I don't know how many of you are familiar with Jim Varney, As a young person he became interested in the theater. By age 17 he was performing professionally in night clubs and coffee houses. He played Jed Clampett in the 1993 movie version of the Beverly Hillbillies and is also known as the voice of Slinky Dog in Toy Story 1 and Toy Story 2. However, the persona that ushered Jim into fame was Ernest P. Worrell, a bumbling, annoying, but lovable character that began to show up in adds for everything from grocery and appliance stores to Disney itself. The first appearance of the character of Ernest on the big screen was in 1987 with Ernest Goes to Camp.
In Ernest Saves Christmas, we find Ernest working as a Christmas loving taxi driver. Little does he know, one of his passengers turns out to be Santa himself. Santa, played by British classical actor, Douglas Seale, is searching for a replacement. He has done the job, one he loved, for too long, and knows it is time to pass on the magic. His choice, Joe Caruthers, a mild mannered actor who does a children's television show, The show being canceled, leads Santa to believe that this is the perfect time for Joe to take over. However, passing the torch is not going to be easy for Santa to do.
There are many funny scenes in this movie and it is hard to really find a scene that speaks specifically to the lessons I want to talk about, therefore I will give you the lessons I learned in a list, then leave you with a few of my best loved scenes.
Lesson 1 - Stay True to Your Gifts
Joe Caruthers loves children. He likes to teach them and you can tell he is more comfortable around kids than most of the adults in the movie. When his children's show gets canceled, he knows he has to find work elsewhere. His agent, Marty, finds a producer who is willing to give Joe a tryout for a movie. Unbeknownst to Joe, the movie turns out to be a horror flick. When he is told to swear in front of two children to show his emotion, Joe says he can't do it.
Eventually, after turning down Santa's proposal, Joe realizes that this elderly gentleman is Santa and that the job proposal was real. Joe is overjoyed, for he knows he has found his true calling.
What are you passionate about? What do you like to do? God has given each of us abilities and yes, spiritual gifts that when used for His purposes will uplift and encourage ourselves and the body. I love to write. Other than being a grandma or a shopper, I would rather spend my days reading a good book or trying to write one.
I will confess, I have been struggling with the idea of becoming a writer, wondering if that is a realistic goal. After all there are so many good writers already out there, telling captivating and inspiring stories. How could I possibly make a difference? But after watching this movie last night and today thinking about the lessons I can pull from it, I have realized I must stay true to the gifting that God has given me. I don't know if I will ever publish a novel, but I will keep trying to tell stories.
Lesson 2 - Don't Give Up Hope
After Joe refuses Santa, saying he is going to do the movie, and a teenage runaway, steals Santa's magic sack, the elderly gentlemen is ready to give up hope. It is easy to feel hopeless when things are not going well. Life can get overwhelming, especially when there is illness, job loss or difficulties in family relations. As I've mentioned before on the blog, hope can be rather elusive. (You can see that post here.) But in the end, isn't God the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit the ones from which true, solid hope flows?
Santa felt that all hope was lost, but in the end, Joe accepts the job and becomes Santa, the runaway returns the magic sack and decides to go home and Ernest delivers the sleigh so the new Santa can get the toys delivered to children all over the world. Hope wins.
Never give up hope.
Lesson 3 - Be Genuine
This is a bit similar to the first idea of staying true to your gifts, but this is more about how you present yourself to the rest of the world. The teenage runaway in this movie left home after her parents went through some rough times in their marriage. She felt abandoned by them at a critical time in her own development. Pamela or Harmony Star, as she wants to be called, puts on a facade of confidence and bravado, even though inside she is struggling to grow up and deal with her parents' situation.
Harmony hooks up with Ernest and Santa when she jumps into the taxi Ernest is driving to get away from the restaurant owner she hasn't paid. She hangs out with the for a while, not believing Santa is real, until she finds out about the magic sack. After that she looks for the best opportunity to steal the bag and get away.
We all have times in our lives where we put on a face. I don't mean putting on make up, I'm talking about that happy face we wear, when inside we feel like dying or feel like we are invisible. Christian recording artist Mandisa has a great song that addresses this very issue.
God doesn't want us to live fake lives. The best way to help each other is to be real. Obviously, it is good to do that with an attitude of love and tact, but if we all tried to convey the truth about who we are and who God made us, I think, like Harmony, we would realize we could give the "sack" of all our troubles and issues, back to God.
I hope you learned something along with me from Ernest Saves Christmas. If you have the time, this is a great movie to watch with the family and will provide clean, kid-friendly fun. Enjoy a few of my favorite scenes in fond memory of Jim Varney, who passed away at age 50.
This next few show a number of Ernest's many personalities!
Merry Christmas everyone!