Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Toy That Saved Christmas

It's hard to remember now that there was a time before VeggieTales. They didn't come along until 1993, and I didn't discover them until a few years later. I would eventually come to know these Veggies personally (I lived only a few miles from their studio in Lombard, IL) and appreciate their unique ways of communicating biblical truths through animation and great story-telling.  This is the story of how The Toy That Saved Christmas actually saved a Christmas party for us one year at FUMC-Kissimmee

During the Christmas season of 1996 the youth ministry of FUMC-K decided to throw a party for the younger children of the church on a Saturday morning in our Fellowship Hall. The goal was a festive gathering that would be fun and focus on the holiday as the birth of Jesus. A group of students and myself were in the youth room on Friday night putting together some decorations and games when we realized we had a problem. We had planned to be outside for part of the morning (it was Florida, after all!) but it was going to be cold and rainy, so we needed to re-group.  Someone suggested a movie to fill the time, but we didn't want to just show Rudolph or The Grinch. We wanted something with a Christian message. I remembered that I had received a video in a recent Interlinc shipment that had something to do with Christmas, so we decided to watch while we worked and see if it was any good. I had very low expectations. Christian films and cartoons were so often very cheesy. But we gave it a shot.

Almost immediately we were hooked. The opening song was very catchy. The animation was excellent. It was funny. And it had a great message about the true meaning of Christmas.  And then, right in the middle of the story, the Veggies interrupted themselves for something called Silly Songs With Larry. Larry was a cucumber, and the song was about Santa. If you've never seen this you are in for a treat. Watch it here!

The show continued on as Larry, Bob the Tomato, Junior Asparagus and a toy named Buzzsaw Louie tried to teach a nefarious toy maker named Wally P. Nezzer (brother of Nebby K. Nezzer- get it?) the true meaning of Christmas. We quit what we were doing and just sat down to watch. It was meaningful and hysterical. By the end of one viewing we were already quoting lines like it was a Monty Python movie. We immediately rewound it and watched it again- and it was just as awesome! It was like watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon- it was for children, but so much of the humor was great for older audiences as well. Creators Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki had outdone themselves. The next day the kids at the party watched it once, then wanted to see it two more times. The Toy That Saved Christmas really did just that. It set up our lesson for the morning perfectly with a line that still resonates in our world today. The narrator (Grandpa) says he is telling a story about a town that didn't get Christmas.  His grandveggie responds "That's terrible- a town that didn't have Christmas?" Grandpa then says, "Oh, they had Christmas. They just didn't get Christmas!" 

My prized VeggieTale Nativity set!!!
What a great description of much of our world today. Everyone celebrates Christmas- I'm just not sure how many people get it. And those of us who do understand the true meaning of Christmas cannot sit around and wait for someone else to explain it. If three vegetables and a toy with a fully-functioning buzzsaw in his right arm can bring the meaning of the birth of Jesus to Dinkletown (and rescue Mr. Nezzer from almost certain death in the process)then surely we can spread the word in our neighborhoods. And if you haven't seen the classic VeggieTale bible stories like Josh and the Big WallDave and the Giant Pickle and Rack, Shack and Benny- then go get them now!!! Have a blessed weekend everyone!

Jesus- the only hope for me is you...and You alone!

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