Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Magic, Miracles, and Doctor Who

art, installation, no miracles here, belief, doubt
Image by Mot
by Ben Howard 

I don’t believe in miracles. As a matter of faith I confess to believing in a few, the virgin birth, the resurrection, even the occasional healing, but they aren’t the cornerstones of my faith. If you adamantly argued that they were physically impossible and never happened, I wouldn’t try and fight you. The theological implications of these miracles are more than enough to overwhelm any question of historicity.

That is to say, do not take this confession as an endorsement of skepticism, even though I am a skeptic. While I may not believe in the miraculous, I would very much like to. It strikes me as a much more optimistic way to encounter the world; a world full of indescribable and undiscoverable mysteries and wonders. I would very much like to live in a world where epic, magnificent, magical things occur, whether rarely or as a matter of course.

But, much to my consternation, I have a difficult time believing that this world of miracles is the same as the one where I live, where the rules of physical reality seem to hold fast.

This tension, between my natural skepticism and my desired belief, makes me especially vulnerable at this time of year to the mystical sentimentality of Christmas specials. There's  a certain magic in a cold, dark, snowy night when everyone is warm in their homes while wondrous adventures are unfolding in the world around them without their knowledge and I easily suspend my disbelief for an hour or two to lose myself in the story.

In recent years, I've found myself enthralled by the traditional Christmas specials of the British sci-fi series Doctor Who. These episodes combine the typical Christmas tropes I find so wonderfully appealing, such as wintery nights in Dickensian England, with the utter insanity of a alien time-traveler on a constant quest to save the world. Also he wears a bowtie because bowties are cool.
doctor who, tardis, christmas specials, clara oswald, snowmen
Image by Slytan

I find The Doctor's Christmas specials especially affecting because they present such a complex and enticing alternate reality. Not only do they include the ineffable “Christmas magic,” they also include the presence of the otherworldly. The mere presence of The Doctor, a Time-Lord from the planet Gallifrey, points beyond himself to the existence of infinitely more worlds with infinitely more wonders to explore.

When contrasted with my own skepticism, the “Christmas magic” becomes just as otherworldly, just as foreign and impossible as the fantastical notion of a madman in a blue box traveling through space and time. Yet I still find myself entranced by a glimpse of this world. While I do not believe that such a thing exists, whether it be Christmas miracles or time-traveling spacemen, I very much wish that it did and by the simple act of engaging in it the gates of my mind are held open to the possibility, even if just a crack, that there is a bit of magic in the world.

I want to believe in miracles. I want to believe in them so hard that maybe they’ll even come true.

Ben Howard is an accidental iconoclast and generally curious individual living in Nashville, Tennessee. He is also the editor-in-chief of On Pop Theology and an avid fan of waving at strangers for no reason. You can follow him on Twitter @BenHoward87.  

You can follow On Pop Theology on Twitter @OnPopTheology or like us on Facebook at If you'd like to support what we do, you can donate via the button on the right of the screen.
You might also like:  

No comments:

Post a Comment