December 19, 2010 by Dwight Bernier
Thinking back to my childhood, one of my favorite shows around Christmas was Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. It brings back so many good memories. I really need to watch it again before Christmas. But one of the weirdest things about the show to me as a kid was the misfit toys. I never understood why they were actually wanted. I remember thinking as a child that I wouldn’t want a toy that didn’t function well. Imagine getting a teenage mutant ninja turtle with ballerina shoes and a tutu or, for a girl, a baby doll with three arms and no nose. It is creepy. In my mind as a child, I thought that the island was the best place for them. Because those toys would just mess up Christmas.
As I think more about Rudolph and the story, there are so many redemptive themes all throughout the movie – but I only want to comment on the island of the misfit toys.
Rudolph, a misfit reindeer who’s nose is red, lands on the island with his buddy Hermey, a misfit elf who wanted to be a dentist. When they arrive, they are comforted to know that there are others who are like them – thrown away, no good, put in a place by themselves where they wouldn’t ruin anyone’s Christmas. Isn’t that what most ‘misfits’ do? They just congregate with each other because they would have nothing to offer anyone else. The island of the misfit toys was for those who couldn’t measure up with the standards – and they knew it! They were able to talk about their ‘misfitted-ness’. They were able to see why they were on this island away from everyone else. They got the fact that they were messed up – but they had no idea that salvation was possible.
What is incredible about this story is that it paints a picture so well of who we are – misfit toys. Some of us hide our faults better than others and convince ourselves that we are worthy enough of being put under someone’s Christmas tree in order to bring them great joy & hope. But others of us know that we are a mess, not worthy of bringing joy to anyone, and understand that there is nothing we can do about it. We get that we belong on the island of misfit toys and just go ahead and live our lives there – as though there were no other option. So, we all, in one of the two categories of misfits, essentially just eat, drink and are merry (or extremely depressed) until the end of our existence. We just get through life, keeping ourselves busy, & trying to hide our misfitted-ness.
But that is not the story of Christmas, nor is that how the story of Rudolph ends.
God knew that we chose a different identity other than Him – one that wanted to determine our own way, our own worldview, our own god – mainly ourselves. We made ourselves misfits and continue to live out our identity as misfits (whether we believe it or not). But God did not choose to leave us on the island of misfit toys. Rather, God came to the island, to our world. He came to live amongst the misfits – as one who would redeem them, who would redeem us and save us from sin, death, Satan & hell.
Jesus, Emmanuel (God is with us), came to live a life of complete obedience to the Father, a life that we misfits try to live, but can’t. And Jesus died a death He did not deserve to die. But He died in the place of misfits – He died our death, in our place, He was condemned. And because of His death, we can have life. The good news is that misfits can be fit for heaven, to be with Jesus. That’s the line from ‘Away in a Manger’ – “and fit us for heaven to live with Thee there”. But the thing about the gospel is that in order to receive it, we must first admit that we are misfits. The gospel is not that Jesus came to the religious elite – but rather that Jesus came for misfits, for those who didn’t have it all together, for the broken, messed-up, tired, ‘just can’t make it’ people. Bruce Cockburn nails this concept when he sings: “For it isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comes, but to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums”. Misfits.
In the program Rudolph, the gospel is there in part. At the end of the show (newer versions), Santa does come and pick up the toys and use them for his Christmas delivery, thanks to Rudolph. But in that story – the misfit toys stay misfits.
In the gospel, Jesus is transforming our lowly bodies (misfits) to be like His glorious body (Philippians 3.21). We are not left misfits – we are made sons & daughters of the Father because of what the Son did. And we are welcomed into the kingdom because the Son was put out of the kingdom. All misfits are welcome!
So that is what Christmas is about – Jesus coming to the land of misfits, to live a life misfits could never live, die a death that misfits should die, and redeem those misfits who trust and believe that He is their only hope!