'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer'

EDITOR'S NOTE: There is no doubt that the theme of mercy can be found in many favorite Christmas carols. Here's the third of a four-part Advent series reflecting on the theme of mercy in some of our favorite carols:

I want to see mercy in everything. Sometimes I wonder how exactly I can show God's tender, loving kindness today and am greeted with a news story, or a picture, an article, or a real life experience that suddenly causes my heart to say: "That person was just mercied!"

Because we are all fallen humans, we have to work at seeing God's love in the world. I confess that sometimes I am so wrapped up in my extreme views on life, religion, or politics that I miss the obvious blessings of a life of grace reaching from God's hand to our own.

So what in the world does "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," by advertising executive Robert May, have to do with the mercy life? After all, it is a secular Christmas song relating more to Santa Claus and not to Jesus, and its original intent was to drive up retail sales for department stores by giving the lyrics away to children when they sat on the knee of St. Nick!

Past its seemingly moral, yet silly, lyrics we see God's imprint of mercy all over the song. In fact, the very spirit of these words is still being heard and obeyed in the world - yes, even in this incredibly dark world.

The lyrics of this poem-turned-song speak of a reindeer named Rudolph who was identified by his shiny, glowing nose. The author speaks as if this is not unusual, but the other cast of characters find it almost disturbing or disconcerting to see someone who is different than they are. It is not until Christmas Eve, the most important time of night for delivering of gifts, that Santa has an epiphany (who knows what he has been thinking up to this point) and realizes Rudolph is really a gift to help him through the foggy world. Then, and only then, do the other reindeer accept him as their own. So, this story really has three elements: discrimination, epiphany, and redemption.

So what? How does that help us walk with Jesus?

This story is not that very different from our world today. How many prejudices are seen throughout the world? How come we don't all identify as one large human race, but rather in our minds have come to segregate based on skin color or supposed financial status? Surely our recent American elections show that we have divided ourselves betwixt two major parties as if there are only two sides to every story. In the middle of such spiritual, political, and even physical atmospheres that seem to divide rather than unite, does God still fill the world with love as deep as He has filled the seas? And like Rudolph, is there ever redemption in this cold world from one person to another?

All three elements of this story fill the pages of the news. Here is one such example: Chy Johnson of Arizona ( see this story). I cannot do enough justice to both the re-telling and impact of this true-to-life account, nor can it really be compared to the Christmas song above. It resonates the human spirit much deeper than the song.

But this is a true accounting of a girl who was different than other people. Discrimination comes in all forms. Her mom, tired of all the verbal and sometimes physical abuse her daughter received at high school, reached out to the football team who, in turn, themselves began a life of mercy. Realizing that one of their own (no, not one of their own fellow football compatriots, but one of their own classmates) was being put down, they made it their mission to protect and support her. They were not just to be "guards," but true friends who would be willing to lay down their life for her (Jn 15:13).

The epiphany of this story was that the football team realized this was the wrong course for a few members of the student body to take. No person should go to high school and feel afraid to learn, to grow, and to love as a person. Redemption came when they realized their influence could be used for good by showing others that we must learn to care for one another no matter who we are. Perhaps protecting one person would send the message to the entire high school that bullying is not acceptable in any cases or circumstances. If that is not mercy, what else could it be?

Many of our readers will be able to relate. Many of us are now out of high school. Think about these powerful words from Romans (5:8): "But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us."

If there is anything we deserve as a human race for our rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden and even now, it is God's judgment. I can't speak for you, but I have disobeyed God's law many times. The fact we are still here is a monument to God's undying and seeming unquenchable love for us. In fact, while we were in the act of doing things that God hates, He sent His only Son into the world to save us. The message of Christmas is that the Incarnate Christ came, among many other missions, to die for us. In other words, Christ did not discriminate in His offering of salvation.

So this Christmas, why can't we put our prejudices aside? Are there people in our family we despise? When we go out shopping, will we stomp all over each other to grab the latest and greatest gift? Will we turn a blind eye to the people who really need us? Or will we step up to the plate, stop our bickering, realize it is God's desire to use us as vessels of His mercy, and protect those who need our help? After all, Christ helped us.

Please consider contributing to help victims of Hurricane Sandy.

We invite you to read the other three parts of our four-part series:

• Part One:
"Good King Wenceslas"

• Part Two:
"Who Is He In Yonder Stall?"

• Part Three:
"Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"

• Part Four:
"Go Tell It On the Mountain"

Peter James is an administrative assistant for the Association of Marian Helpers in Stockbridge, Mass.

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