John the Baptist and an Elf Named Buddy by Jason Kotecki

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John the Baptist was a little bit nuts.


I mean, he’s held in very high esteem these days. He’s revered for standing up to the uppity kings and Pharisees of his time. He was the cousin of Jesus, for crying out loud.

But even though fancy suburban churches bear his name, I never seem to hear very much about how weird it was for him to live in the dessert eating locusts and wearing clothes made of camel hair. Although he’d certainly be an excellent contestant on Survivor, his antics were just as weird back then as they would be today.

We sometimes glide past these little details when talking about John, overlooking the fact that most of us would run the other way if we saw him standing on a street corner.

My friend Jenna shared with me the idea that John the Baptist is not completely unlike Buddy from the popular Christmas movie, Elf. I think she’s on to something.

In the film, Will Ferrell plays the lovable human character raised by elves at the North Pole. After learning that his real father is a New York City businessman who is also on Santa’s naughty list, Buddy decides to travel to the Big Apple to meet him. To get there, he passes through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then walks through the Lincoln Tunnel. Buddy’s enthusiasm for Christmas and being an elf doesn’t go over so well with most of the people he encounters.

Most people don’t take him very seriously. He certainly stands out. After all, he wears a tight-fitting green outfit — complete with silly looking elf shoes and hat — and puts syrup on everything.

It’s not camel hair pants and locusts, but it’s an unusual wardrobe and diet to say the least.

The religious leaders of John’s day were fakes. Hippocrites. Poseurs. They acted all high and mighty, pretending to be something they were not. The Baptist called them out, branding them as a “brood of vipers.”

Similarly, Buddy called out the “fake” Santa he encountered at a department store: “You sit on a throne of lies. You stink. You smell like beef and cheese! You don’t smell like Santa.”

Although Buddy the Elf and John the Baptist may have come across as a little nuts, there’s no question about the impact they made in the hearts of the people they encountered. Their secret was unlimited sincerity, unshakable faith, and unbridled passion.

Upon hearing that Santa was coming to town, Buddy couldn’t contain his excitement. “Santa?!” he shouted. “Oh my gosh! Santa’s Coming! I know him! I KNOW HIM!”

I can imagine it was with the same fervor that John preached his message of the coming Messiah. It was a BIG deal. John was on fire about the news, and he didn’t just preach a message, he lived it.

John is a key figure during the Advent season. As much as we sail past some of John’s more unusual traits, I fear that we also miss out on his example. Do we look forward to Christmas with the same level of attention and enthusiasm? Or do we shuffle through the season, buying gifts, decorating our homes and attending parties, all the while lamenting the hurriedness of it all? Are we really living the Christmas message, or do we just preach it using Christmas cards and carols? Have we grown too jaded to appreciate the joy that is at hand?

It seems to me that Christians everywhere should be shouting, “Oh my gosh, Jesus is coming! I know him! I KNOW HIM!”

That unadulterated enthusiasm for God entering our story is what I believe Advent is really all about.

Maybe we should all be a little bit more nuts.

Of course, maybe I’m just a cotton-headed ninnymoggins.

Copyright 2009 Jason Kotecki


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