“But you must believe when I tell you this, It’s as real as my skull and it DOES exist!”
Peeling back the skin to see the narrative bone structure of The Nightmare Before Christmas and it’s skeletal character, Jack, our third narrative beat finds the once-sorrowful Pumpkin King speeding back to Halloweentown after his life-changing experience with Christmas. He’s just had his nightmarish world spun topsy turvy with a divine revelation of a happy, colorful land beyond his own, a rejuvenation that fills his heart and warms his bones with a fresh sense of living that he’s excited to share. Articulation of that newfound bliss, however, proves more difficult than our skinny protagonist anticipated.
“Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is INEXPRESSIBLE…” – 1 Peter 1:8
Just as there is an aspect of experiencing God’s presence that defies mere verbal assignment, Skeleton Jack’s sing-song ravings about the things he saw, how it affected him, and how much everyone would benefit from the revelation he’s enjoyed are something his audience can’t quite grasp. Like the overeager but immature convert, he’s an evangelist who lacks the language and seasoning to give a good account:
“It’s a world unlike anything I’ve ever seen… And as hard as I try, I can’t seem to describe, Like a most improbable dream…”
The joy-filled citizen of Halloweentown even brings back little evidences of the grace-filled city he’s encountered, but these items alone are not enough to illuminate the depth of wonder and renewed life it’s instilled in him. Trying to describe the point of a present, a stocking, etc. all fall short as his listeners overlay their own context and automatic interpretation. Jack can’t reason them into his newfound joy, and his ecstatic utterances are all misinterpreted. They are curious, however, like when the Athenians heard the gospel articulated by the apostle Paul in Acts 17:
“…you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.”
However, as eager as the unenlightened denizens of Halloweentown want to play with the ideas Jack has brought them, it’s clear they don’t truly understand them. It’s a reminder that the enthusiasm about the belief we hold most dear shouldn’t be handled carelessly, shouldn’t be presented imprecisely, and Christian scripture is harsh in its admonishment that not all should presume to be teachers. Jack’s elation outpaces his evangelistic abilities, and ultimately in frustration and haste he makes an even worse decision, pandering to his listeners and twisting his presentation of “Sandy Claws” to fit their tastes.
“…having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” – 2 Timothy 4
Jack’s mishandling of Christmastown’s reality is a lesson to all of us who rush to speak, lack coherence, and ultimately compromise a truth to tickle the ears of our listeners. This leads down a darker path we’ll look later, because On the 4th Day of (The Nightmare Before) Christmas…