Meditation on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Edward Harris

What can we say about Rudolph?

He was excluded by other reindeer. They did not let him play with them. We may feel confident that they made fun of him and his red nose.

It is possible that they hurt poor Rudolph. He was on the outside. The other reindeer had a special relationship with Santa Claus. They were the elite: Dancer, Dasher, Prancer, Comet, Blitzen, fine names, sturdy names, bespeaking solidarity, stability, education, training, ability, access to the very best. These reindeer were strong and fast.

Rudolph was smaller and his only distinctive feature was a shiny red nose. It seemed to have a glow about it. It made the young Rudolph a figure of fun. "See Rudolph the Red-nosed. Ha! Ha! I'd rather be dead than red in the nose,” they'd say.

Still he may have been content to be red-nosed by himself. He probably muttered more than once, "I don't care. Let them have all of the fun. I can have fun by myself."

Did Rudolph wish to be included? We don't know? Probably he did, for it is the deepest wish of all creatures to belong and be accepted.

So what happened?

On a foggy Christmas Eve, Santa realized Rudolph could make the difference in guiding the sleigh. Rudolph could lead them through. Rudolph's special trait was his ugly, shiny, red nose. It was this nose, this trait that was needed.

So Santa goes to little Rudolph and asks him to guide the sleigh. Actually to lead it. He would be in front of the other reindeer. Because their mission of getting Christmas to the boys and girls of the world was so important, it became necessary to rethink past practices.

When Rudolph was asked, what did he say? We don't know; it's not recorded. We know he did not say: "I can't. I'm too little." He didn't say, "Me? The others always make fun of me." He didn't say, "Now you ask me, I've got something else to do. It isn't fair."

He didn't say spitefully, "Get somebody else. Let Dancer do it." He didn't say, "I hope you crash, you and all the others."

So we have a classic story of the insiders excluding the newcomer and making fun of his special traits. It happens all of the time in schoolrooms, playing fields, classes, society.

We say: "They just don't have it. And if they do, well we got here first and don't have to let them in our group, our company, our church, our country club, our political party, our games."

He just did it. He led the sleigh through. He did the job. It was a hard job but he did it. Then all the reindeer loved him.

What does the little story, the bit of doggerel mean? What is its moral?

Some possible meanings: Anybody can serve; we need everyone to be part of the team; even the ugliest (or what we label ugly) and smallest has a special contribution to make; the mission is more important than personalities.

There are perhaps others. (Can you think of some?) Remember them when you hear the song.