Little Advents: Looking for the Christ Figure


In an interview, Robert Farrar Capon said:

You know what’s fun? When you watch a movie, try to identify the Christ figure. I mean the figure who makes the plot work.

Now, this can become an exercise where Christians are trying to force some meaning on a film that isn’t there just to force an evangelistic message. But on the other hand, it’s often a little picture of Advent.

caponAs Jeffrey Overstreet once said, people keep telling the Christ story, whether they intend to or not, because it’s the only story that works. It’s the only story that works, because Christ Himself is the Person who makes history’s plot works. Without Christ, it all falls apart, and not the first shred of sense can be made from it.

When we create a story and find a Christ figure, or when we watch a film or read a book and find one, it’s because we all know we need one, and we all realize we’ve been looking for one. It’s a little picture of history’s bigger painting: Advent is looking for Christ. And we find him in the strangest of places.


  1. amy

    love your last two sentences! i can relate with the idea shared. for a long time now, i have enjoyed comparing “love” shared in movies, songs, books.. with christ’s love. it is fun, especially finding an art well-crafted that does paint a good picture of christ’s goodness!

  2. Laura Droege

    I’ve heard a slight variation on this: every story is really about redemption. My Bible study leader said she was forced (by her hubby and sons) to watch a B-grade science fiction movie. Suddenly, in the middle of this awful movie, she saw a Christ figure and the theme of redemption within it. Strange and fascinating and wonderful that so many things point us to Christ, if we would but look for them.

  3. Jason Gray


    Great thought Travis – I love this game of looking for the Christ figure (and also kind of hate when some people try too hard).

    This reminds me of a post I wrote about this very idea a little over a year ago (hope it’s not immodest to call attention to my own post, but here goes:

    We have the great story! Everybody else has to borrow from us… Isn’t it great that we get to be so close to the heart of this great story?

  4. Chris Whitler

    I’m smack in the middle of “The Stand” by Stephen King (no follow up spoilers please!) and so far I am blown away by this concept at work in this story. I’ve not read King before. Mother Abigail is blowing my mind.

    In recent film, I was caught by surprise with Clint’s character in Gran Torino.

    I also saw this last month at a dance concert with my wife. I wrote about it here if any one is interested –

    Love your thoughts and the way you guide conversations Mr. Prinzi, keep up the good work.

  5. Kyle Keating

    I’m teaching a Sunday school series on Seeing Christ in the Old Testament. One of the surprising blessings of learning how to interpret the Old Testament in a christo-centric way (without destroying or ignoring the original historical and contextual significance) is seeing how some of the same typological tools can be used to see Christ in any narrative. Redemptive themes such as the true King, or the exile/return from exile, or captivity/deliverance can not only be seen in the OT and NT, but also in most any narrative out there.

    So not only can we have an Christ-centered perspective on the OT, but on our own culture and the narratives generated therein.

  6. Jack Dymer

    I read an essay once that argued that every good story has to have a satan. Someone to stir the pot. To get everyone kicked out of paradise. Without such a character the story has no point. No need to be resolved by a Christ-figure.
    I sometimes wonder what our stories and songs would be like if there was no sin. No satan. No fall. Where is the conflict without a problem? I don’t know, ’tis but a thought.

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