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December 21, 2012
Shark Bite Theatre
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey: A Well-Sculpted Film
by Andrew E. Lindsay

If you’ve got children or are just a fan of children’s books, you may already be familiar with The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by P. J. Lynch. (1995). In 2007, it was made into a feature-length film starring Tom Berenger and Joely Richardson, and it has become one of my favorites about this time of year. Written and directed by Bill Clark, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey is a faithful adaptation of the beloved story, and the cinematography reflects the beautiful, warm paintings from the book, as well.

Jonathan Toomey is a reclusive woodcarver with a dour disposition who says little and has revealed even less about his past. The local children call him “Gloomy Toomey,” and the adults simply avoid him. Thomas McDowell is a young boy whose life has been shattered by the sudden loss of his father. His widowed mother is forced to sell their very nice home in the city, and she and Thomas move in with relatives in the country. There, they both learn to adjust to the demands of farming and daily domestic chores while coping with the loss of Thomas’ father.

In the move, Thomas’ prized possession, a hand-carved wooden nativity set that he always set up with his father, is lost. Thomas is devastated, but his mother determines to commission Mr. Toomey to carve a new creche to replace it. Toomey reluctantly agrees, and so begins the unlikely journey of three wounded, lonely people. Over the ensuing months, the Widow McDowell gradually convinces Jonathan Toomey to allow Thomas to sit and watch him carve the figures. Hopeful that they will be completed by Christmas, queries from the widow are simply met with, “they will be ready when they are ready.”

Much like the art of woodcarving itself, this movie is slow and careful in its pace, each scene deliberate and well thought out. It does not plod, but rather moves with purpose. Its symbolism is also simple and sweet. Toomey has no use for Christmas and the painful memories it conjures. He prefers the company of his carvings to human companionship, working the wood until it reveals its true inner beauty. Ironically, the central piece he has been commissioned to carve is of a baby who would grow to be a carpenter himself, but who would also work deftly with men and women to turn them into something more glorious than they were in their natural state.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey is a gentle film that families can enjoy together, and a moving reminder of the tender mercies of a loving Father in Heaven who loved His children so much that He gave His Only Begotten Son. Christmas is a bookmark, of sorts, a place we return to to remember a special moment in time, the moment when the hope of a weary, broken world was born. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey is a reminder, too, that the baby born so long ago, who grew to manhood working with wood, would one day be hung on a cross of wood to satisfy the demands of justice, and that His suffering was sacred schooling to know how to succor and sustain us through the painful trials of life.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey is a story of hope and redemption, of broken lives mended and faith restored, and that is a story worth telling.


Copyright © 2019 by Andrew E. Lindsay Printed from NauvooTimes.com