In the Name...
Ah. So much for my clever disguise, but, you all knew who I was supposed to be, right? So, what on earth does Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer have to do with the Christmas we celebrate in church? He's part of that commercial Christmas, the one we preachers love to hate. But, let’s pause a moment and consider. Is he really that bad? In fact, it might be said there is a very real sense in which the story of Rudolph is a part of tonight's holy celebration because the story of Rudolph is really our story. It is the story of Mankind. It is the story of salvation.
Rudolph, if you recall, was a misfit. Something was definitely, obviously, wrong with him. From the moment of his birth, he had a problem and there wasn't anything he could do about it. And from the moment of our human births, each one of us also has a problem and we can't do anything about it.
That problem is our fallen human nature. We were created by God to exist in both heaven and earth, rule nature, live forever, and always make the right choices, but, thanks to Adam and Eve, we're stuck here on earth, subject to nature, limited in lifespan, and struggling with choices. That's the curse to which our popular carol "Joy to the World" refers. It's always fun to sing, but we might want to think about the words.
The Bible tells us, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" and "all we, like sheep, have gone astray". And, like lost sheep, we are not in any position to help ourselves just as poor Rudolph, the misfit reindeer, could not help himself. Sin is what makes us into Rudolphs; red-nosed embarrassments. The other reindeer couldn't help him out of his situation, and no mortal man can help us out of ours. The only one who could help Rudolph was one from outside the reindeer world. And the only one who could help us was also one from outside, outside the human world.
Tonight we celebrate the coming inside the human world of that One in these words: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us". That is the heart of Christmas and the heart of the Christian Gospel.
The Word became flesh to redeem us from Sin and restore us to a right relationship with God. But, typical of God, he didn't do it the way we might have expected or even wanted.
Rudolph would have liked nothing better than to have had his nose made normal, but, that didn't happen. It was part of who he was, just as our imperfections are part of who we are, as much as we might want them to just go away. The Good News, though, is that even with the red nose, we are still loved by, and valuable to, God. All our flaws can be transformed from despair, anxiety, and depression into assurance, hope, and enthusiasm for the service and the glory of God.
As the Gospel said, the big problem of our fallen human nature – Sin – is taken away by Christ. But, we keep our red noses - as a reminder not to think too highly of ourselves. We are redeemed, but, we are not perfect and without God’s grace constantly working in our lives, we're just misfits.
I’m sure that Christian analogy was the farthest thing from Johnny Marks’ mind when he invented Rudolph to sell toys for Montgomery Wards’ department stores, but who’s to say that he didn’t receive some inspiration from the message of the season itself.
Let us tonight, then, take to heart the word that Jesus brings us in this Incarnation event. As he took our flesh, let us be filled with his spirit and, filled with his spirit, rise to the life immortal. After all, as long as we respond to his call, one thing is certain - we'll go down in His story.
In the Name...