December 20, 2019 – Have any of you ever seen the Disney movie “Toy Story?” There is a great story in there, where the newest action figure, “Buzz Lightyear” thinks he’s a great Space Ranger, created to save the entire world from destruction by battling the evil Zurg.
The other toys from Woody the Cowboy to Bo-Peep, a dinosaur, and a slinky dog, try to work to explain to him how things really are, but he’s convinced he’s the real deal. Eventually, the others show Buzz the reality. He doesn’t take it well. “I’m just a stupid toy,” he remarks.
You either know someone, or are that person, who thinks he or she was put on Earth to be that person, the golden child, the destined one who would save all of humanity from everything. But along the way, most of us realize that we won’t be that champion. Just like Buzz Lightyear, that individual comes to the hard realization that we’re not the great rescuer. Our place in the world is a little humbler than we originally thought.
It’s particularly hard when one comes to this realization during the Christmas Season, when we’re reminded of the birth of Jesus, who came on Earth to do just what we wish we could be doing, be the savior, the King, the deity. It’s like seeing that success story that we’ll never be.
I’ve been kicking this column idea around for an upcoming Christmas column, when suddenly, I heard the same lesson from our pastor, Rev. John Beyers at First United Methodist Church in LaGrange, Georgia. It was a sign! I just had to write the column. But what was the lesson? What’s the moral of the story? If you’re a Christian, you’ll probably come across two lessons.
You’ll have some institutions of religion that will tell you that you’re the center of the universe, that because you’re a child of God, it makes you a superhero. Your birthright and special powers make the world yours to command. Prosperity may be at your fingertips. After some time, you’ll begin to think others should be honoring you. You’re also likely to be a little more disappointed when things don’t go your way, and something doesn’t work. It’s a painful lesson to learn your limitations, that you’re “only human.”
But if you pay close attention to the Bible, you’ll learn all of that. Your place may not be at the right hand of God, getting the chance to judge others for their fealty or lack thereof, but maybe there’s another noble calling that isn’t always emphasized today as much as it should be: to serve….not much more than being a toy, right?
Of course you’re not “just a plaything” but someone to play with, someone to bring joy, no matter what the circumstances are. That happiness can come with sharing some of what you have. Or it can lead to a personal interaction with someone who needs a little Christmas Spirit.
The clearest evidence we have that we’re here to serve, and not to be served, came from Jesus Christ himself. You’ll find plenty of references to him being “the King” this Christmas Season, we should remember that he said his mission was to serve, and showed this when he washed the feet of the disciples, sought to help those in distress, and sacrificed himself for sinners. You can learn about this, and how to do it for real in today’s world in your local community, at a good place of worship this Christmas Season, if you’ll give them a chance.
Just like that, toys do the same thing, give all of themselves to bring delight to others, often as personal expense of time and money. But at Buzz Lightyear learns, its also how to become the real hero you always want to be, instead of the fictional one often sold to us.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.