Those who attend Sundays have endured my determined efforts to familiarise them with The Greatest Showman, a film released last year to critical disdain but massive public appeal.
It is difficult to determine what exactly the appeal is, as supporters have a variety of views, but which tend to come down to an overwhelming sense of joy and freedom: liberation mirroring the current discourse against various forms of political oppression; or a reminder of human individuality in a world of conformity (at one point the lead character is congratulated by his biggest critic for providing a 'celebration of humanity', despite elitist snobbery).
Fundamentally, that is the story: one where the lead character provides a release to those who are bullied into the shadows. How ironic that should be a theme for a film released at Christmas, and still doing well at Easter?
Without spoiling it for those who haven't seen it, the finale provides what can only be described as one of performance art’s best interpretations of salvation, Resurrection, and the hope of the Kingdom to come: a journey into realising we have more to live for than the trappings of comfort and wealth. That those we are given to value as gifts are not the gifts that tarnish as metal does, but which become more beautiful when we recognise what they are truly worth.
As an anthem for Easter, The Greatest Showman celebrates what it means to not be blinded by the world but to recognise the gifts God lavishes on us: those who love us and who we love. That by searching out the lost, forgotten and discarded in this selfish world, we too are liberated when we become the openers of doors or the unbarring of prisoners.
In the run-up to Easter there is another film, a more obviously religious one, about the life of Mary Magdalene. Seeking to dispel the myths around her background it provides yet another opportunity to set free people from the chains of the world. The beauty of these two is that they help us focus at a time of year where it is too easy to get distracted by the fripperies of the world: like Christmas, Easter has become more about Tesco selling glittery commercial stuff than the celebration of what the season is: the liberation of humanity by the power of God.
At Christmas we learned that God comes to us in the most precious of ways, overturning our expectations of what the world thinks is important, to give us God as a baby born into poverty. At Easter, the expectation that beyond the grave there is nothing was overturned to instead find there is life: joyous, infinite and waiting for us to accept it.
Both those films are true Easter films as they provide a further step on our journey of understanding the Resurrection: that we are set free by God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — to be all we are created to be, and that we can stand unafraid to challenge the perceptions of a world that does not accept what we know to be true.
So I pray this Easter is a time of experiencing the liberation God has given us: that we live the joy and beauty of the Resurrection as when it first set us free: not as a simple memory of a story told long-ago but as the real and living presence of God in our lives.