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5 Lessons from Buddy the Elf

My kids and I sat down to watch the movie Elf recently. Despite having watched this movie many times, we found ourselves laughing, enjoying every silly line from a movie that quickly became a classic Christmas favorite.

My oldest child is abnormally tall…especially for my family. The doctor even referred to him as a mutant. We use him relentlessly for tasks like changing air filters and reaching things on the top shelves. As the elves try to convince Buddy he has amazing talents, like changing the batteries in smoke detectors, we all looked at Blake and just belly-laughed.

Then, when Buddy learned he was not actually an elf, one of the characters told him matter-of-factly, “Buddy, you’re 6’3” tall and you’ve had a beard since you were 15. You’re not an elf. You’re a human living in an elf world.”

Again, we all looked at my 6’4” tall, bearded 16 year-old son and had a big laugh! My son is simply a human living in an elf’s world! We finally have an explanation for him!

We learned much about my son while watching Elf this year, but I also began to contemplate what Buddy could teach us about life. Does Buddy have some secrets to enjoying Christmas, to living the Christian life?

Here’s a few lessons from Buddy the Elf.

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

Buddy learned the secret to Christmas cheer—and making Santa’s sleigh fly—while living at the North Pole. It’s simple: everyone sings Christmas songs, loudly, for all the world to hear. There’s no fear, no shame. You simply lift your voice and make a joyful sound.

Isn’t that what scripture teaches us? The secret to life is praise and worship. Look at the Psalms, filled with songs of praise to our Father. After almost every miracle, the Israelites wrote and sang songs of praise, songs to help them remember the faithfulness of God, songs that pointed their hearts back to the One who rescued them.

Praising our Father reminds us of his character, his goodness. It focuses our hearts on God, draws us into his presence. It fills our hearts with peace, his perfect peace. It helps us center our hearts and minds on those things that are of greatest importance.

Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. Ephesians 5:19

“Congratulations! You’ve done it! World’s best cup of coffee!”

When Buddy arrives in New York City, he’s simply walking the streets, taking in the strange sights and sounds. He happens across a small diner with a sign in the window proclaiming it serves the world’s best cup of coffee. Buddy, having spent his life at the North Pole, doesn’t understand hyperbole or advertising. So, he busts through the door of the diner and offers a loud and heartfelt congratulations for serving the world’s best coffee.

One of the characteristics that makes Buddy so loveable is his heart of encouragement. If he thinks something positive (which is all the time), he says it without reservation. Buddy is constantly throwing out words of encouragement to everyone he meets, even those who ridicule him.

Scripture is full of admonition to let our words be those of encouragement, words that build others up. We are told to think on things that are lovely and noble and true and right and excellent and praiseworthy. When we think on the right things, we speak the right words, words that are loving and pure, not harsh or abusive. We are told to let our words reflect the God we serve.

 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:29

"I thought maybe we could make ginger bread houses, and eat cookie dough, and go ice skating, and maybe even hold hands."

Buddy is a 6’3” man walking the streets of New York City in an elf costume…and he is completely oblivious to how different he is from everyone else in the city. He lives life his way, going against the flow of normal. When his dad finally accepts Buddy is his son, Buddy plans his perfect day with his dad, a day of making snow angels and eating cookie dough and holding hands and snuggling. It’s certainly not his dad’s idea of the perfect day!

Isn’t that what we as Christians are called to do? Aren’t we called to be set apart, different from the world in which we live? Didn’t God say we are to please God and not man?

Our lives should be a stark contrast to the world around us. Perhaps it’s our language or our actions that go against the grain of society. Maybe it’s the way we conduct business, living by the highest level of integrity. Perhaps it’s the value we place on living in purity, fleeing even the slightest hint of sexual immorality.

Pastor Craig Groeschel frequently says we must be weird, because normal isn’t working.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

“I like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.”

It doesn’t seem to matter what others do to Buddy. He is always smiling! He’s insulted and ridiculed. He’s thrown out of stores, tossed in jail. He’s beat up, used and abused.

And yet he never loses his joy.

How much more should we have joy? We have the king of Kings living in our hearts. We have the Savior of the universe on our side. We have the God of love, the one who makes beauty out of brokenness fighting for us. What joy the Father gives!

I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High. Psalm 9:2

 “I’m in love! I’m in love! And I don’t care who knows it!”

Buddy bursts into his dad’s office proclaiming he is in love with Jovie. His exuberance is overwhelming! He simply cannot contain himself!

And that’s the type of love we should have for God, a love that bubbles over and spill out into our words and actions. A love we can’t contain. A love that doesn’t care who knows.

And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Mark 12:30

There’s so much more I love about Buddy the Elf. He has a child-like faith. Santa is real to him, and no one can take that away from him. He exhibits the same faith in Santa I want to have in God. He has this incredible sense of wonder and excitement, a sense of wonder that delights in even the smallest activities. Whether it is the spinning doors or the other sights of New York City, Buddy finds absolute joy in every experience. And, as his little brother says, Buddy cares about everyone.

Sometimes in this life I feel like a cotton-headed ninny-muggins, as if I don’t belong. The truth is, I don’t belong. And, if you belong to the Savior, you don’t either. We are aliens and strangers living in this world, called to keep our eyes on the eternal home we are promised. We should long for that place where we are with our Father, forever, where no one and nothing can separate us.

We have the promise of eternal life because of the baby born that Christmas morning over 2000 years ago. Let’s take the same joy and sense of wonder and excitement over our Savior that Buddy has about life in general.

The angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”  Luke 2:10-14

Merry Christmas, my friends!