we, too, can gradually stop “hearing” once we cease to live as though we believed.

Fans of the movie will recall that at one point, Hero Boy loses the bell he is given when it falls out through a hole in his robe pocket.  Similarly, there are “holes” in our lives whereby at times, almost in spite of ourselves, we can begin to lose the precious gift of faith we are given.  We become lukewarm, and we lose sight of what is important.

Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. … They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. (Mark 4: 7, 18-29)

the polar express_santaFinally, some thoughts on the scene in which Hero Boy meets Santa Claus (also Tom Hanks).  This meeting occurs immediately following that decisive moment when he says several times, with resolve, “I believe.”

After seeing this movie, I admit I was momentarily overcome with nostalgia, with sadness, with such profound and unexpected longing.  I said to myself…

“I wish Santa Claus was real.”

Santa Claus (a.k.a St. Nicholas) is real, of course — just ask Brett Fawcett.  But I’m talking North Pole, man in the red suit with a stocking hat, elves, toy shop, etc.  Let me rephrase it this way: “I wish the king of the North Pole was real.”

With that childhood yearning resonating anew within me, something occurred to me about why children are so precious to us.  It’s not just their wide-eyed wonder, but the fact that they want a “shining start” to look to — someone or something wondrous and good, in whom/which they can place their trust even when good but imperfect parents, teachers, and other accessible role models let them down.

Even into adulthood, we all want someone like Santa Claus or Aslan (the Lion of C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia”)…a Messiah — a Christ.

Happily, that is precisely what we celebrate during the Christmas season.  The wonder of Christ is the wonder of Christmas.

Santa Claus (St. Nicholas), pray for us, that we may all discover — and never lose — that wonder.

Top image from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search.

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