Netflix’s new hit film A California Christmas is attracting views from around the world this holiday season. But there’s another, lesser-known story worth hearing too – about the couple behind the film and their Christian faith.
Released on December 14, A California Christmas tells the story of a wealthy young man who poses as a ranch hand to lure a beautiful, strong-willed farmer to sell her family's land to his family’s shipping company by Christmas. Needless to say, things don’t go according to plan in this feel-good film.
“His plan was simple: Get her to trust him, then convince her to sign away her land. But he didn’t plan on falling in love,” Netflix describes the relationship between the young man, named Joseph, and the farmer, named Callie.
In the end, the film demonstrates how love can transform someone who wants what’s best for himself into someone who wants what’s best for others. It’s a message that resonates with viewers: the movie “ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for a week and has remained in the top 10 since,” according to Variety on December 22.
The credits reveal that the stars of the film – Josh and Lauren Swickard – share a last name. That’s because, in real life, the two are married. Josh, perhaps best known for his role in General Hospital, met Lauren while filming Roped, another Netflix production filmed in 2017.
In this latest movie, the Swickards played multiple roles: In addition to acting as Callie and Joseph, Lauren served as producer and writer of the film and Josh served as co-producer. And, in the midst of their storytelling, they left fingerprints of their own faith.
At one point, Callie’s family invites Joseph to dinner. They join hands around the table as Callie’s younger sister says grace and prays for their family, including for their mother who suffers from cancer.
“Dear Jesus, thank you for this food, thank you for Mama, make her better, we’d really appreciate it. Thank you for our house, bless this food to our body,” she says.
“Oh, and thank you for bringing Manny [Joseph’s ranch hand name] here to help us,” she adds, while the family concludes with an “Amen.”
Outside the film, the Swickards publicly acknowledge the role of faith in their personal lives.
In a 2018 interview with Soap Opera Digest, Josh, the son of a Methodist pastor, revealed, “My faith kind of shapes everything I do.” On December 29, he told the same outlet that, in 2020, “I really rekindled my relationship with the Lord.”
“It was one of those things where I was like, ‘I can’t go to church anymore [because of the pandemic],’” he said, “and I brought it back to the basics and opened my Bible for the first time in I don’t know how long.”
During an interview about “Positivity During the Pandemic” in June, Lauren stressed that, “Josh and I have been waking up and taking time to thank God for the day.” As a part of this, they recite the psalm, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” each morning.
The two also unabashedly thank God for their new film.
On July 2, Lauren exclaimed in an Instagram post, “Cannot believe I get to see my words come to life for the very first time. God is SO GOOD and his timing is beyond perfect.”
For his part, Josh wrote on December 20, “I will never understand why our little movie has been so well received around the world, but I thank the Lord ever[y] day for this life he’s given me. I hope everyone experiences his unconditional love this morning!”
The Swickards also center their relationship on God.
On July 4, 2019, a couple days before their wedding, Lauren wished her future husband a Happy Birthday.
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the man that brings the Lord to the front of my heart each day,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “To the man who shows our friends and family exactly who Jesus is by the way he loves and moves through life with joy and grace. And to the most perfect HUSBAND that loves me for ALL that I am, flaws and all.”
Josh also wished Lauren a Happy Birthday last year, in May.
“Happy birthday to this beautiful God fearing lady,” he wrote. “I didn’t ask you to spend the rest of your life with me just because you’re incredibly sexy. It’s because of your uncontainable joy, your love for others, and your heart.”
A month earlier, in April, Lauren wrote, “When I think about everything that happened to bring us together... it blows my MIND how perfect God’s timing is. Friends - if you are in a season of doubt, just TRUST and WAIT. Bad days happen, bad years happen - I promise there is something or someone that will make it all worth it. There is a time for everything under the heavens!”
Josh likewise posted, in February 2019, “I thank the Lord every day that our paths crossed.”
They also remember God around the holidays.
“MERRY CHRISTMAS!” Josh tweeted last December. “Feeling so thankful that God sent his son.” On Instagram, he added, “This year, more than ever, I’m blown away that The creator became one of us - to be with us and ultimately conquer death. Incredibly thankful for this life I don’t deserve.”
In other words, Christmas to them – whether it’s in California or not – is about gratitude to God.