Since 1964 Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer has been showing every Christmas. At our house, even 45 years later, it’s an annual staple with my wife and I and my two teenage daughters. Having seen it so many times before, I took my seat earlier this week for this year’s showing fully expecting to take a nap.

Although I didn’t fall asleep (Who could? Something about this movie conjures everything that’s good about childhood doesn’t it), I was kind of in and out through the scene where Rudolph’s fake nose falls off, the meeting with Clarice, and the Hermey scenes that set the stage for the rest of the story. It wasn’t until the “Abomitable” is introduced for the first time that something grabbed me. My first thought was how goofy the creature looks—almost comical—to me now as an adult. When I made a comment to this effect, my youngest daughter, surprised, asked, “That used to scare you, dad?” I didn’t cop to it at the time, but the answer is, well, yeah. That he looks so goofy to me now says a lot about some of the fears we tend to carry—but that’s for another post.

The real a-ha moment came when Yukon Cornelius, Hermey, and Rudolph choose to severe themselves from the mainland and float into the icy unknown in order to escape the Abomitable. In this event there was something unmisakedly Rubicon-like about Cornelius’ willingness to break the ice and float away with his new community, Rudolph and Hermey. He didn’t even give it a second thought. And when Rudolph’s nose again threatens to give them away, no one abandoned him or chastised him, instead they find a solution together because, at this point, they are all in it together; the ships burned on the beaches.

This is such a contrast to life in Christmastown where every day is Christmas, the citizens sing instead of talk, and rub elbows with the one and only Santa Claus every day of the year. You’d think this was the perfect place to live! For sure it seems to be safe from the kind of danger embodied by the Abomitable. The only problem with Christmastown is that they don’t handle exceptions very well. And I guess another problem with Christmastown is that they expect everyone to be the same—and if you do find yourself a little different, then for crying out loud find some means to hide it. And yet another problem is that it is so safe. But most obvious to me during this last viewing is the reality that the Christmastowners were unwilling, at least in the beginning, to get on that proverbial “piece of ice” with Rudolph, one of their own, and “do life” with him. This is only commentary about what intimate community should look like: within our groups we’ve got to be willing to be Cornelius for others by getting on that ice with them, but also to be ourselves and be willing to allow others into our stories.

But there are other aspects of community life to be found in Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer:

“Like I said, the outside world is up to its ears in danger.” Absolutely. And the life of a disciple living in the epic God has called us into is most likely laced with danger as well. One of my friends has on his email signature, “Be kind to everyone, for we are all in a great battle.” Sam the Snowman gets it.

“Hey, what do you say we both be independent together, huh?” Such irony. In being independent together Hermey and Rudolph were taking the first steps toward redemptive community. Rudolph and Hermey were willing to forsake the comforts of Christmastown in order to become who he was created to be in Hermey’s instance, and recover a broken heart in Rudolph’s instance.

“You’ll never fit in! Now you come to elf practice, learn how to wiggle your ears, chuckle warmly, go hee-hee and ho-ho, and important stuff like that. A dentist! Good grief!” A dangerous message of the Enemy combatted best within the context of community. The need to belong is profoundly different from the pressure to fit in.

Rudolph: It’s terrible… and different from everybody else’s! Clarice: But that’s what makes it so grand.” Doesn’t everybody need to hear, from someone intimately acquainted with them, that they are grand—an image bearer of the one true God no less? Really know your group so you can join Jesus in binding the broken hearts.

“Mrs. Donner and Clarice decided to set out on their own. Now they were really taking their chances.” Of course, we were not made to “go it alone” and once again Sam the Snowman passes on great insight to us—we are really taking our chances when we decide to go out into the storm—even with the best of intentions—by ourselves. Remember what happens? Mrs. Donner and Clarice made themselves vulnerable to the Abomitable and become his prisoners. Only the band of brothers, Yukon Cornelius, Hermey, and Rudolph, were uniquely equipped to free them.

Good stuff. And that’s not even getting into the great “misfit toy” storyline. Watch it with your group and ask some questions about community along the way.