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R&V At the Movies: Encanto

Encanto (2021) © Disney. Image Courtesy of IMDb.

After a full month of watching nothing but Christmas movies and listening to nothing but Christmas music, I am so ready to watch films that don’t have anything to do with holly jolliness, men in red suits, and flying reindeer.

But, I’m never ready to give up the magic and mystery of Christmas. As followers of Jesus, the Spirit whose joy and light we celebrated coming into the world ought to be the Spirit we live by and celebrate all year round. I believe Ebenezer Scrooge said it best, “​​I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

It only seems right, then, to welcome in the New Year by celebrating the presence of Light that shines in the darkness, Light that binds us and gives us our magic, Light that we must protect and tend so that it can grow from generation to generation.

Which is why this week’s movie is Disney’s Encanto.

Encanto: What to Expect

Encanto is a story of a magical family, the Madrigals, whose magical powers came through the sacrificial gift of their father’s love. That power and light provides a home for them, protects them and their village, and gifts each of the family members with unique and miraculous powers. Except for one.

Mirabel doesn’t have a superpower, but she loves her family, and she loves her home, and she would do anything to protect it. When the walls start to crack and it looks like the candle’s light and power might be extinguished, it’s up to Mirabel to find a way to keep her home and her family together. Mirabel might just be her miraculous family’s only hope.

Finding the Love: Faithifying Your Viewing

I just love the content Disney and Pixar have been pushing out in the last decade. Like Raya and the Last Dragon, Encanto gives viewers like you and me insight into the uniqueness and worth of each and every being, even those of us who feel ordinary. How often do we feel lowly, small, and insignificant against the bright light of those who surround us? 

And yet Jesus sees us. He sees the hurting prostitute and calls her by name, Mary, and invites her to be her fullest, best self, the self that was there all along. Jesus sees the woman at the well. He sees the blind, the beggar, and the overlooked and calls them his, calls them children of God. Not because of anything they can do or have done, because they are. Worthy of love all on their own. Important members of the family of God, because they are made in God’s image, each and every one of them.

I love the name “Madrigal” for the family in Encanto. Madrigals are medieval lyrical poems, complex musical numbers sung a capella. You can’t have a madrigal of one voice; multiple voices must contribute to the song in order for it to be. The Madrigal family has many varied talents, each of which brings joy that draws others to them, but it is when the whole family comes together, united by love and a celebration of each other, that they truly shine.

“Encanto” is a Spanish word that means “charm, allure, delight, or joy,” as in, “That woman is alluring,” or “Isn’t he just charming?” I especially like the Collins dictionary definition: encanto is “the pleasing or exciting quality that [ people ] have.”

Encanto (2021) © Disney. Image Courtesy of IMDb.

What is it that is supposed to draw others to us as followers of Christ? “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV).

It is the pleasing and exciting quality of light, the light of Christ in our lives, the joy and delight and freedom Christ brings into our lives, encanto light. Despite her ordinariness, it is Mirabel’s own love of her family that shines and ultimately saves her family. Mirabel (which means “wondrous”) reminds each of her family members that they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14 NIV), valued beyond their particular talents and giftedness, valued for being who they are. No performance, no strength, no perfection necessary. Just grace. Just love.

Encanto really is the perfect after-Christmas movie, the perfect movie to launch into the New Year. The New Year demands resolutions and commitments to do more, be better, achieve greater. The gospel reminds us that we’re loved and worthy of love just because we are bearers of God’s light, made in God’s image. There’s no to-do list or goal sheet required. Come together with your unique and individual selves and shine as one glorious community, celebrating each other’s gifts and contributions. 

Like a madrigal—like the Madrigals—it takes each of our voices. Let us sing.

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