One of the more easily overlooked enigmas of life on our big blue planet is the inevitable disappointment of fulfilled expectations. Rather than delivering on the promise of a more enjoyable life, our sense of purpose and belonging can’t help but elude us when pursuing the things we want. The goalposts for contentment are always moving. We never arrive, or worse, we do arrive and find we’ve hitched our wagon to the wrong horse. This is one of the more profound messages in the new, instant holiday classic film 8-Bit Christmas. On the surface, the movie appears to be one dad’s trip down Nostalgia Lane as he recounts his childhood holiday quest for a Nintendo (or the more epic and accurately labeled: “a maze of rubber wiring and electronic intelligence so advanced it was not deemed a video game but an 8-bit entertainment system”). What becomes apparent only as the drama unfolds, this story isn’t about Nintendo at all. In fact, 8-Bit Christmas is a multi-layered parable, one that leaves you in a glass cage of emotion. I won’t spoil the ending, but the film has everything to say about the human problem and where to go to find relief.
Early on, we meet Timmy Keane, the have-it-all neighbor, who becomes the object lesson in how our desires actively work against us. Timmy becomes the only one in school with the means to acquire the Power Glove, Nintendo’s then revolutionary wearable controller that elevates your gameplay beyond the mere use of your thumbs. Every kid in the area code (and even some adults) flock to Timmy’s doorstep, desperate to even see someone else wield this digital holy grail. The growing crowd offers bribes to be on the shortlist of those selected to watch one kid play the one thing everyone else wants. But the Power Glove is more like a Monkey’s Paw, only delivering on its promises with unexpected consequences. Rather than equip Timmy with superior fighting skills in the game, the controller is a flop, which gives rise to a type of wrath in Timmy that leaves no small wake of destruction. He high kicks the big screen TV — which then falls on and crushes the family’s tiny terrier. The kids are horrified, and the feelings only multiply. Timmy’s tantrum soon incites a mob of protesting parents who think the Nintendo is to blame. The result? Every kid in the neighborhood is told there will be no Nintendo under the tree. After one kid’s blowup, the hopes for an 8-Bit Christmas are unplugged.
What does this parable teach us? Where are we in this short story? For starters, the belief that we can “be like God” has been the human problem since the serpent first “inception’d” the idea in the minds of our ancient parents (Adam and Eve). It’s our universal desire to slip on a type of Power Glove of control over not just the games we play, but our very lives. We think we can be master and commander of our own ship, no matter how much irrefutable evidence demands the opposite conclusion. Numerous stories and teachings of scripture reveal that a cosmic Power Glove does exist, but it’s too big for us to wear. It’s on the hand of God, whose right hand protects, delivers, and rescues his people. Christmas is wrapped in an offensive message. It says to us that we all play the part of Timmy Keane. We betray our own selves and communities in our regularly making a muck of that which matters to us. We throw tantrums and high-kick the things others love. Maybe you didn’t literally kick a TV this year, but you probably said something in the heat of a moment that harmed a relationship. Or maybe you’ve made a habit of talking behind a coworker’s back, with the real hope of heaving them under the metaphorical big screen of the contempt of public opinion. Perhaps our wakes are wider than we realize. But underneath the offensive wrapping paper, packing tape, and packaging, lies the gift of Christmas. God puts on his power glove by laying in a manger. His tiny hands will soon grow into young man’s hands that will touch and heal many until they ultimately catch a nail when he is pinned up on a tree to die for the Timmy Keanes of the world. The goalposts are no longer moving. Enjoy your forgiveness.
This post originally appeared on mbird.com