The Perfect Gift: Don’t Forget the Reason for the Season (Movie Review)

John FarrellBy John Farrell7 Minutes

At this time of year it’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everything that’s going on in our lives … from the parties to shopping for that perfect gift to decorating the house and everything else in between.

With all of our many time commitments pulling us in different directions, it’s easy to sometimes forget the real reason for the season. Sometimes all we need is a “drifter” to remind us.

A visit from a friendly but mysterious stranger named Jess (Jefferson Moore) is just what spoiled schoolgirl Maxine Noelle Westray (Christina Fougnie) and the rest of her town, including her mom (Amy Hess) and a young local pastor (Matt Wallace), need in The Perfect Gift. The 2009 film is written and directed by Moore.

Angry Daughter, Busy Mom

Maxine is mad at the world. Not only does she have to transfer to a less-expensive school (that curiously smells like potatoes) due to her parent’s recent divorce, but she’s bitter that she has to share her birthday with Jesus: “My birthday isn’t on Christmas. Christmas is on my birthday.”

Her single mom, Stacy, is an overworked manager in charge of planning her company’s “Winter Gala.” Although she’s unsure how her boss will receive her suggestions, she proposes they do hors d’oeuvres and invite some of the homeless people from a nearby shelter instead of their typical sit-down dinner and cash bar. Additionally, she suggests calling the event what it truly is … a Christmas party.

“Let’s all be honest here. We’re not celebrating winter or some generic season with no name, it’s Christmas. You know it, I know it, everybody in the mall knows it, and everybody at that party or gala or whatever is going to know it. … So if we’re celebrating winter, the let’s all show up with our parkas and snow tires. But if we’re spending all this money to celebrate Christmas, then let’s have the intelligence to stand up and act like we know what we’re doing and call it a Christmas party.”

Stacy’s courage to speak out at an executive staff meeting comes courtesy of a conversation she had with Maxine after her daughter noticed her mom wearing a lapel pin that reads, “It’s good to say ‘Happy Holidays.’”

Maxine: “You know, the whole happy holidays season greeting thing is pretty bogus, don’t you?”

Stacy: “How so?”

Maxine: “Well, it just stinks that everybody’s trying to take out the main reason why the holiday is celebrated in the first place.”

Stacy: “Well.”

Maxine: “But at the same time, everybody wants to get presents and go to parties, get a day off work, and a month off school, and all the store owners just want to sell a lot of stuff.“

Stacy: “Yeah, you’re right.”

Maxine: “I mean, it’s kind of hypocritical when you think about it. It’s like, if the whole world threw you a birthday party and you were the main one they made sure didn’t get invited.”

The Assignment

Maxine’s teacher gives her an assignment where she has to write a 500-word essay answering the question, “What is Christmas?” Since the homework is the final grade of the semester, Maxine needs to do well in order to raise her dropping grade.

After school, Maxine heads to the local church where her neighbor, Tony, is a pastor. He is supposed to watch Maxine and give her a ride home when he’s ready to leave. When she arrives at the church, a nativity scene is in the early stages of construction on the church’s front lawn.

Fortunately for Tony, a drifter named Jess shows up to help construct the stable. Jess, who happens to be a skilled carpenter, looks a little like Jesus.

While Maxine is watching Jess work on the nativity, she tells him about her assignment and how it’s unfair that Christmas and her birthday are on the same day. Over the next couple of days, Maxine and Jess become friends, and he provides her with a lot of information that she can use in her paper.

The Opposition

Although the new nativity scene is on the church’s property and is largely seen as a beautiful symbol of Jesus’ birth, there is a small group of people in the neighborhood who are opposed to it. The group takes their case to the city council to either have the “eyesore” removed from the property or have the church pay a $5,000 fine.

During the town meeting, Jess is asked to come forward to defend himself and his actions. Instead, he teaches them about Jesus:

“This simple man from a poor mother and a small town is still considered a person of interest right here today, over 2,000 years later in this hall. And why is that? Not because he forced people to choose Him.

“It’s because for centuries, men and women have been seeking God, and they found Him in this man. And what’s remarkable is, that while they were seeking God, they found that He’d been looking for them their whole lives.

“So, that’s what happened on that first Christmas, 2,000 years ago. God came to earth looking for you, and He came in the form of a man who showed the whole world what God’s love was like.

“So, on that first Christmas, God’s perfect gift was love. Now, if you take the love out of Christmas, where will you put it? What will you do with it? What will you do with Him, if you remove Him from this season?”