Inspired by the variety shows of yesteryear, author and radio host Eric Metaxas is hosting a new Christmas special he sees not only as entertainment, but as a ministry tool to reach unbelievers without being too pushy.
And toward the end of the process, one piece of the TBN show, which debuts at 5 p.m. Friday, came together in a “miraculous” way, Metaxas told Faithwire.
As a child, the “Bonhoeffer” author said, he would watch variety specials by entertainers Bob Hope and Dean Martin. Since then, Metaxas has felt that kind of entertainment was “part of God’s calling” on his life.
At a time when too many of us are isolated by our own political beliefs and religious — or non-religious — convictions, Metaxas is hoping his upcoming special will bring people together by celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season without being too preachy or taking itself too seriously.
“I think your average American wants a family-friendly Christmas special to watch,” he said. “But we don’t really do that anymore; we tend to be either more secular or so religious that we’re not gonna find an audience beyond the evangelical market. And I thought we really need more programming that brings families together and that brings communities together beyond their individual silos.”
Viewers, though, can rest assured the TBN special “doesn’t shrink” from focusing on Jesus’ birth. However it’s “not so overtly religious that your non-Christian neighbors or family would feel uncomfortable,” Metaxas explained.
“At the same time, I want my fellow Christians to know I did this for you to subtly share your faith and bring you together with people that aren’t on the same page as you are, theologically,” he added.
What was the miracle?
During one particularly fun scene in the special, Metaxas is standing in the top of a double-decker bus rolling down Fifth Avenue, singing an Elton John Christmas song.
To film the scene, Metaxas had to get in touch with John’s longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin — whom he met last October — to get the rights to use the song. As it turns out, Taupin’s wife, Heather Lynn Hodgins Kidd, is a fan of Metaxas’ books, “which is the most bizarre thing in the universe,” said the writer.
“As a result of that [connection], we were able to get the rights to the song in kind to film this thing at the last minute,” Metaxas said. “That, to me, is nothing less than miraculous — I mean, that is sheer lunacy.”
There are moments, he added, when “you really feel the Lord is with you in a dramatic way, and I felt that very strongly” with this special.
“It was an uncanny sense of God’s favorable wind at our backs,” he reflected. “[A]nd I want this Christmas special to be a door for believers and non-believers, for left and right, for everybody to be able to come together.”
For Metaxas, this TBN special is a dream come true, an opportunity to bring people together the way programs like “The Carol Burnett Show” did in the 1970s.
“The culture desperately needs that,” he said.