On the 7th Day of (The Nightmare Before) Christmas…
“My dearest friend, if you don’t mind… I’d like to join you by your side…”
The Nightmare Before Christmas stands fully unwrapped as we discuss the finale in our last part of this review (just joining us? Start HERE). The Pumpkin King of Halloweentown has had his world turned upside down, falling in love with Christmastown and yearning for that bright world, but going too far, rushing to recreate it without the proper equipping and thinking he could be be the master of Christmas instead of simply enjoying it forever.
After nearly ruining it for everyone, he does manage to go back home and make amends by dispatching the wicked Oogie Boogie, and “saving” Santa and Sally (although, did anyone notice Santa then demonstrates some pretty impressive power, making you wonder if he really needed saving at all?) A question hangs in the air: is the summary lesson going to be “stick with your own”, Halloween townies shouldn’t mix with Christmas, people can’t change who they are no matter how much they desire to?
Fortunately, no. While everybody in Halloweentown is cheering with glee that Jack is back, something miraculous happens: it snows. A sign of Christmas appears in the grey, grim world, a white common grace raining down on everyone. Undead children are playing again and devilish looking creatures are making snow angels. In other stories and cultures, snow might represent cold, harsh times and bleak weather… but in Burton films, snow often represents hope and happiness, a restoration of childlike fascination with the world, the promise of a wonderland. Like a rainbow after a flood, this snow falls and gives those paying attention a taste of something new: many begin to sing Jack’s song of wonder: What’s this?
Jack and Santa each exchange the season’s greetings of the other, so one might write this off as a mutual exchange. However, it’s the wondrous snow that drifts down to Halloweentown; nothing dark or scary is welcome or needed or offered to Christmas. The exchange is of singular direction, a blanket of white for a town so otherwise dark.
SALLY: Oh, I was trying to, well, I wanted to, to —
JACK: to HELP me… Sally, I can’t believe I never realized…that you…
Jack pursues Sally to the beautiful snow-covered cemetery (which, covered in white, looks dreamy instead of dreary) and entreats her into a relationship, realizing just how much she cares for him and how they seemed perfect for each other. She’d been the only one who truly believed in him, yet also saw his folly and shortcomings and tried to point them out lovingly, the perfect match in an imperfect world for an imperfect skeleton seeking to capture the Christmas spirit.
“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper corresponding to him.” – Genesis 2:18
Together, Jack and Sally’s final lyrics sung together emphasize what even the most ardent athiest desires, if they’ll stop and be honest:
“For it is plain as anyone can see, We’re simply meant to be.”
In a world many assume is random and lacking any objective meaning, the desire shines through in the final notes of The Nightmare Before Christmas: “meant to be”. In a world where we’re all groping to fabricate meaning, what greatest of comforts – more than a beautiful blanket of snow, more than a hand to hold, and even warm lips to kiss – to have the hope of a planned universe, the sweet reality of destiny. Like Santa (or Edward Scissorhands) the snow isn’t just a random occurrence, but a flurry of blessing from one who loves us from above.
It’s how many wish the real film of life will end, and how Christians hope with confidence that it surely will… with the promise of the Christmas Kingdom to come, and perhaps in the interim a helper suitable to weather the imminent grey, to hold in the midst of darkness with a promise of an eternal Christmas that lasts forever.
“Where we can gaze into the stars… and sit together, now and forever…”