Faith Lessons from Buddy the Elf

“When we trust in him, we’re free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go. So don’t let my present trouble on your behalf get you down. Be proud!” (Ephesians 3:12-13 MSG)

A few years ago I wrote a blog about one of my favorite Christmas movies called Elf. I was reminded of the movie on Sunday night when we were playing a game with our youth where they had to do voiceovers to scenes from different movies, and this was one of the clips. If you have not seen the movie, this blog is probably not going to make much sense to you. The whole movie surrounds the character named “Buddy the elf” played by Will Ferrell. He is a human being that was adopted by an elf in the North Pole, and is encouraged to go find his real father in New York City. He is one of the only humans to have ever seen Santa’s workshop and to have been involved in the toy-making process at the North Pole.

The comedy is mainly found in him being in a city like New York, dressed ridiculously, and interacting with cold New Yorkers. One part of the movie Buddy is told that Santa is coming to a department store the next day. He freaks out yelling, “Santa is coming!” Buddy spends the entire night decorating the department store getting it up to shape for the coming of Santa. The next day, “Santa” comes out and is the normal mall Santa Claus. He smells like beef and is wearing a fake beard. Buddy keeps insisting in front of the kids that he is not the real Santa. This is because he has actually seen the real Santa. Buddy eventually freaks out and pulls his beard off screaming that he is a faker. All of the children are horrified seeing the elf and Santa fighting and knocking over store displays. On top of this, their faith in Santa could be ruined because Buddy has exposed this imposter.

When watching Elf, you may wonder, “What harm is it doing to the kids to see a “fake Santa” as opposed to the “real Santa”?” What Buddy has done seems to destroy children’s faith in Santa as opposed to building it up. The only thing is that Buddy has seen the real Santa, and this guy is not him. He doesn’t have to be convinced that Santa exists because he personally knows Santa.

I believe, in a way, this is the type of faith we are called to live out in a world that thinks belief in God is as practical as belief in Santa Clause. As I think about the overall lack of courage and faith that most Christians have (including myself) and why we’re not living out our faith boldly, I have to wonder if it’s because we are not sure if we really know God. We know of God. We do things for God. We talk and read about God. But in all of these activities, do we actually know Him? Do you know what He likes and dislikes? Or here’s a better question: Does God know you?

In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus describes groups of people that have plenty of actions towards God, but no relationship with God. He says that these people in the end will hear, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” But it shouldn’t surprise us that so many people know about God in our culture today while having very little faith in God. Think about how we treat sports stars and celebrities. There are some people that can tell you how much Peyton Manning weighs, how many yards he’s thrown for, and other random and creepy details about him. But knowing about Peyton Manning doesn’t mean you know him. It doesn’t mean you can call him up on his cell phone and go over to his house. Knowledge about someone is not knowledge of someone.

At the end of Elf, Santa is forced to use an engine on his sleigh because it was formerly flown by belief. Belief in Santa had dwindled over the years, and so he was forced to use other means so he can do his good deeds on December 24th. His engine breaks down in Central Park and he is unable to fly unless the people begin to restore their belief in him. While this part of the movie is corny, it does provide some insight as well. One of the kids asks Santa why he doesn’t go out and show himself, and Santa responds that it is about belief, not visual proof. He says, “In fact, the paparazzi have been chasing me for years.” Maybe this is where God is today with us.

If you have truly met Him, I challenge you to live as you know and trust the messiah. I challenge you to begin to live with courageous faith in Him. Because, “(w)hen we trust in him, we’re free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go.”

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