The Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer invents an Island of Misfit Toys. These rejects garner sympathy and eventually Rudolph prevails on Santa to give them to children.
This was cruel of Rudolph.
The “misfit” toys are in toy classes: some are just different, but others are broken. A “jelly squirt gun” might be clever, but a train with square wheels is going to be disappointing. If Rudolph were kind, he would have the Elves whittle down the wheels of the square-wheeled train and make it work properly. If this were not possible, the solution was not to pawn the broken toy off on a kid stuck with a broken train when he wanted a working one, but to find some other use for animate toys that did not work well as toys.
If there ever was a time when conformity was praised and being misfit was difficult, this is not that time. We all claim Misfit Toy status, not so we can be repaired, but so we can lord it over all the “normal” toys. I am a misfit and am sorry for it. I ask Jesus to make me a fit for his Kingdom. May I become less a fit for this age and more a fit for the age to come!
Moderation, a virtue ancient philosophers thought might be the greatest, is boring. We are radical for everything: including Jesus, except when that radicalism would cause us to call for holiness or a virtue that implied someone was a misfit. The only way I know to “fit in” in my academic sub-culture is to cultivate foibles and to accept the foibles of others.
Against this stands Christmas. Christmas with its vast traditions, the same year after year, is an act of conformity. We put up a tree and decorate it with decorations from the past. We read the ancient story as our Fathers and Mothers read it before our time. If we follow the Church calendar, then we moderate our appetites in the Advent fast. This is as it should be since God Himself took on human flesh and conformed in all ways to our nature.
Are there still pastors brave enough to preach, in conformity with history, the Second Coming as a prelude to our memory of the First? At that Great and Terrible Day, if we have not let the Spirit whittle down our square wheels, we are likely to be put with the goats and not with the sheep. Of course it is true that our sinful natures cannot change, if we are ourselves we are misfits for Paradise, but that is why God gives us the chance to get a new nature. Someday our old nature will once for all be truly dead and our new nature fully conformed to His divine, good, and beautiful nature will live forever.
I do not want to conform to my culture, my political party, my class, or my times. I want to conform to the Will of God. How to know that will? I know it by reason, experience, and sacred tradition. If I veer too far from the ancient ways, and pretend to have found a new one, then I am like those trendy souls who are always improving Christmas only to see their holiday innovations (Socko the Snowball!) fade with time.
The day will come when “Rudolph” will vanish as the holiday innovation he is. The Christ child and the manger will remain. Christ is born! Glorify Him!