We all know that Christmas movies and TV specials are almost never about Christ or the actual meaning of Christmas, but sometimes it does sneak through. So, I've scanned through a lot of the holiday offerings from the various networks and streaming services and excavated some possibilities.
(All times ET/PT; all schedules subject to change.)
Dr Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (TBS -- Saturday, Nov. 6, 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 13, 6:27 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 20, 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 11, 8 and 8:30 pm.; Saturday, Dec 18, 7 and 9:30 p.m.; streaming on Peacock Premium, available now)
The 1966 Dr. Seuss classic is not explicitly religious, but it makes clear that Christmas doesn't come from a store, that Christmas "is a little bit more."
Miracle in Motor City (Lifetime -- Sunday, Nov. 28, 8 p.m.)
Tia Mowry stars as a woman who inadvertently promises to deliver singing legend Smokey Robinson for her church's annual Christmas pageant. From the image provided (see above), it looks like there's a stable and a Christmas star involved!
The Little Drummer Boy (Freeform -- Thursday, Dec. 2, 10:30 a.m; Friday, Dec. 3, 7 a.m.; Saturday, Dec. 11, 9:05 a.m.; Tuesday, Dec. 21, 12:30 p.m; Wednesday, Dec. 22, 7 a.m.; Friday, Dec. 24, 10:30 a.m.)
Inspired by the 1941 song of the same name, the 1968 stop-motion-animated special is a rare Biblical tale, albeit an imaginative one. A farm boy with a drum and animal friends suffers great loss and carries anger in his heart, until an encounter with the Child Jesus changes everything.
You can also watch the whole thing here:
Kirk Franklin's A Christmas Gospel (Lifetime -- Saturday, Dec. 4, 8 p.m.)
Gospel star Franklin wrote and arranged the music, and makes an appearance, in a faith-flavored film about a congregation's new assistant pastor (Demetria McKinney), who finds both her confidence and a Christmas romance.
As a side note, Lifetime has made a point of adding "progressive" elements to their holiday-season movies (I'm currently listening to a press conference in which that was stressed), but this film demonstrates that, when a prominent figure of faith is involved in the production, it can include the true reason for the season.
The Star (Freeform -- Saturday, Dec. 11, 9:35 a.m.; Sunday, Dec. 12, 7 a.m.; Thursday, Dec. 23, 2:05 pm.; Friday, Dec. 24, 11 a.m.)
Released in 2017, the animated feature is another (increasingly) rare Biblical Christmas tale, also embellished with imagination. Academy-award nominated actor Steven Yeun is the voice of Bo, a runaway donkey who winds up accompanying Mary (Gina Rodriguez) and Joseph (Zachary Levi) to Bethlehem.
Other voices include Kelly Clarkson, Keegan-Michael Key, Patricia Heaton, Kristin Chenoweth, Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey.
20 Years of Christmas With the Tabernacle Choir (PBS -- Monday, Dec. 13, 8 p.m ET/PT; Friday, Dec. 24, 9 p.m. ET/PT -- check local listings for time and channel in your area)
The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square in Salt Lake City celebrates the 20th anniversary of its annual concert tradition with a two-hour retrospective special. Guest and narrator Brian Stokes Mitchell present highlights from past shows, including Kristin Chenoweth, Audra McDonald, Gladys Knight, Angela Lansbury and the Muppets.
The concerts feature secular Christmas songs plus plenty of sacred carols and choral music.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (PBS and PBS Kids -- Sunday, Dec. 19, 7:30 pm. -- check local listings for time and channel in your area)
The 1965 Peanuts classic still includes Linus' memorable recital of the Nativity story from the King James Bible version of the Gospel of Luke. If you can't watch it on PBS, its only other home is on Apple TV (where you can see it now).
Christmas at Belmont (Monday, Dec. 20, 9 p.m. -- check local listings for time and channel in your area)
Taped at the Fisher Center for the performing arts at Belmont University in Nashville -- a private, Christian university -- the concert features country/gospel singer Josh Turner and Belmont students, performing holiday favorites and songs from Turner's new Christmas album.
Here he is, performing Silent Night:
1000 Miles From Christmas (Netflix -- Dec 24)
This Spanish comedy (probably offered dubbed or subtitled, as the network did with the South Korean-produced Squid Game) focuses on a man who hates Christmas, because bad things always happen to him then. When he lands in a town devoted to the holiday, he's forced to share accommodations with a woman determined to create the world's largest live Nativity scene.
It's Netflix, so proceed with caution, but at least there's a Nativity.
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.