“CHRISTmas Joy for all to hear” (SHAPED BY FAITH)
I hope you enjoy this article I wrote for the Messenger Inquirer.
"CHRISTmas Joy for all to hear"
My home office sits in close proximity to our living room, where my husband and grandson were laughing uncontrollably. Laughter is like a people magnet, and while I desperately wanted a Christmas column, this Christmas column, the lure of belly laughing was too enticing to ignore. They were watching “Elf”, the Will Ferrell Christmas classic. This is the story of Buddy, an oversized elf, which has been a family favorite since its debut in 2003. We watch it every year, and sometimes, I must confess, multiple times in the same year. While the movie is cute, joyful and hilarious, the writers have offered us some Christ-like symbolism, whether intentional or not.
Buddy, as a baby, crawls into Santa’s toy bag while he is delivering gifts at the orphanage. Buddy is adopted by Papa Elf at the North Pole, and he raises him as his own son. As Buddy grows older, and much larger than the other elves, Papa Elf decides to tell him about his biological father living in New York. Buddy, longing to find his place in the world, leaves Papa Elf, Santa, and the other elves, to search for his father.
Buddy’s long journey to his father is inspiring, as he spreads Christmas joy at every opportunity along the way. Santa had pre-warned Buddy that his father was on the naughty list, but he was undeterred, and he lovingly persevered after his father. Buddy’s father was a ruthless publisher, so heartless he was repossessing books from an orphanage. As the story progresses, Buddy never gives up on his father, even though he obviously wants no part of knowing or loving him.
Watching Elf, each December, year after year, I am reminded of the spiritual theme running through the movie; forgiveness. We set standards of perfection on our Holidays, and sometimes even on our loved ones and extended families. Then we are disappointed and surprised when they fail to meet our expectations. Of course, they may be doing it to us too. Holidays are emotional mine fields, with hurt feelings, and twenty year feuds which become the example our children learn and carry to their families. Silly things that initially could have been easily resolved linger and fester like sores. Perhaps you are the one harboring ill feelings or disappointment in your heart, and all it has made you is miserable and cynical inside. Maybe it has grown so large you resent others success or their demonstrations of joy. There are better ways to live.
Buddy, the bubbling elf, brought joy wherever he went regardless of his circumstance, how others thought of him, or how others treated him. He took every opportunity to spread joy even though he encountered a lot of evil people on his journey. The joy-suckers and bah-hum- buglers tried to steal his “light”, but he would just send out a ray of corny elf sunshine to squash the darkness. Isn’t it amazing how being around someone who is full of joy lifts your spirit? Buddy encouraged Jovie to sing, but she was reluctant, afraid of criticism, and refused. But after encouragement, compliments on her singing, and activating her spirit, the fire in Jovie’s heart was rekindled.
Are you beginning to see how this joy thing works? One person at a time spreading joy to another, and then they pass it along to someone else. Spreading joy could be as simple as being nice to someone, or noticing someone with a smile or a goofy look, or maybe it is just listening to a lonely soul. You would be amazed the difference it can make to someone’s spirit.
I realize Elf is just a movie, and I totally get that. Maybe I am reading way too much into the message behind the scenes, but that’s ok, because I want to see the positive in everything regardless of the intentions. I know this; it would be a lot better for all of us if we would forgive one another. Deep in my heart I believe that God can turn bad things into good when we can look beyond our joy-sucker-selves. We must be willing to reach out to others in whatever way God leads. The devil will try to deceive, and whisper in your ear, “that’s silly, or goofy, or why should you be the one to apologize?” The devil is the father of lies, and he wants to suck the joy out of your life. Your goofiness, and silliness, is just right for this world. Your kindness and willingness to help others is needed to spread Joy to the world.
By the end of the movie, Buddy saves Christmas and resolves his issues with the father. He writes a children’s book chronicling all of his adventures, and it is a best seller. Luke 2: 8-12 shares the account of Jesus birth. “That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find the baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
While Buddy may have saved this fictional account of Christmas, Jesus saves the world, brings joy to those who know him, and resolves all of our issues with the Father. He also has the best-selling book of all time!