Why is it, I wonder, that where the celebration of Christmas is concerned, we are so driven to conform to our own traditions? Follow our customary rituals? Look for the usual, eat what’s comfortable, celebrate what’s most familiar?
I ask these questions because the birth narratives of Jesus found within the Biblical Gospels are both about the arrival of the most untraditional, uncustomary, uncomfortable and unfamiliar King and Kingdom ever on the face of our planet. The differentness found within both of the Biblical birth narratives of Jesus stretched even the bounds of Old Testament messianic prophecy. Such was this difference that those who attended the newborn King were virtual outsiders, different visitors coming to see different parents of a different baby beneath a different night sky.
Christmas is all about differentness.
All about otherness.
All about them becoming us or, can you imagine, us becoming “them.” All about the things we normally resist, not embrace. All about the Christmas we would rather….not…celebrate.
If human nature alone accounts for the original gift of Christmas, then it is perhaps no wonder that we hide within the protective boundaries of “us.” Our customs. Our traditions. Our beliefs. Our people. And to be left out are those who are, well, different. Other.
Those like Rudolph.
Yes, that Rudolph. The red-nosed reindeer.
Oh, I know it’s just a song, but for all I also know it could be a parable inspired by the very Spirit of Jesus Christ himself noting that there is a Rudolph in each one of us. There is a part of each one of us that is different. Other. Misunderstood. Perhaps even avoided, even as the other reindeer avoided playing any reindeer games with the one who looked different with his red nose. There is a Rudolph in each of us that is hard for ourselves to love, to understand, to celebrate. We instead long to be the same, to conform, to be with “us” and not with “them.” And we carry that longing with us into the very celebration of Christmas, even though Jesus was himself born a “them” and so filled with differentness from day one that his own people mostly avoided or scorned him to the day he died.
The richness of the Santa Claus metaphor is that it takes someone who is very different to spot the differentness, the otherness, in everyone else. It takes someone who struggled to be an “us” and instead was labeled, most often, a “them” to spot the Rudolph in each one of us that is especially useful and helpful and even powerful.
Not because we are so alike.
Rather, because we are so different, red nose and all. And so deserving of, get this, celebration.
I wonder, then, if the Christ-stories we find in the Bible aren’t perhaps best viewed and understood……..and celebrated……by all of us, young and old, through the eyes of our own inner-Rudolph. The part of us that is so different, so other or “them-like” that to really love and understand and appreciate our most helpful and unique of abilities requires someone like, well, the Christ of Christmas. The one who calls for our help much like Santa called for Rudolph’s. The one who, having struggled with it all his life from the manger to the cross, sees our own differentness........and celebrates it.
At least that’s me today as I lean into this Christmas of 2019.
My inner Rudolph, the part of me so different as to defy all sameness, is finally ready to celebrate the one who is so “other” as to see and love and, yes, celebrate my own uniqueness. Finally ready to make this Christmas celebration different from those that were just the same as before. Finally ready to make the future different, and better than before.