Frozen Hearts

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January 12, 2014 by Pastor Ben McIntire

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As a father of young daughters, I get a steady diet of Disney Princess movies, books and toys. Frozen is the latest installment in the Disney Princess world, and this one is huge because there are TWO princesses: the sisters, Elsa and Anna. But my favorite thing about this movie is that there are two “comic relief” characters: a snowman and a reindeer. And get this, their names are Olaf (the long version of Ole) and Sven. And I do love those Ole and Lena jokes.
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Now before you start to think that this is just a commercial for the movie, let me tell you why I love the message of this film.

Frozen is an adaptation (very loosely based on) the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale The Snow Queen. Like most Hans Christian Anderson fairytales, there are underlying Christian themes: like love conquering fear, forgiveness, reconciliation, and sacrificial love.

The story is that Princess Elsa was born with a condition (or a curse) that she can control ice and snow, or sometimes lose control of her powers–causing harm. Once as children, Elsa and her little sister Anna were playing in the ballroom of their castle. Elsa made a whole playground of snow for her sister, until she accidentally hit her sister with a blast of ice. Anna recovers but their parents decide that Elsa must keep her abilities under control and keep them secret from everyone. Fear and anger cause her to lose control, so she is cut off from contact with the public, and even from Anna.

A few years later, the King and Queen are lost in a shipwreck and the whole kingdom of Arendelle grieves. When Elsa comes of age, she is crowned as the new queen–but that means reopening the castle for the coronation. Everything goes well during the ceremony and during the celebration afterward. Anna even seems to make some progress in restoring the broken relationship between the two sisters, until she asks for Elsa’s blessing on her engagement to a prince she just met that day. Elsa refuses and the resulting conflict brings out the fear and anger she had kept under control for so long. As the kingdom freezes up and the snows begin to fall, Elsa flees to the mountains and creates her own castle of ice…and isolation.
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Anna believes she can find her sister and heal the broken relationship and together restore Arendelle’s weather. But when Anna finds Elsa in her ice castle, she finds her sister still overwhelmed by guilt and fear, and separated from the love of her family. Watch what happens in this clip: “For the First Time In Forever”

I share this scene with you because I think we are familiar with the experience of a Frozen Heart–whether your own or someone you care about. When sin creeps into our hearts with icy fingers, we often feel the pain and guilt of causing harm to others, broken relationships, and the separation that sin causes in our relationship with God.

This is no new thing either. In ancient Israel, the people had fallen into sin and wickedness so far that God sent the prophet Ezekiel, thousands of years ago, to proclaim God’s message:

“I will restore my great name to holiness–my name, which the nations have profaned and abused, and you Israel, you have broken your relationship with me too. But I will pick you out from among all nations, I have chosen you, Israel. I will sprinkle you with water and wash away your uncleanness, your sin, guilt, and shame. And I will fill you up with a new spirit. I will take away your hearts of stone and give you warm hearts of living flesh. I will restore our relationship, you will be my people and I will be your God.”
(Paraphrase of Ezekiel 36:23-28)

It’s a beautiful, but humbling message. And it’s a fitting message this Sunday, as we remember the Baptism of our Lord. In baptism, as we are sprinkled with water, God’s promise is made to each of us personally–that our sins, pain, and guilt are washed away; we are filled with God’s Holy Spirit; and we are claimed as God’s people–God’s children.

We can run all we want, but we will never escape God’s presence. Not on a snowy mountain top in a castle of ice, not even in the depths of despair over our sin and our mortality. Guilt and fear cause our separation from God, our hearts frozen hard as stone. Sometimes we try shutting God and others out; but just like Elsa, fear and guilt and separation only leads us to storms of sin, the swirl of chaos, and more destruction, pain, and further separation.

And so the final answer is God’s sacrificial love. An act of love is what it takes to melt a frozen heart and restore a broken relationship. When Elsa accidentally freezes her sister’s heart, Anna thinks the act of love that will save her must be her true love’s kiss. Yet in the end when faced with the choice between running to her love to be saved, or to turn away and save her sister, Anna chooses the path of self-sacrifice. She not only turns from her own rescue, she stands between her sister and a sword. In that moment, she turns to solid ice. Her sister is safe, but it seems all is lost for Anna.
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**SPOILER ALERT**
Now, what we’ve come to expect from Disney movies is that at the last moment, when all seems lost and hopeless, the hero comes along and wakes the princess with a kiss of true love, right? But not here, and this is why I love Frozen so much… Elsa gets up from the ground and hugs her frozen sister. Maybe it’s this hug, this restored relationship between sisters, or maybe it’s Anna’s selfless act of sacrificial love, or maybe both… this is the true act of love that melts her frozen heart.

The same is true for us and our Savior, Jesus. It was God’s loving sacrifice, to allow himself to be sent to die on the cross that is the act of true love that restored us to God, even as full as we are of sin and guilt and pain. God’s love in Jesus Christ is the only thing that can melt our frozen hearts so that we can truly be free to love one another as God has first loved us.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I pray that you will melt my heart of ice. Help me turn from my sin and guilt to receive your grace and the warmth of your love for me, that I may be filled with joy and reflect your love in this world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Pastor Ben serves at St. Mark Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Storm Lake, Iowa.

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