3 Ways the Hit Christmas Movie “Elf” Can Help Christians Evangelize, According to this Missionary

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Warner Bros. / New Line Cinema / Public Domain

Christmas is once again upon us and that means one thing: Elf better be in my Netflix queue!

This summer, I thought a lot about evangelization, and I had a revelation: Buddy the Elf is the perfect example of a missionary!

For those who don’t know the movie or need a refresher, Elf is the story of a young baby whom Santa accidentally takes to the North Pole, where another elf raises him.

One day, though, it is revealed to him that he is actually human. After this life-changing shock, Buddy then goes to New York to build a relationship with his father, who is on the Naughty List. The rest of the story is a comical trip of a full a grown man who thinks he’s an elf, and eventually saves Christmas.

Now you might be thinking, “There is no way you can convince me that Elf is anything more than a cheesy Christmas movie.”

But there is so much that we can learn from Buddy!

In the movie, Buddy is taught from a young age that there are three rules every elf must learn: treat every day like Christmas, there’s room for everyone on the nice list, and the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear. Buddy lets these rules guide his entire life.

Similarly, every FOCUS missionary has three rules: divine intimacy, authentic friendship, and vision for spiritual multiplication.

Now Buddy the elf is not a missionary, but he does live by these three rules throughout his efforts to spread the Christmas spirit. The way Buddy shares Christmas with others is a great example of how we can do the same for Jesus Christ.

I’m not crazy. See for yourself:

3 Ways Buddy the Elf’s Example Can Help Us Become Better Christian Evangelizers

1) Divine Intimacy

Buddy loves Christmas more than probably any human that has ever existed, because he spent all of his life in a close, intimate relationship with the big man himself, Santa Claus.

Buddy learned at the feet of the master, and if he wasn’t learning from Santa directly, he learned from Papa Elf, Santa’s most faithful servant.

It’s this relationship that encourages Buddy through everything.

When Buddy is thrown into the crass, unbelieving world of New York, he isn’t fazed, but instead, wants everyone to know his joy. Evangelization must flow from this a wellspring of joy within the heart.

Just as Buddy remained close Santa, we must stay close to God. It is only when we are close to God that we can be an effective missionaries.

He must be our source. God, our Father–our Dad–helps us to see people the same way he does and to love people with the same unconditional love he has.

Daily prayer, scripture reading, and taking part in the sacraments, are the ways in which God reaches out to us from heaven and changes our hearts so we may imitate him.

When I begin to love people as my Dad loves them, how could I not want to share the Gospel with them?

2) Authentic Friendship

Buddy seeks friendship with all those he meets, whether it’s his new family, a little girl in the doctor’s waiting office, or the man he shares “syrup” with in the mailroom. He wants everyone to have a friend.

Rather than keeping his head down and moving with the rest of the world, Buddy looks to those around him.

He engages with Carolyn in the doctor’s office, and discovers her Christmas wishes. He looks to his coworker in the mailroom and listens to his story. While exploring New York, he stops in a coffee shop just to congratulate them for their coffee.

Like Buddy, I can be pretty awkward. But I know that every single person I meet deserves a friend. I may not be able to a friend to everyone, but being a missionary means encountering people in daily moments. Christ’s joy always trumps my own awkwardness.

3) Vision of Spiritual Multiplication

Although Buddy brings joy to all those around him and desires their friendship, there are two people he deeply invests in: His brother, Michael, his girlfriend, Jovie.

He pours himself into these two relationships, teaching them about the Christmas spirit and showing what true happiness means.

At the movie’s climax, Santa’s sleigh crashes. It runs on Christmas spirit, something New York greatly lacked.

Although Buddy spread the Christmas spirit to those he encountered, Michael and Jovie were the two people who invited the entire crowd outside of Central Park to sing Christmas carols. This is ultimately what gave Santa’s sleigh enough spirit to fly again.

We might just be one person. We can’t reach everyone.

Instead we can pour into a few people, walking with them daily, and model for them a life of discipleship with Christ. These few can do the same for others. In this way, we create enough zeal for the Gospel and make a lasting hope for others.

The Gospel is so much greater than a generic “Christmas spirit.” In fact, the real Christmas spirit is one of evangelization.

We waited for this thing to happen all of our lives: God became man! He’s here! He’s one of us! I can know him! And now I need to tell the world!  God gave of Himself, the greatest gift any person could ever receive.

Shouldn’t we be at least as joyful–at least as dedicated as Buddy?

This article was originally published on the FOCUS blog.

[See also: Here’s 10 Family Christmas Movies With Christlike Messages to Watch This Season]

[See also: 4 Ways Evangelical Protestants Curiously Turn Catholic Every Christmas]

Zachary Jarrell
Zachary Jarrell is a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, GA. His concentration was religious studies at the University of Alabama. He loves music, football, and eating all the weird meat his priest hunts.