In this age of commercialized Christmases, I thought it might be fun to look more deeply into some of the songs, carols and traditions of the season. I’m not sure how close any of these things will come to the real reason of the season, the celebration of Jesus’ birth, but it may prove interesting. Regardless, these traditions, real or imagined impact our lives, so let’s see where the potpourri of nostalgia leads.
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph’s prominence and popularity may make you think this red-nosed member of the deer family has been around forever, and to the children of today, he has. But in reality he did not appear until Christmas of 1939. Though one account states that Robert L. May wrote the fable to comfort his daughter, Barbara, after the death of her mother and sold the rights to Montgomery Ward Department Stores to pay off the medical bills, this is a stretch of the truth. It would make a great Hallmark movie, but if you’re looking for facts, you’ll need to dig a bit deeper – makes you wonder why someone would lie about Rudolph, but I digress.
According to Scopes, Montgomery Ward tasked May to write the story for the purpose of distributing it to children who visited Santa. As a member of their staff, the rights for the story belonged to Montgomery Ward. Writing in verse and couplets, May did test the story on his daughter to ensure of its appeal to children. Initially, Montgomery Ward compensated him only as their copywriter, but deeply in debt because of his wife’s medical bills, May negotiated with Ward’s president, Sewell Avery, to restore the copyright to him in 1947. The key to Rudolph’s success came later when May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, crafted the song made popular by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. (Today’s kids likely never heard of him, either.)
The story about the ostracized reindeer does contain a message of hope for all those kids out there who don’t travel in the popular crowds or are sought out because of skill or beauty. Rudolph had none of this, yet he had a purpose for life that would not surface until the year Santa encountered fog on Christmas Eve. This situation led to Rudolph’s discovery. As lead reindeer, his glowing nose allowed Santa to transport his sack of toys safely and deliver them to all of the good boys and girls around the world. He became a hero.
I guess this does bring us back to the real reason for the season after all. Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness for each person, regardless of their station in life, skillset or outward appearance also indicates He has a unique purpose for each one. Human beings aren’t cookie cutter creatures, and God has a plan for every one. Each one is special, yet all have a choice to follow God’s plan or their own. The story of Rudolph leaves Jesus out of Christmas, but you can gain some measure of truth from the illustration as you watch him wait for his time to shine.