A couple of weeks ago, Ashley brought up one of our most beloved Christmas movies, Elf. Elf is one of those Christmas movies that belongs wholly in the secular realm. Like Trading Places and Die Hard, Elf is a Christmas movie that doesn’t reference the actual Christmas story at all. Yes there are lights and Christmas trees and endless treats. But no nativity scene. Not a mention of baby Jesus or the manger.
But I would submit that, despite the lack of explicit Jesus in Elf, it’s a deeply Christian Christmas film. Part of that is the Christmas journey Buddy undergoes: a child leaves his divine home to inhabit our ordinary world, and transforms it. But a big part of it is the journey of Buddy’s dad, Walter.
Walter lives in a world all too familiar to all of us: he manufactures cheer and goodwill without experiencing it himself. He’s cynical, suspicious and closed off – the total opposite of Buddy. And while his family – led by Buddy – draws him closer and closer to that joy-filled world of Christmas, one where the cynical Walter can believe in something bigger than himself.
It’s the climactic moment of the movie where Santa’s sleigh almost has enough magic to fly, but something’s missing: Walter’s belief! It’s not enough for Walter to accept his son is truly his son. It’s not enough that he’s met the real Santa. Walter has to let go of his ego, his pride, his cynicism and believe.
And how does he do that? By singing loud for all to hear.
Friends, in a cynical world, the most courageous thing we can do is believe, loud and proud.
The third Sunday of Advent is always my favorite because it’s the day we insist that hope is joyful. When we prepare, when we wait, we don’t do it dourly. We do it with a heart full of anticipation. Excitement and joy fill our spirits because we know what God is up to.