Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows
All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games

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

Then how all the reindeer loved him, as they shouted out with glee:
“Rudolph the red-nose Reindeer, you'll go down in history!”

We all love a good story when the underdog comes out on top. We love Rocky winning the title round, Hoosiers taking the championship, Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star, and yes, even Rudolph guiding Santa’s sleigh in the fog. And Rudolph gets the added bonus of having the object of his ridicule turn into the only hope for his haters. And man—we love that.

We love it because we’re all theologians of glory. It’s a tough default theological position to fight. How dare those other reindeer laugh at poor Rudolph! How dare they not let him join in their games! What happened to Santa? Why does he allow this bullying? Rudolph could really use some of that legalistic, naughty or nice, reward or punishment ethic dumped on Dancer and Prancer for a change.

Apparently if you can pull a sleigh through the sky you get a pass in Santa’s book. And Rudolph isn’t even allowed to be part of the sleigh squad until a thick fog rolls in. Is Santa nothing more than a blind opportunist? Is this why he has to ask? Tough moment for poor old Santa: “Rudolph, I’m sorry about all the name calling I didn’t stop. But they’re right, your nose is crazy bright. Have you seen the density of this fog? How about joining the team?”

That isn’t even the worst of it. The closing moral tells us if you save the day everyone will love you and you’ll be famous. This implies that apart from Rudolph’s pivotal moment in the spotlight of his own nose, all the mocking, ridicule, and isolation would have continued. But we can’t have that can we? That doesn’t make for a heartwarming story or a cheery song, but it does look more like life in a sinful world.

Santa is a lousy “savior” and earning your acceptance is simply exhausting. It requires ongoing maintenance. Sure hope this red nose of his doesn’t stop glowing anytime soon. It’s your claim to fame now buddy.

Just like Rudolph, we need a Christmas. A real one. We all do. We long for a Christmas where someone will come to love and accept us just as we are—glowing imperfections and all.

And not because he needs us. We need a Christmas that says, “You don’t need to save the day or go down in history. I’m going to do those things for you. You just come along for the ride.”

A theology of the cross might have Rudolph end up as Smoked Venison Jerky, but he’ll be loved and accepted with no strings attached, and that’s far better—Christmas for the win.