6 January 2021

My family and I finally had a chance to watch the musical film, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey on Christmas night. It was love at first jingle. This new Christmas classic is beautiful, inspiring, funny, uplifting, affirming, and, yes, magical. The film is deeply African – from ancient kingdoms before the continent was given its current name to the future – and back again. I cried. I laughed. When the film ended, I felt so alive and reinvigorated, even as the credits rolled in the wee hours of December 26th. The journey to and through the “Jingle Jangle” world had given life to me. And I think it did the same for my family, too! We were sleepy and “woke” at the same time. A beautiful reminder to believe.

Admittedly, I only learned of the film through social media posts and the accompanying rave reviews of friends. I caught a minute or two of a television interview with the film’s creators, husband-wife-team David E. Talbert and Lyn Sisson-Talbert, while I was multitasking so I couldn’t take it all in. My curiosity was piqued. How did this magnificent movie come to life? The idea? The story? As a filmmaker, I know every film has a story – a journey unto itself. I wanted to know more.

What I learned touched my soul in an unexpected way. And that is why I am writing this blog. I was reintroduced to the power of imagination. Through my Internet search, I landed on an article about the film published by Fast Company magazine. In the article by KC Ifeanyi, Talbert, who wrote and directed Jingle Jangle, shares his 20-year journey to a production deal for the film at Netflix, where its release has been extremely successful. The story was conceived originally as a stage musical by Talbert, an acclaimed playwright. Talbert directed the 2017 Netflix film, El Camino Christmas.  In the Fast Company article, Talbert tells the story of pitching Jingle Jangle to Netflix, and receiving direction from the company that was life-changing. In the article, Talbert shares that Nick Nesbitt, the studio executive overseeing the project told him, “…I want you to write your imagination. We’ll figure out the budget later.”

Writer KC Ifeanyi reports that Talbert admits it took him a few days to grasp the idea of writing without a budget in mind. Clearly, he grasped it. Talbert, Sisson-Talbert, and the production team created a gift to the world.

I was fascinated with the idea of writing one’s imagination. The directive to “write your imagination” encouraged me, and I pray it encourages you, too, especially at the beginning of this new year – 2021.

Write your imagination.

If you took the time to write your imagination, what would you write? If you allowed your mind, heart, and your soul to be open to ideas, visions, innovations, creations, strategies, and concepts that only you can conceive and bring to life, what would you imagine? If there were not any monetary restrictions applied to that same imagination, and no restrictions to time or space, what would you imagine?

Now, breathe. Give that some thought.

Okay, let’s continue.

I believe we can all embrace the same opportunity given to Talbert. We can write our imagination.

If we believe there is an almighty God whom we adore, love, and who is worthy of our praise, we can write our imagination. If we believe God is the “maker of heaven and earth,” we can write our imagination. If we believe we are God’s creations, we can write our imagination. Picture this: Instead of a studio executive giving us the freedom to imagine, envision God giving us that same freedom – that same license, that same power to mount up with wings and fly. What if we can think of God in that same way? Start here. Imagine yourself in a meeting with God. Can you see it? Feel it? Okay, got it? In that meeting, God tells you to write a vision for your life, your family, your household, your community, your church  – and there are not any budgetary restrictions. What do you write?

Talbert had the idea for Jingle Jangle inside of him for two decades. What is inside of you? If we are walking in the way of the Lord, following the teachings of Jesus, seeking to live Godly and righteously, I believe there are some God-given visions inside of all of us – waiting to spring forth – to come to life. Yes, even now.

Imagination is defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality. The prophet Habakkuk reminds us of this word from the Lord, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets.” (Habakkuk 2:2). So, when you write your imagination, you are writing the vision that has not yet been wholly perceived in reality. And you are making it plain. In other words, don’t hold back.

The psalmist tells us, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4 NRSV) How do we take delight in the Lord? By following the teachings of Jesus, namely by loving one another as he has loved us, serving the “least of these,” repenting of our sins, seeking forgiveness from God of those sins, forgiving others, honoring God, living by faith, and studying the Word of God. We are to be doers, not only hearers of the Word. We are to give our tithe, and an offering. We are to share our gifts and talents for the building of God’s kingdom on Earth. This is not an all-inclusive list, but it is a good start to review as we examine our relationship with the Lord and the ways we are delighting in God. As we take delight in the Lord, our imagination is nourished by God, who desires to see us live our best God-ordained lives.

Indeed, I believe God has an imagination. Consider the creation account in Genesis. The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters…” (Genesis 1:2). The wind was the Holy Spirit. For six days, God created something new each day by calling it into existence. And God saw that it was good. Let the Holy Spirit sweep over your mind and your life. At times, your life may feel like a dark, formless void – not in any particular orbit, or on a path, or following a trajectory. There may be some days when you feel like you are fighting to stay alive. Yield to the Holy Spirit who knows what is in your heart and mind. It can intercede on your behalf. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27 NRSV) Be open to the supernatural. Imagine the supernatural.

Write your imagination.

David E. Talbert had to believe that the script he wrote would come to life. And it did. The Netflix executive gave him that assurance. Will we believe a human being has more power than God, the creator of the universe? Will we believe only a human being can “greenlight” our vision? Certainly not. Write your imagination. Write your imagination believing it will come to life. Dare to articulate what is in your heart, mind, and soul. Make it official. Write your imagination. Then, give it to the ultimate studio executive – God.

Sharing in love and prayer,

Alvelyn Sanders-Swafford