Actor Chris Pratt is one of Hollywood’s truly good guys. In addition to being a bankable actor who can carry a hit movie and give an engaging interview, Pratt is upfront about his faith in Jesus Christ. He has spoken openly about how his faith has been an anchor to him in both good and bad times.
One of the refreshing things about Pratt is that he doesn’t flaunt his belief in Jesus in a way that comes across as either condescending or self-serving. Instead, he simply explains what Jesus means to him. He prays for fans and explains his beliefs on social media in a caring way. He has even shared the deeply personal story of how his Christian faith helped him through his son’s time in intensive care shortly after birth.
The internet is on fire today over Pratt’s reading of the Christmas story at Disneyland. He appeared at the theme park as one of the celebrity narrators at the Candlelight Processional. The actor read parts of Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth in between performances of traditional Christmas songs by a choir of Disney cast members and high school students from across the country.
At the end of the event, Pratt went off script and made a few remarks of his own. “Ladies and gentlemen, it was really my honor to share this beautiful Candlelight ceremony with all of you,” Pratt said. “It’s been a very special and inspiring night. For me, being a parent has really changed my life in so many ways. And one of those ways is to understand, truly, the love that a father could have for a child.”
“When I stare at this precious little creation of mine here, and I watch the ways in which he tries to please me, I just fill with a love that I feel is so pure, and unending,” Pratt continued, talking about his son. “The way we love our children, the more we love our children, the more we will understand the capacity for our Father in heaven to love us. Each and every one of us a precious creation, and he just marvels in the ways that we can try to please Him. That should give us a great deal of comfort. I know it does for me.”
While it’s exciting to hear of Chris Pratt narrating the Christmas story at Disneyland, the Candlelight Processional is nothing new. In fact, the event has been a holiday staple at Disney’s parks in the United States for six decades.
Christmas has always been an important part of Disney Parks. From the first Christmas at Disneyland in 1955, choirs and carolers have performed holiday standards. In 1958, Disney debuted a new tradition: the Candlelight Processional. At this special event, a celebrity read the Christmas story from the Bible as a choir of employees from all parts of the Disney organization sang Christmas hymns and carols.
The Candlelight Processional carried over to Walt Disney World when it opened in Florida, starting at the Magic Kingdom in 1971 before moving to Epcot in 1994. Over the years, a vast assortment of celebrities has taken part in the moving concert at both parks. From Jimmy Stewart to James Earl Jones to Amy Grant to Jodi Benson to Chris Pratt, the list of celebrity narrators is as impressive as it is diverse.
Even narrators who do not subscribe to the Christian faith take the Candlelight Processional seriously. Becky Cline of the Walt Disney Archives tells one story:
Actor Howard Keel, who narrated the ceremony at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in the 1980s, put it best. “I’ve never been a very religious person, but when you stand up there for all of those people with that incredible chorus and orchestra beside you, it’s a wonderfully moving experience.
“In fact,” he added, “I was so moved I could hardly speak.”
I had the honor of seeing the Candlelight Processional in 2008 with Marlee Matlin and her translator narrating. Matlin signed the Christmas story and danced with joy to the beat of the music that she could not hear. It was a truly meaningful experience.
Bravo to Chris Pratt for sharing his faith and taking part in such an inspiring and beautiful 60-year tradition. I recommend the Candlelight Processional to anyone who visits either Walt Disney World or Disneyland in November or December. And if you can’t make it to one of the Disney Parks this Christmas, Disney is livestreaming the Candlelight Processional from Epcot on December 4. Check out the Disney Parks Blog for details.