Hans Matheson and Samantha Barks star in the new family movie, “The Christmas Candle,” which opens nationwide on Nov. 22.
Hans Matheson and Samantha Barks star in the new family movie, “The Christmas Candle,” which opens nationwide on Nov. 22.
This Friday Nov. 22, the new film "The Christmas Candle" opens at more than 400 movie theaters nationwide, and the people who helped bring it to the big screen hope it will become a holiday classic like "It's a Wonderful Life," shining the light of Christ and the true meaning of Christmas to people of all ages.

"This is a special, special movie... This is a Christmas movie about Christmas," said Rick Santorum, the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania and 2012 presidential candidate who is now the CEO of EchoLight Studios, America's fastest-growing faith and family film company, which is distributing the film.

"The Christmas Candle," based on a book by best-selling Christian author Max Lucado, takes place in 1890 during Advent in a fictional English village, where every 25 years an angel touches a candle that brings a miracle into the life of the person lighting it at Christmas time. At the dawn of the electric age, a new minister in town tries to encourage his congregation to bring miracles into the lives of those in need by reaching out to them with small acts of love, rather than relying on the miraculous candle tradition.

In a recent conference call with reporters, Santorum said the movie focuses on the importance of faith in people's everyday lives, at a time when our culture and the media marginalizes the role of faith.

"The great thing about this story, is seeing the faith of simple people, folks who realize how important faith is, and at the same time, seeing people who struggle with faith, who wonder, 'is God really here, does He hear my prayers, does He care about me?' Everybody goes through that," Santorum said.

The main character, the minister, is portrayed by Hans Matheson ("The Clash of the Titans"), who has a crisis of faith as he carries out his work at his new church. Samantha Barks, who portrayed Eponine in the 2012 movie musical "Les Miserables," portrays a young woman who is skeptical of faith. Scottish singer Susan Boyle, making her acting debut, also appears in the movie and sings the song "Miracle Hymn," which is part of her new Christmas album. The movie's ensemble of character actors also includes Sylvester McCoy from "The Hobbit" film trilogy and the British classic TV series "Dr. Who."

"I don't know anybody who can leave that film and not see themselves in one of the characters, on where they are in their faith journey," Santorum said, adding that the movie shows how powerful faith can be in transforming people's lives.

The head of EchoLight Studios said that in his travels across the country, he has seen how the culture is changing, and he said it is important for people of faith to add their voices to the conversation, as storytellers "producing content that is good, true and beautiful."

The story's author Max Lucado, whose books have sold 82 million copies and who is the minister of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, said, "Many Christmas movies don't talk about Jesus... I'm proud and happy to be part of a film that retells the story of Christmas."

Lucado said he hopes that "The Christmas Candle" offers moviegoers a message of hope, that "God knows you and sees you and cares deeply about us. The very message of Christmas is, 'God is with us.'"

The author said the movie's setting in the English countryside, with period costumes and props, takes people back in time to a simpler era.

The movie's producer, Tom Newman, said he was drawn to "The Christmas Candle," because, "I'm an avid reader, and always looking for a good story." The book and movie, he said, encourages people "to be an angel in someone else's life."

Candace Lee, the movie's screenwriter, said she tried to capture the heart of the book, which emphasizes the hope and joy of Christmas. "We can believe in miracles, and be a miracle for each other," she said.