Rudolph vs Unconditional Love


I have a real problem with the Christmas song ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.’  Before you think that I’ve gone a bit bonkers, let me explain as we go through the song in this blog.

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer….had a very shiny nose….And if you ever saw him, you would even say it glows….

No problem so far.  Rudolph is different from other reindeer but I’m sure we would all agree that he has inherent value and we at Emmanuel would welcome and value him – if reindeer were allowed into the church.

All of the other reindeer….used to laugh and call him names.  They never let poor Rudolph….join in any reindeer games….

I assume here that Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid and Donner are all juvenile reindeer, since this sounds familiar in terms of school playground behaviour and how people who are different are sometimes treated.  I used to be guilty of merrily singing this song at Christmas and missing the importance of this line.  It describes an individual being laughed at, insulted and ostracised.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve Santa came to say: "Rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh tonight?" 

We aren’t told whether Santa had previously met Rudolph and was aware of his potentially helpful nose, waiting for a foggy Christmas eve to approach him for help.  Or perhaps the writer of the song wrongly and sinfully attributes to Santa an element of omniscience.  Whatever the explanation, Santa grants Rudolph something of a social lifeline and the opportunity to be useful.

Then all the reindeer loved him as they shouted out with glee, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, you'll go down in history!

The first part of this line is what troubles me in this Christmas song.  The reindeer are demonstrating conditional love.  The only reason that the reindeer love Rudolph is because of his new association with Santa and the amazing feat that he is about to accomplish.  They don’t value Rudolph for who he is as a person reindeer, which is very different from how God sees humankind.

Do we sometimes forget God’s unconditional love for us?  Think about Romans 5 v8: ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’  God didn’t require mankind to stop sinning before he loved us. Moreover, John 3:16 is a familiar verse to many of us, but it’s easy to overlook the impact of the first words of this verse, with my key emphasis in bold, ‘For God so loved the world….’ This gives us a glimpse of the love of God that drove him to send his son.

At Christmas, 1 John 4:9-10 is a wonderful reminder of God’s unconditional love: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

So please continue to sing ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer’ at Christmas.  But ironically, perhaps it will prompt us to celebrate at Christmas the unconditional love of God.


Barry Jubraj, 10/12/2015