Editor’s note: This column first ran on Dec. 21, 2018.
One of the first Christmas songs we learn as children is “Rudolph the Red-noses Reindeer.” In recent days it has come under some scrutiny that has caused those of us who remember the song fondly to laugh and call the critics names.
Like most children’s songs, it’s based on a genuine message. In fact we might compare it to the story of the Nativity of Jesus and why God became man for our salvation. It is our story both as individuals and as the human family. In our own case it is not Santa who saves us but the Child Jesus.
Rudolph was the “geek” of all the other reindeer. The “cool” reindeer said that something was definitely wrong with Rudolph. Yet, Rudolph couldn’t do anything about his gleaming red nose by himself. Like Rudolph, our faith in God might make us outcasts among our peers and neighbors.
People might make a person of faith look like and feel like a fool. In those situations we feel helpless, just like Rudolph could not help himself. Even the reindeer who were supposed to love him only made things worse for him. Only one person could help him: Santa, who was his savior in a sense.
This coming week we celebrate the birth of our Savior from heaven. Jesus came to free us from our selfishness and all bad things that keep us from being citizens of heaven. It is sin that impairs and disfigures the beautiful image of God that we are created to resemble. But accepting Christ as our Savior might make anyone feel rejected like Rudolph with his red nose.
Jesus comes to tell us the Good News – that we are acceptable to God even though we have sinned and are imperfect. He accepts us just the way we are. Rudolph’s red nose was a seen as a defect, and Santa chose him precisely because of that.
Jesus turns the defects of our tainted humanity into assets for the service of God. Sin causes pain and struggle in the world, but Christians are called to use their struggles in service to God.
What makes the reindeer story so impressive is that Santa does not use magic to heal Rudolph. He let him go on with his red nose as the leader of the reindeer. Certainly Rudolph wanted to be what all the other reindeer considered to be perfect. Jesus takes away our sin and makes us use what others may consider a defect to serve the glory of God.
It is not by our own willpower that we become children of God. God’s love and grace we haven’t earned – rather it is a free gift he offers us through Jesus. God transforms us through his Son by teaching us what is truly good and holy.
When the Son of God became a baby, it transformed our human nature into something holy. God’s truth enlightens us to see ourselves and our world in a new light. It is a living child who brings reassurance, affirmation and hope in the person of Jesus Christ.
Imagine how Rudolph felt when Santa said, “ Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” We call the coming of Jesus the Good News or the Gospel. The news that a Savior has been born gives us freedom from sin and power to do good things so as to share that “good news” with others.
The birth of Jesus changes our world of despair and hopelessness into something new, wonderful and beautiful.
This Christmas, listen to the message that the Child Jesus brings us. Commit yourselves to his service without looking back or being ashamed of your faith. We don’t know where the journey will lead us. One thing is for sure: The grace of God supplies the strength we need for our journey of faith.
The Rev. James Williams is pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Salida.