The Greatest Christmas Film: The Bishop’s Wife

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, with 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 can do with a new pipe. For 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’re celebrating. Don’t let us ever 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 a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shinning gifts that make peace on earth.

The story of Episcopalian Bishop and the problems he is having in trying to balance family, the normal pressures of his job, and the added pressure of trying to build a cathedral. In desperation he makes a prayer for help. Enter an angel named Dudley played by Cary Grant. Which is good because Dudley does want to help. It’s also bad because Dudley is a bit attracted to the Bishop’s Wife…and well if being an angel wasn’t enough, it’s an angel played by Cary Grant…how much do you want to bet it was not entirely platonic feelings on the side of the Bishop’s wife (not that she would even consider cheating on her husband, but even she observes that this “something wicked” in the time she spends with Dudley).

One of the Bishop’s other problems is the rather vicious rich old woman who has the money he needs to build the cathedral but is demanding unreasonable and selfish concessions for it. And they’re not subtle about how much we should dislike this woman. In one of the first scenes she is openly hostile to the Bishop’s dog…in movies as in real life, if you don’t like dogs you’re as evil as it gets (I understand if you’re not a dog person…but to openly dislike dogs is about as clear a sign as I can see that you don’t have a soul.) But put her in a room with an angel and even he can melt her hard heart. She is only one of the people whom Dudley’s company alone brings them back to faith and redemption.

But this is only one of a multitude of miracles that Dudley performs in the movie. (I really tried to find footage of him decorating a Christmas Tree in only a few seconds but it doesn’t seem to be up on YouTube…go watch the movie, it’s a nice scene and decent special effects for a 1947 movie). For all the headaches he gives our dear Bishop, he does his job and leaves when his role has been finished…although maybe not in the way expected.

But more than just being a feel good movie set at the time of Christmas with an angel, this movie is the greatest Christmas film for it’s last scene. I quoted above the sermon that Dudley wrote for the Bishop. It is short and simple. And it culminates in three simple sentences:

Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shinning gifts that make peace on earth.

I can think of no movie that more clearly and beautifully states the theme and purpose of Christmas than these words. And it is this beautiful sermon that raises it from simply a great film to the greatest Christmas film yet made.

(Oh, and don’t for a second even bother with that horrendous remake The Preacher’s Wife.)

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3 Comments

Filed under Christmas, Christmas Movies, Faith, Movies

3 responses to “The Greatest Christmas Film: The Bishop’s Wife

  1. Matt Stewart

    Interesting review, though for me It’s a Wonderful Life will forever be the best Christmas film.

  2. Pingback: The Greatest Christmas Movies | The Conservative New Ager

  3. Pingback: Christmas films: The Bishop’s Wife | Churchmouse Campanologist

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