The film concerns the story of the Boyajian family, who have not celebrated Christmas in 11 years, since their son John was killed in 1991 during the Gulf War. With his daughter Jeanie potentially facing a life threatening illness, George decides they should have Christmas again. However, Carol adamantly refuses, as it was on Christmas Day when the family received the news of John's death. George heads to watch over the town's veterans memorial and is accosted by several teenage punks, who are scared off by "Matthew", a hitchhiker passing through town. As Matthew and George talk, Matthew claims to be a Gulf veteran who served in the same regiment as John, although the two did not apparently know each other. George invites Matthew to spend Christmas with his family, asking him to tell his wife and daughter that he knew John while they served together. George's ultimate plan is to get the family to once again celebrate Christmas, which works. But as Matthew makes up stories about he and John, George begins to wonder about Matthew's true identity when his stories include details that only John would have known (including a notable surgical scar from an athletic injury). At the end, it is revealed that Matthew is actually John making a supernatural visit (by revealing the scar mentioned earlier) in order to restore the family's Christmas spirit.