Rudolph the anti-Gospel Reindeer

rudolph.jpgRudolph is the anti-gospel.  For years we've song Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but have you ever considered the message?  

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say:
"Rudolph with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
you'll go down in history! 

All the other reindeer laughed at him, called him names and excluded him.  It was only when he became 'valuable' in the world's eyes that Rudolph found acceptance. This song typifies the positional authority of the world.  In our culture, you are only as valuable as what you contribute.  We struggle to be respected, to achieve positions of power and to be loved.  But ultimately in our culture if we do not uphold our end of the deal, our position will fall.  Everything is dependent upon our self righteousness.  Rudolph's acceptance was in his achieving value.  This is what makes the song the anti-gospel.

This is what is so radical about the Christian faith, none of us can earn it (and thankfully, our salvation is not dependent upon our own performance).  In religions, we are required to give God something in order for God to accept us.  As Christians, God earns our right standing, our being in good relationship with Him through the finished work of Jesus.  If you add anything to Christ as a basis for your salvation and acceptance with God, you completely reverse and pervert the order of the gospel and make it useless.  This is why Paul is saying in Galatians when he says the Judiazers have created a “different gospel,” which is no gospel at all.  

Sadly, so many Christians struggle and fall into the same anti-gospel idea as Rudolph.  We fall into the trap of works-based-righteousness.  Martin Luther writes, “…the real evil is that we trust our own power to be righteous and will not lift up our eyes to see what Christ has done for us…So the troubled conscience has no cure for its desperation and feeling of unworthiness unless it takes hold of the forgiveness of sins by grace, offered free of charge in Jesus Christ, which is the passive or Christian righteousness.”  We all can use some of that passive righteousness Christ gives, knowing we are accepted in spite of who we are.

Are you like Rudolph, seeking the approval of others through your own works?  It's something to think about the next time you sing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

  • Adam J.

    December 4, 2006, 6:39 am

    You know it’s scary what messages creep into our consciousness completely undetected. You are totally right about the message behind this story and this song, and yet, I would likely have never noticed it. It makes me wonder what other things I listen to, read, watch or consume that carry anti-gospel overtones…

  • Brian

    December 4, 2006, 10:47 am

    Now I obviously agree with your assessment of the Gospel, but here’s another take on this song: Rudolph is the Messiah figure! Like Jesus, he was seen as inferior, mocked and ridiculed. Like Jesus, he was the “Light” of the story. Like Jesus, he “saved” the day. And thru his saving work, the reality of who he is – is recognized by all. There is a newfound love and respect for rudolph, especially by Santa (who clearly plays God the Father in this story). This may seem like a stretch, but most stories, myths, and fables follow this messianic “hero” model. Widely respected philosopher, Joseph Campbell’s seminal work “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” traces the Messiah story (he calls this the monomyth) throughout the history of mankind. I find it interesting that man, as dark and lost in sin as he is, cries out for a savior. Thanks be to God that He has not left us in the dark, but delivered us throught the true Light of the World – Jesus Christ.

  • D. Goodmanson

    December 4, 2006, 3:28 pm

    Great thoughts Brian. I can see that even though (in my opinion) it doesn’t line up as nicely. You’d need to look at it with a particular redemptive historical eschatological framework. Or you’d have to redefine who ‘all’ is in the song. Of course, it really works from my Sunday School upbringing where Jesus was the answer to everything. 🙂

  • Bruce Chant

    December 4, 2006, 7:09 pm

    Great post Drew. And I think Brian’s counter isn’t bad either.

  • bjnotbk

    December 5, 2006, 7:27 am

    Grace can be such a hard concept to understand when you live in the flesh. We are so programmed to produce that is flows into every aspect of our lives including our ministry, our family, and our relationship with Christ. Great thoughts on this cultural icon.

  • Darren

    December 5, 2006, 6:11 pm

    Awww…leave Rudolph alone 😉 J/K a great observation of the song there Drew. I also like what Brian wrote placing Rudolph as a “Messiah” figure. Here’s another take:

    God (santa) can take any seemingly insignificant, foolish looking, “worthless” person (rudolph) and give them meaning and value as they serve Him. 1 Corinthians 1:27 comes to mind.

  • Dsnyd

    December 5, 2006, 9:31 pm

    Thought provoking anyway, although I never looked at it that way. I always though it was more about being comfortable and finding your worth in how you were made, including your flaws or differences. Eventually he came to see that his different nose could be used for good and he did not need to be embarrassed about it and hide it. Eventually he was used for good and everyone loved him.

    My thought is that the red, shiny nose is our flaws, even our sin. We do not need to hide either and in the end God will use us and our weaknesses for His good.

    I guess pretty much what Darren mentioned above in reference to 1 Cor. 1:27.

    I suppose I need to re watch the movie now to remember all the details.

  • Michael Foster

    December 9, 2006, 11:33 am

    Great post! BTW, is it just me or does the Island of Misfit Toys strangely resemble an A29 boot camp?

  • BigPoppa

    December 27, 2006, 4:23 pm

    funny, i had the same take as Brian.