Midweek Musing 12-18-19 Elf edition

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

Saying, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what

time the star appeared.

And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him

also.

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Ryan Ahlgrim is the pastor of The First Mennonite Church in Richmond, Virginia. He often tells the following story: “One day a tourist approached an Amish man and asked him, ‘Are you a Christian?’ Instead of answering, the Amish man pointed down the road at a house and he said, ‘That is my next-door neighbor. If you want to know if I’m a Christian, you need to ask him.'”

Right now, if you turn on the tv, odds are you will find a Christmas movie or special or other holiday-themed show. Even the Wheel of Fortune and Family Feud are full of Christmas lights, garland, stars, snowflakes and silver bells.

I must admit I especially enjoy the holiday movies. Some of them, like those on the Hallmark Channel, are predictable. I have even attached a “tongue in cheek” visual guide that the creator believes summarizes every Hallmark Christmas/Holiday movie that has ever been made.

As my wife will tell you, I have been dealing with some severe insomnia. One of the pieces of advice my doctor said was “if you can’t sleep don’t fight it. Get up and read or watch TV or something.” (Though I have learned that something is not waking my wife!)

Thus, I am even watching more Christmas movies I normally do—even movies I normally skip.

One such movie I watched last week was the movie Elf, which stars Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, and Zoey Deschanel. I normally skip it. The first time I saw it, for some reason it didn’t appeal to me. I have discovered I am among a very small minority who did not fall in love with this film upon first viewing it.

When I mentioned that I watched it in a conversation with my family, I discovered that it has quite a following. I have even been informed that this movie, which was released in 2003, even returns to the big screen during each Holiday Season for special (and typically sold out) showings.

If you haven’t seen it the movie Elf- it is about a baby who by chance ends up at the North Pole, and while he is a human, is raised as an elf by Santa's Elves. The movie really begins when the “Elf” named “Buddy" becomes an adult and he finds out he is really human. Buddy decides to leave the North Pole and heads to the Big Apple of New York City to find his “real” family. Reluctantly, his newly found family takes him in.

Of course they expect him to adapt quickly to the human world in order to fit in to their NYC way of life. The humor is found in the culture clash, which proves much more than this family ever bargained for.

For example, Buddy still dresses like a North Pole elf, and his actions match the customs and traditions he grew up with. Despite their efforts he refuses to change who he is.

One of moments in the film, that I had frankly forgotten about but found myself laughing out loud to at 3AM, occurs at the family’s first dinner with Buddy.

“Mom” has prepared spaghetti and as they begin to eat, Buddy asks, "Please pass the maple syrup."

“It’s spaghetti…” she reminds him.

Buddy doesn't miss a beat, he joyfully says- "Oh… I think I have some right here!" And he reaches up into the sleeve of his coat, pulls out a bottle of maple syrup, and proceeds to pour it all over—and I mean all over—the top of his spaghetti.

As is clearly evident, Buddy does things differently than “the rest of us.”

And although he has been plunged into a culture unlike any he has ever known, he not only brings but continues to live out the foundation of what he knows. Buddy exudes the Christmas traits of joy, peace, love, and hope. And Buddy pours those traits out on everyone and everything he comes in contact with. He doesn’t worry about the fact that everyone around him thinks he completely is out of his mind!

I think that this idea of living a “different life” is what that Amish farmer was saying to the tourist, and I think that is what we are reminded is also our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ.

When the Magi left Jesus, the Bible says they went home by a different way. But I also believe that they went home different. They left the small family as people who had been changed by seeing the Christ child.

When we encounter Christ and form a relationship with him, we too are changed. And while it starts as a change of the heart, it also includes a change in how the world sees us because of how we go about living our life.

And while I won’t be pouring maple syrup on pasta, I do hope that I live a life that pours out those traits that followers of Christ should be known for year-round like joy, peace, kindness, hope and love.

If we do those things, our neighbor will clearly be able to answer the question of who we follow. Of course, some who don’t understand will think we are out of our minds — maybe just tell them you are one of the Lord’s very own elves.

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