Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-6, John 1:1-18
The Reindeer Gospel
Santa’s most popular reindeer by far is Rudolf, Rudolf, the red-nosed reindeer. Here is his story as told in music by Johnny Marks: Rudolf, the red-nosed reindeer, had a very shiny nose. And if you ever saw him, you would even say it glows. All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names. They never let poor Rudolf play in any reindeer games. Then one foggy Christmas eve Santa came to say: “Rudolf with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” Then all the reindeer loved him as they shouted out with glee: “Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer, you’ll go down in history!” The story of Rudolf, is the story of 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.
To begin with, Rudolf was a misfit. Compared to the image of the ideal reindeer we can say that something was definitely wrong with him. What is more, he was not in any position to help himself. So are we all, misfits, as the Bible tells us. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). Like lost sheep we are not in a position to help ourselves. Rudolf could not help himself. All that his fellow reindeer did was to makes things worse for him. Only one person could help him, Santa, the messenger from heaven.
Today we celebrate the birth of the Messenger from heaven. As we read in today’s gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). He comes to liberate us from the human predicament, our sinfulness. For it is sin that mars and disfigures the beautiful image of God that we all are. Sin turns us into a despicable Rudolf, the red-nosed reindeer. But the heavenly Messenger comes, not to take away the red nose but to declare to us the Good News that we are acceptable to God even with the red nose. Rudolf’s red nose was a defect. But Santa chose him precisely on account of that. The heavenly Messenger has the ability to turn the defects and red noses of our tainted humanity into assets for the service of God. Jesus is this heavenly messenger.
What makes the reindeer gospel so poignant is that Santa does not use his magic wand to heal Rudolf of his red nose defect. He let him go on with the red nose even as his chosen reindeer. Certainly Rudolf would have wanted nothing so much as to be a normal reindeer like all the rest. Similarly Jesus does not simply make us good men and women, rather he makes us into people who can use all their strengths and defects to the service and the glory of God. This is the proof to us that it is not by our own will power that we are able to become children of God. It is by God’s grace, by God’s unmerited and unconditional love of us. As God tells St Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
How does the grace of God achieve this transformation in us? God’s grace works two things in us: enlightenment and empowerment. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). God’s truth enlightens us and God grace empowers us. God’s truth enlightens us to see ourselves and our world in a new light. It is a word that brings reassurance, affirmation and hope. You can imagine how Rudolf felt when he heard the words of Santa, “Rudolf with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” That is why we call it the Good News. It is news that is liberating and empowering. It empowers us by changing our former disposition of insecurity, despair and hopelessness into that of blessed assurance, new hope and enthusiasm in the Lord’s service.
Like Rudolf before Santa, let us today listen to the Message that the Child Jesus brings us, let us commit ourselves into his service without looking back, even when we do not know where the journey will lead us, knowing one thing for sure: that the grace of God will supply the strength we need for the long journey of faith ahead. “For to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12).