The Gospel According to The Nightmare Before Christmas
The title of this one might throw some for a loop. We don’t often think in terms of Gospel in connection with the creative imagery in the mind of Tim Burton, but yesterday as Ali and I watched The Nightmare Before Christmas as a Halloween time special I was struck by a theme that resounds in Scripture and that is the theme of each person’s unique gifting and calling.
Well if you are still reading by this point I am guessing that you are curious about how I see Jack Skellington pointing towards the truth of the Bible, then let’s get to it.
Immediately after being introduced to Jack in the song “This is Halloween,” we quickly see that he has become completely dissatisfied and bored with his holiday land his is called to lead as the Pumpkin King. He is dejected, broken, and left wandering through the woods all night with his ghost dog Zero.
In my own life I have had this thought a ton as Ali and I have went through this difficult season where our calling shifted from being obviously adventurous, living overseas, and instead drew us back to my hometown.
All the while, one buddy of mine looks as if God has opened every door in his life imaginable. He is getting to travel, find adventure, and do some epic stuff for Jesus.
Can I be honest? I want that. I want his story right about now.
I want epic. I want that life Facebook presents so well.
So I am with Jack as he is waking in despair through the forest, all the way up until he comes upon the tree portals of the various holidays and whines up in Christmas Land!
Jack’s joy is too much too bear!
He sings, “I can't believe my eyes, I must be dreaming Wake up, Jack! This isn't fair! What's this?”
We already get the sense that his captivation with this life that is not just enchantment but envy; envy of a life that seems so much more vibrant and delightful than his own.
Eventually, he makes he returns back to his ghoulish dwelling and brings with him a test sample of the wonder he experienced in the jolly paradise he loved.
He does a formal presentation to the entire town, but because they didn’t directly experience the magic none of it really makes sense to them.
So Jack begins an experimenting season, but comes to the realization that the basis for the new to him holiday is not something measurable through experimentation but an occasion to experience…
He exclaims, “Eureka! This year Christmas will be ours!”
It is easy to get caught up in this mentality. I want it.
I want what other people have.
We definitely do this in the church world. We might desperately want to be on the worship arts team, but our calling seems to “only” be to work in the kids ministry.
Maybe we idolize the position of preacher or elder, while “only” serving on the hospitality team.
Or idolizing the missionaries who come back every year and give an incredible report of the work they are doing in a closed country, but you are “only” working at the local school.
I mean how can we measure up to the ones up front, on the front lines, “doing the work of ministry?”
There are plenty of ways for us to become envious like Jack of the calling of another. In fact, there are an infinite amount of ways.
This was even part of Adam and Eve’s original sin, they were envious that God had knowledge they weren’t aware of, and the serpent tempted them into rebellion, promising to make them “like God.”
We want that calling!
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth in regards to this envy and false prioritization of giftings within the church. He compared the church as the body of Christ, composed of many different body parts all uniquely called to unique functions. Paul explains, “For the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Cor. 12:14).
But still it is so easy to make life about being the most important body part.
And this is what Jack did.
So Jack unites the town in the misguided venture of a hostile takeover of Christmas. They kidnap Santa, they fill up a sack with dangerous toys, and Jack flies into the sky.
Quickly we realize how terrible of an idea this is. Kids are getting traumatized as he slides down each Chimney.
Wreaths are attacking old ladies.
Vampire Dolls are hovering through the house.
Not good stuff, which leads the military to shoot Jack out of the sky.
Which for Jack brings on the realization that he was a terrible Santa.
But you know what? He was never meant to be Santa.
He finally has this moment of realization in a graveyard when he proclaims, “That’s right. I AM THE PUMPKIN KING!”
Finally, in this moment he begins to live his life once again the way he was called. Not out of envy but out of gratitude, and it is in that sweet spot that we are all called to live in.
Could you imagine if in the body of Christ we all desperately wanted the calling to be the eye? Well Paul explains, “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (17-18).
I am not called to have the same story as my globetrotting buddy. You are not called to live the life of that person who went to high school with you who seems to have life figured out better than you.