Gift ideas: Videos remind us of the world’s best stories

Happy holidays!
We are helping you find spiritually uplifting gifts that will light up the holidays for your loved ones.
Earlier: We recommended a true-crime drama, a guide to finding contentment & an unusual prayer book.
Great video: We’ve found a terrific BBC sampler, an Ed Asner classic & Tree of Life, too.
For Children of All Ages: Fold out Hanukkah, circle the globe & enjoy spiritual wisdom of animals.
Bible Study with Fresh Eyes: We’ve got a trio of new and innovative Bible-study resources.


These days, there are countless dysfunctional families who gather on TV or in movie theaters to attempt painful year-end reunions. In 1977, the success of Ed Asner in The Gathering helped to carve out this whole genre of holiday movies. If you’re old enough to have appreciated The Gathering when it first aired, then you may be thinking about another holiday landmark in 1970s television. The Granddaddy of all family-reunion-at-the-holidays TV movies was the 1971 movie called The Homecoming that led to the long-running Waltons TV series. Of course, the friction and anxiety in The Homecoming was nothing compared to the heavy-duty themes penned by The Gathering screenwriter James Poe, who also wrote Lilies of the Field and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Sure, some moments in The Gathering are dated, today. Asner’s most explosive confrontation is with a son who fled to Canada rather than fight in Vietnam. But it’s still a pleasure to watch this cast bring Poe’s taught drama to life. This new DVD version was just released for the 2011 holidays.


You either love Terence Malick’s slow, thought-provoking style of movie making—or you hate it. A good benchmark for someone’s potential acceptance of Tree of Life is their reaction to Malick’s masterpiece about the World War II battle of Gualdalcanal, called The Thin Red Line. Recently re-released by the Criterion Collection, The Thin Red Line is widely regarded as a stunning glimpse inside the traumatic experiences of fighting men. However, there’s no clear overview of the Pacific campaign in WWII, like the step-by-step history HBO gave us in that network’s recent hit series, The Pacific. Instead, in The Thin Red Line, Malick meditates on life, death and the sheer agony of being caught in between both realms on a suffocating tropical island. You walk away from The Thin Red Line both drained and amazed—or you walk away furious with the slow pace. Well, in a sense, Tree of Life feels like it might be a sequel to the sensibilities explored in Thin Red Line. In our ReadTheSpirit coverage of Tree of Life, earlier this year, we highly recommended the movie. For the right person on your Christmas list, The Tree of Life (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) will be warmly welcomed.


Got a taste for BBC comedy or drama? Perhaps you’re hooked on the quirky personalities who work in the Ladies’ and Men’s departments at the Grace Brothers department store in London? Sure, that series ended its 13-year run in 1985 and some of the comic bits are slightly dated—but many Americans love the reruns of Are You Being Served? Or, how about Ballykissangel, set in a quirky little town in Northern Ireland, where everyone from the priest to the pub owner is likely to get tangled up in an hour-long farce? Perhaps you’ve dipped way back in time and love Lark Rise to Candleford, which seems a lot like the American Little House on the Prairie TV series set in late-19th-century England, based on the beloved trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels by Flora Thompson, published between 1939 and 1943 in the UK. We could go on and on with this quirky list: Black Adder? Lovejoy? All Creatures Great and Small? Even the Vicar of Dibley and Good Neighbors are represented in this more-than-10-hour, 4-DVD collection of holiday episodes from 13 BBC comedies and dramas. We’ve had a ball with this holiday set, enjoying our own favorites and discovering series we haven’t yet explored. We’re sure that a copy of the BBC Holiday Comedy and Drama Gift Set will light up the holidays for someone you love.

Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity

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