Tis the Season for Christmas movies and reruns.  We especially love the older ones but didn’t realize how much our culture has changed. It is strange to have to explain moonshine or rotary phones while watching holiday favorites. Many of these golden oldies contain violence, yelling parents, addictions and more.  After watching Rudolph the Red nosed reindeer, one of the boys pointed out Rudolph was bullied. He turned to his little brother and processed how that affects self-esteem. As a kid I just remember the shiny nose!  Things have changed a lot. Santa sadly has some moments of racism and sexism. I’m wondering if people are more sensitive or if as a culture we are just becoming more aware of what is not acceptable behavior. As kids we never noticed it because we couldn’t wait to get to the good part…  Santa coming with presents!  Santa was coming to reward the “nice” boys and girls. Nice was defined as compliant.

One young boy that may not have been on the nice list early on was Pierre. He just did not want to do what the rest of his family liked to do. They had plans for him but he was listening to the beat of a different drummer so to speak. It got so intense that age 15 he ran off and joined the French Royal Navy. His family was very upset. He wanted to explore, test out ideas, and learn new things. He did not want to be involved in the business that his family enjoyed. He was kind of an outcast. The ship he got on had many sailors who got scurvy and various other diseases. Pierre learned on that ship how to treat their problems, especially those with dental disease.  Instead of just extracting the bad teeth, he wanted to fix them. He went on to be the “father of modern dentistry” and pushed for regulations of dental surgeons to have training and education before operating on people. Good idea!

Fast forward to 1964 when Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer movie was made. One of the lead characters is a little guy named Hermie and everyone wants him to make toys. He hates it and insists on being a dentist much to everyone’s scorn. The other elves and even choir leader chide him and bully him.  What would have happened if he had followed his dream and instructed them on the dangers of all that Christmas candy in Santa’s workshop? Those little elves might have survived their candy cane tooth decay and lived! It is a fascinating example of strength based leadership as this little elf naturally does what he is created to do and balks at the system that tries to make him behave like the herd.

Rudolph fascinates me. The reindeer don’t know that they need him – but the audience does. One bright reindeer alone cannot carry Santa; we all know that – it takes a team. (OK so we get the movie but Christians, churches, businesses, government systems) still insist on doing things alone or with only one party. Hmm? Maybe adults aren’t smarter than children. Rudolph does not want to wear the plastic black nose to cover his shine. He doesn’t want to stop glowing and “blend in” with the normal folk. So Rudolph decides to buck the system (it’s ok to laugh, its Christmas). It ends up that he has just enough light to brighten not only his path, but those bullying him and …. The big man himself, Santa. Just a side note, I’m guessing Santa is not too up on health issues and is possibly pre-diabetic, just saying. Then they distribute toys to all the  little girls and boys and the viewing audience recognizes that it never was just about their gifts, their struggles or their competitive power plays – it was about going out into the world to share the Christmas Spirit. It sounds close to something I heard in a seminary once.

Do you remember that old Psalm people bring out on Easter or when someone dies?  It’s all about a Shepherd gently leading his sheep? It doesn’t talk about following other sheep. Psalm 23 is a psalm of gratefulness for leadership. I’ve never noticed until watching Rudolph the other night that the recipient in Psalm 23, gets all the provision, but at what price to the leader? He enters dark places, fights off wolves and predators, has to reign in those who stray, feed the little suckers and stay awake while they sleep. Tough stuff.

The rod and staff that many fear is to just goad or correct them, is much more than that. It is also used to hang a shepherds ‘lantern. Fully lit, that lantern guides the shepherd so he can lead the sheep by still waters, through dark valleys and to the manger so they can pig out on Christmas nuggets. That light is lifted high so the little sheep hooves can see where to go and not stumble. The lambs poke along but increase in speed to keep up with the light. The training for that shepherd is different than the sheep that walk along beside them. Some have to risk all, go ahead, and lead the way so others can see where to follow.

Maybe Rudolph is a pastor in the making? His unique DNA, gifting, strengths and even weaknesses will carry his weak little legs far. What is difficult to see now is how he will be used in the “then”. The parts others believed were a disability or hindrance, what annoyed or irritated them, was the very thing that would be used to “light up the night”. Baby you’re a firework! His design was for their benefit as much as his.

Back to Pierre the sailor turned dentist for a moment. We wonder what that cost his mom and dad for us to be comfortable in a dentist chair today? The journey…   one day Pierre Fauchard, the father of modern dentistry would promote and invent lights positioned on the dental chair so a person’s mouth would be lit up to make surgery safer. Good idea Pierre!  Thank you. Aaaaagh…..What pain did his family go through when he said, ‘see ya later? Sorry to make waves but I’m following my call to be a salty dog.” He needed his light to shine, even though at the time he did not understand how, when or why. He followed the drumbeat he heard.

Through the rugged hills and valleys, across the dusty terrain Mary and Joseph trotted to Bethlehem, leaving friends, family and the comfort of home so the light within her could be birthed …. The One who would become The Light of the world. It cost something. Popularity, finances, friendship, security. When that baby opened his eyes for the first time – a Star was born and Heaven got a glimpse through a different lens of a world that had grown very dark.

Grace comes in many frames, gifts and even occupations. It’s never one size fits all.

Where are the Rudolph’s of this generation and what is God preparing them to do that we cannot now see? What irritations, weaknesses, genders, national identities or disabilities are we judging instead of embracing? Who are the Rudolph’s before us and are we valuing their contribution while we submit our gifts and talents to be part of a greater team? Where is God calling us to let our light shine? What is the impact of the absence of that light if we disobey?

Gentle Shepherd, lead us and use us in this season…..


12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for HIS good pleasure.

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2 ESV

May God’s light shine brightly in you this  day in full strength for His glory! R


Renae Roche 2017