Vacation (MA15+)
Directed by John Francis Daley
Jonathan M. Goldstein
Starring: Ed Helms, Chevy Chase

by Ben McEachen

When I was growing up, my family loved to watch a determined, bumbling father launch his station-wagon into the air, before crashing it in the desert. No, that man was not my dad. We also bonded over laughing at this other bloke's many disastrous attempts to enjoy a cross-country holiday with his family. Like the time his sandwich was made soggy by a leaky dog, or when he found a motel – despite being asleep at the wheel.

I'm still laughing at National Lampoon's Vacation, that first comic misadventure of Clark Griswold (played by Chevy Chase). There is sexual and adult content that children need shielding from but Clark's holiday turmoil brought my family together. Our collective heart was warmed by the Griswold vacation, perhaps because we're a household raised on spending holidays in the car, tent and close proximity.

Several decades on and following countless sequels of diminishing returns, a new version of Vacation arrives. At cinemas this month, Ed Helms (The Office, The Hangover) plays the adult version of Clark's son Rusty. A re-heat of that first trip and sure to put effort into offending viewers, this new Vacation still appears to have its heart in the original place. The lovely notion of a father desperate to spend time with his family, wanting them to happily share an epic holiday before his kids move out and life moves on.

There's almost something old-fashioned and quaint about Clark and Rusty. Gathering the family for some together time seems at odds with our insular times. Times when babies are born with headphones on, wi-fi connected and individuality emphasised. When parents can make time for being busy rather than making time for their nearest and dearest.

Even though Jesus refers to those who wholeheartedly follow him as his brother or sister (Matthew 12:48-50), these spiritual siblings can also lose sight of family connections. One example is neglecting our immediate family, while we go beyond our own doorstep to share the good news Jesus heralds (Matthew 28:17-20; Mark 16:15). The latter is important, but not to the detriment of our own household. For why would the kind of physical and spiritual investment depicted in Acts 2:44-47 be best done everywhere except our immediate, God-appointed family group?

Clark and Rusty Griswold fly the flag for something that God's people should be all about. I'm not taking about the tawdry interludes or frequent blasts of jealousy projected by Vacation movies. Rather, how the Vacation family men desire to be with - and involved in – the lives of those we are born or married into.

Taking time to savour the loving intimacy of God the father and Jesus his son, reveals how family relationships undergird the very framework of existence (Luke 10:21-22; Col 1:15-20). On a micro scale, the family unit can strive for similar bonding.

Taking time out especially to do this might be a helpful starting point. But such dedicated togetherness should be a daily concern. As Ephesians 6:1-4 indicates, Christian parents and their children are a close-knit team of respect, honour, loyalty, instruction and love. It's always time for that.

This article was originally published by Eternity newpaper, August 2015. For more Culture items on Eternity, click here.