Today our Advent series turns to a much newer Christmas movie, but one that is already making the lists of the top Christmas movies of all time – Elf. I had not seen the movie until this year but my sister said it was great. She said, how can you go wrong when it stars classic TV actors like Ed Asner and Bob Newhart, and I must admit, she was right. This is a wonderful family movie that has a great message for us all.
For those who may not have seen the movie, the story begins when Santa Claus visits an orphanage on Christmas Eve. While Santa is busy eating cookies, a baby climbs out of his crib and crawls toward a teddy bear in Santa’s sack and here’s what happens.
So Buddy is raised by the elves at the North Pole and in school he learns the Code of the Elves.
In many ways, it is this code that guides the rest of the movie and it is this code that points us to the real Christmas Story. So let’s start by looking at the second rule of the code first: There’s room for everyone on the nice list. In time Buddy realizes that he is not an elf but a human but the real tragedy for him is finding out that his father is not on the nice but the naughty list.
When Santa says that Buddy can spread Christmas cheer he isn’t talking about offering a superficial greeting to people on the street but sharing a love and spirit that can actually lift a person’s heart and change a person’s life. This is what Buddy wants to do for his Dad so he leaves his home and begins a journey to another land in order to find his father who is lost. When he finds his dad, all Buddy wants to do is love him and change his life. Is this beginning to sound at all familiar? Someone leaves their home to pursue those who are lost in order to love them and save them and bring them the fullness of life – this is the real Christmas Story. This is what God did for all of us in the birth of Jesus!
God saw us on the naughty list, or the lonely list, or the heartbroken list, or the prideful or greedy list and God wanted to save us from ourselves and our sin so God came to this world through Jesus to save us. The way God saves us is by pursuing us and loving us unconditionally and persistently until that love changes our hearts and lives. This is what Buddy did. Buddy left is home, he passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then walked through the Lincoln Tunnel to find his Dad and once he found him he just loved him and he didn’t stop loving him.
In this way, Buddy points us to Jesus. Please, I am not saying Buddy is Jesus, I don’t think Jesus would say that there are only 4 major food groups, Candy, Candy Canes, Candy Corn and syrup, but Buddy points us to Jesus. Buddy’s journey to save his Dad points us to the journey of Jesus to save us. God sent his Son into the darkness of this world to save us. Jesus gave up his home in heaven to come into our world and to enter into our lives in order to save us from our own sin and at times our own selves.
So Buddy’s trip to get his Dad on to the nice list, to save him, points us to Jesus and Buddy’s love reminds us of the kind of love Jesus has for us. Buddy’s love is unconditional. Even thought his Dad doesn’t want it and can’t really receive it, Buddy still loves him.
This is a picture of God’s love for us. Even if we have closed ourselves off to the love of God and others or feel we aren’t worthy of God’s love – it is still there. God loves us and God tells us over and over again that he loves us. Lamentations 3:22-23
So the code of the elves tells us There’s room for everyone on the nice list.and we help get people on that list by loving them and sharing with them the Christmas Spirit. The truth is that God wants all of us on this list which is why God sent Jesus. John 3:17 says, God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him. God didn’t send Jesus to point out that we are on the naughty list but to love us and forgive us and move us to the nice list.
The second code of the elves we are going to look at is the first one, Treat Every Day Like Christmas. This means that every day should be filled with the spirit and actions we experience on Christmas day, things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. If we can look beyond the craziness we often feel on Christmas Day, these are often the qualities we long to feel: the love of family, the joy of reaching out to friends, the peace we find when we set aside work and all the demands of life to just relax, the kindness and goodness we live out in our communities, the faithfulness we remember as we worship and celebrate a God who loves us and even the self control of not eating all the Christmas cookies and candy in one day.
Now if you were with us a few weeks ago, this list might look familiar. These are the lovely intangibles we heard about in Miracle on 34th Street. These are things that the world tells us we can’t build our lives on but that God says we can and should. This is the fruit of God’s spirit and this is what develops in our lives when we get close to Jesus. When we make every day Christmas we are allowing the gift of Christmas, which is the gift of Jesus, to be experienced in our lives and this is what God wants. God wants this fruit to grow in our lives, but there is so much more fruit and spirit we can experience.
Living like every day is Christmas also means recapturing a sense of awe and wonder in life. This past Tuesday night I looked out the window and the snow was falling softly and it was clinging to the limbs on the trees and the lights in the yard so I put on my coat and went for a walk. The beauty of the night filled me with an awe and wonder that I often don’t take the time to experience. The quiet of the evening, the beauty of the snow and the lights on people’s homes and trees was wonderful. It was a real Christmas moment.
Buddy reminds us to find this kind of awe and wonder in all of life and to find joy and laughter in the little things we often overlook or take for granted especially as we grow older.
God calls us to experience life like a child. In fact, Jesus said it is only those who can be child-like who will enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:13-14
We aren’t to be childish but child-like which means being filled with awe and wonder and to find joy in all the simple things. We are to be child-like because God is child-like. Listen to this quote from GK Chesterton where he talks about the nature of God. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
God is a child who never tires of finding joy in the simple things but we have grown old and have allowed the demands of life and work to pull us away from these simple things and simple joy.
How many of us can say that Smiling is my favorite? Maybe that’s our problem. Maybe we have allowed work to consume us or fear to fill us and we have grown old and forgotten how to smile. This may sound silly, but I think Jesus smiled a lot and I say this because people wanted to be with Jesus and most of us don’t want to hang around with Grinches – we want to hang around with elves. Jesus lifted people up and filled people with hope and joy and made them feel special and we do this more by smiling than frowning. Buddy did this and shows us how we can do it too.
When we treat every day like Christmas and live with child-like faith and wonder, we are living the life of Jesus that transformed people and the world we live in.
Now the third code of the elves says this, The best way to spread Christmas Cheer is singing loud for all to hear. Buddy has no problem singing loud even when there is music or words.
Buddy teaches us that even when others may not be singing or sharing the Christmas spirit, it is important that we do. Jesus put it this way, Matthew 5:14-16. We are called to be the light of the world and the light we are to shine is the love of Jesus. When we follow Jesus, we shine God’s light in the darkness. When we love others unconditionally and persistently, we shine God’s light in the darkness. When we live with childlike joy and wonder we are shining God’s light in the world and as we shine this light we are a beacon of hope to others. When we shine God’s light in the world we really are making a difference, a positive difference.
So the best way to spread the truth and light of God is to shine in the darkness of the world and sing loud for all to hear, but here’s the thing, this light cannot be faked. We can’t go through the motions, we can’t pretend to follow Jesus. Nothing changes if we aren’t real and genuine. The world isn’t change if we are faking it, we have to actually shine.
This is a powerful scene in the movie because it reminds us that our faith cannot be faked. We will never experience the fullness of God’s power and love by just going through the motions; we have to life out our faith with all our heart. The world isn’t changed and people’s lives aren’t filled with hope and love if we aren’t sincerely living out our faith. We cannot just go through the motions. We cannot sit in the pews and move our mouths when we sing or pray we need to engage God with our hearts while we are here and open up our minds and lives to connect with and experience God.
We can’t just go through the motions of serving others either, we need to jump in and get our hands dirty and maybe even allow our hearts to bleed and be stretched. We have to love in ways that might challenge us and even hurt us because we have given all that we have and all that we are. Going through the motions doesn’t get us closer to God and it doesn’t help us to really know Jesus and going through the motions of our faith doesn’t change anyone or anything in this world. But when we shine our light in the darkness and sing alone in the crowd we spread Christmas Cheer – we bring the power of God into our world.
How many of us end up like Buddy’s Dad and find ourselves just going through the motions. We go through the motions in worship but aren’t really singing. We go through the motions with our family but we aren’t really loving them. We go through the motions with our faith but we aren’t really sacrificing anything – we aren’t carrying a cross. At times we are all guilty of just moving our lips and when we do we are hiding the light of Christ in a dark world that needs the light of Jesus. So we need to stop pretending and shine our light. We need to stop moving our lips and start singing loud for all to hear.
The Code of the Elves points us to the real Christmas Story because it is Jesus who made room for us for us on the Nice List and it is Jesus who helps us live like every day is Christmas and it is Jesus who calls us to shine God’s light by singing loud for all to hear. Yes, Buddy being true to the code of the elves points us to the real Christmas story. May this be the code we follow in life and in faith.
The Code of the Elves:
1. Treat every day like Christmas.
• Real Galatians 5:22-23. This fruit could be described as the Christmas Spirit.
• Find one way to share this Christmas Spirit with someone between now and Christmas Day.
• What child-like quality do you wish was part of your life? How might you recapture this experience?
• How can you help others find the child inside them?
• Name the ways God is like a child.
2. There is always room on the Nice List.
• Would you say you are on the naughty or nice list? Why?
• In what ways do you feel isolated and far from God?
• Read the real Christmas Story in Luke 2 and think about how God came to move you to the nice list (to forgive you and be near you and give you life).
• Who do you know that needs this love of God? Pray for them.
3. The best way to spread Christmas Cheer is singing loud for all to hear.
• In what areas are you just going through the motions of your faith? Worship, Prayer, Service, Study, Personal Devotions. What change can you make this week to start walking the walk and talking the talk?
• Singing loud is like Shining bright. How can you shine the light of Jesus into the darkness of your family? Neighborhood? Place of employment? Community?
• This week, really sing the carols of Christmas.