Christmas Vacation: The Holiday that Wasn’t Enough


What’s your favorite Christmas movie? Whatever it may be, you’re sure to want to share it with the teenagers in your life. Watch the Rooted blog this holiday season, where we are uncovering the gospel in some of the all-time great Christmas films. We’ll help you keep Christ at the center of your Christmas celebrations, at home and at church. Enjoy!

No human being loves Christmas more than Clark Griswold. In the classic movie, Christmas Vacation, Clark goes overboard in trying to create the perfect Christmas for his family. From selecting the largest, fresh tree to fill the house with Christmas cheer, to making sure their outdoor Christmas lights can be seen from outer space, to buying presents for Cousin Eddie’s less fortunate kids, to spending his bonus money on a family pool, Clark wants to do everything he can to make sure his kids’ eyes sparkle with the joy of Christmas.

Like all our families’ Christmas holidays, Clark’s greatest plans, hopes, and dreams come crashing down into reality. Large trees break windows in small houses. Christmas lights have bulbs that will not glow. Surprise family guests tend to be more drama than we signed up for. Christmas bonuses end up being reduced to “jelly of the month clubs” (even though as Cousin Eddie remarks “it’s the gift that keeps on giving”).[1] Christmas leaves us wanting more. In the words of Ellen Griswold: “Well, I don’t know what to say except it’s Christmas, and we’re all in misery.”

Hobby Lobby’s Christmas signs typically do not highlight the adjective “misery,” but many of us are disappointed after our much-anticipated holiday. Despite the challenges of family, celebrations, and endless details, we should not abandon our efforts to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Christmas is the highlight of a season of Advent on the church calendar, when Christians throughout the centuries remember waiting for Jesus and His return. The celebration of the first coming of Jesus should stir within us a longing for the second coming. As parents and youth workers, we should seek to use the holes in our less-than-perfect Christmases to point to our advent longing for Jesus to come again.

Christmas Is Not Enough

Christmas intentionally leaves us with longing. Clark Griswold experienced this in the desire for a “perfect” day which became so much less than perfect. This longing is not something merely found in Christmas movies; our yearning is found at the core of living as people of faith waiting on the promises of a faithful God.

In Luke’s retelling of the Christmas story, we meet two prophets who show the heart of Advent longing. Simeon and Anna have both spent years at the temple praying and hoping for the Savior to come. Simeon was promised that his aged eyes will see the Son of God before he passes away. Anna came day by day to the temple to fast and pray that God would send His Rescuer. (Luke 2:22-38)

Faithfully clinging to an unrealized promise kept Simeon and Anna going back to the temple. As time passed by, it would have been easy for them to think God had forgotten about them. Simeon and Anna were sustained by the truth that God is faithful, and His character is unchanging. They had been longing for “the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38 ESV).

Just like Simeon and Anna, we stand waiting for the second Advent of Jesus when he comes to “make all things new” (Revelation 21:5 ESV). As we experience the disappointments of Christmas, let us remember that we are also waiting on a God who will be faithful to His promises.

You Are Not Enough

Clark Griswold is a two on the enneagram[2]. He wants to serve, love, and care for those around him to the point that he takes the weight of everyone’s expectations on himself. Clark believes Christmasactivities and plans are his responsibility; he thinks it is up to him to make sure that his family experiences the best of Christmas.

In the middle of all his serving of others, Clark, like Martha in the Bible, tends to miss the opportunity to connect relationally with the family in front of him because he is too busy seeking to make sure they experience the “perfect” Christmas of his dreams. We quickly discover that even Clark’s long hours and great intentions cannot be enough.

Christmas reminds us that we are not in control, and we are not sufficient. We cannot create a “perfect” holiday despite our best attempts. Let us remember that we cannot be perfect parents and perfect youth workers, nor can we create the perfect Christmas for our students.

Jesus Is Enough

Simeon and Anna prayed, looked, and longed for countless years, and finally, Mary and Joseph walkedinto the temple with the promised Jesus. The answer to their prayers unfolded before their weary eyes. The hope of Jerusalem was found in a baby.

As we long for Jesus to return and to be our sufficiency, we hold on to God’s past faithfulness as a reminder that he will be true to his promises and come through for us. The missed dreams and hopes from our celebration of Jesus’ first coming should leave a longing in our family’s and students’ hearts for the second coming.

As the Griswold family gathers in the yard after one of the craziest Christmases of all, they see the Christmas star, which reminds them of the star which pointed the wise men to visit King Jesus at his first coming. Clark remarks: “It’s the Christmas star. And that’s all that matters tonight. Not bonuses or gifts or turkeys or trees. See kids, it means something different to everybody. Now I know what it means to me.”

When our families and student ministries stand in the wake of all that was Christmas, may we look up, see the heavens above, and remember the words of the angel: “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11 ESV). Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Conversation Starters

  1. What things about Christmas do not meet your expectations?
  2. What are ways you try to save the Christmas holiday and make it happen for others?
  3. What would it look like to allow a celebration of Jesus’ first coming to cause you to look for his second coming?


[1] Christmas Vacation quotes are sourced from



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