Learning From the Kranks
Luther and Nora Krank are religious empty nesters featured in John Grisham’s novel Skipping Christmas. With their daughter Blair safely away on a Peace Corps mission to Peru, the Kranks decide to give themselves a Christmas gift. Normally, they host an annual Christmas Eve neighborhood gathering. People have come to count on it in this suburban land of fake smiles and friendly competition to see who can have the gaudiest Christmas décor. As a gift to themselves and an insult to their neighbors, the Kranks decide to forego their annual neighborhood Christmas Eve gathering and go on a cruise.
When Blair calls to announce her recent engagement to a Peruvian man named Enrique, their world is turned upside down. She wants to bring her fiancé home for Christmas and introduce him to the family and the neighbors. As Grisham writes, “With each new assault on the right to do as he pleased, Luther was more determined to ignore Christmas.” But Christmas would not permit him to be absent.
Grisham, among many other noble qualities, is a lifelong Baptist. He gets people like us, especially religious ones, who think that most of our lives come down to our privatized choices to do whatever we please and ignore our calling in community. We do so at our own peril. We can’t go it alone; in fact, we were never created that way. We were created to share community together.
The writer understands that transformation happens in the midst of crisis, when we actually need the people we’re trying to avoid. Despite Krank’s best attempt to forego his community, they rally to support him. In crisis mode, he’s injured trying to create the false impression that he was always going to be home for the holidays. The neighbors he normally resents serve him, and the competitors cooperate to provide an annual celebration that can only look like the real meaning of family.
The birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ confront the uniquely American Christian perception that we can do whatever we want. It sends us on the common Way to live the message of Easter and Christmas through the humidity of Summer with friends, co-workers, neighbors, roommates, and church members. We show, despite our best efforts to the contrary, what it means to be the bride of Christ.
Luther and Nora discover that the great present came from the gift of community. Grisham writes, “When they were alone in the living room,… Luther and Nora shared a few quiet moments by the fire….They were touched beyond words by the unity of their neighbors.” This kind of love is enough to change even religious hearts into a binding relationship with others in Christ.