A Christmas Story

Title: A Christmas Story

Text: Matt 2.1-11

CIT: Wise men sought Jesus out; however, many were so caught up in events, that they missed that 1st Christmas.

CIS: You can miss Christmas

Introduction: Source: Wikipedia

In each of the film’s three acts, Ralphie makes his case to another adult and each time receives the same reply. When Ralphie asks his mother for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, she refuses. Next, when Ralphie writes an essay about wanting the BB gun for Miss Shields, his teacher at Warren G. Harding Elementary School, Ralphie gets a C+ and Miss Shields warns him of shooting his eye out. Later, Ralphie asks a local department store’s Santa Clause or a Red Ryder BB gun, and Santa tells him the same thing before pushing Ralphie down a long exit slide with his boot.

One day after he gets the C+ on his composition, Ralphie is hit in the face with a snowball thrown by the local bully, Scut Farkus and his sidekick, Grover Dill. Ralphie begins to cry and Farkus teases and taunts him until he snaps. Ralphie charges Farkus and begins to pummel him. During the fight, Ralphie shouts profanity non-stop as he lands blow after blow to the squealing Farkus. When Dill attempts to intervene, Ralphie pushes him away and continues beating Farkus at will. Ralphie’s brother, Randy, gets their mother who pulls her son off the bully and takes him home. This incident occurs shortly after Ralphie was punished for cursing while helping his father change a flat tire. Ralphie is worried about the cursing and is sure he will be punished again when his father gets home from work. Instead, Ralphie’s mother tells his father about the fight casually at the dinner table. She then changes the subject of the conversation to an upcoming Chicago Bears game, distracting his father and getting Ralphie off the hook in the process.

On Christmas morning, Ralphie looks frantically for a box that would hold the BB gun to no avail. He and Randy received several presents, but he is disappointed because he did not get the gun. As he accepts this fact and sits with his parents, his father points out one last half-hidden present, ostensibly from Santa. As the joyful Ralphie unwraps the BB gun, Mr. Parker explains the purchase to his surprised wife, stating that he had one himself when he was 8 years old.

Ralphie goes out to test his new gun, shooting at a paper target perched on top of a metal sign, and predictably gets a ricochet from the metal sign. This ricochet ends up hitting his cheek and glasses, sending them flying and knocking out a lens. While searching for the glasses, Ralphie inadvertently steps on and crushes the other side. He concocts a story about an icicle falling on him and breaking his glasses, which his mother believes, thanks in part to Ralphie’s realistic sobbing. She takes him upstairs to dry his face and forgets to close the door. This allows the pack of dogs from the Bumpus family (the hillbilly neighbors), who frequently torment Ralphie’s father, to enter the house and devour the Christmas turkey that is cooling on the kitchen table. Making a last-minute decision, Mr. Parker takes the family out to a Chinese restaurant where they have a hilarious time dining on duck, which adult Ralphie calls “Chinese turkey”.

The film ends with Ralphie lying in bed on Christmas night with his gun by his side. Randy is holding the toy zeppelin he received. The voiceover states that this was the best present he had ever received or would ever receive.

Application: I think this movie resonates with many of us Baby Boomers because it is not too unlike the childhood Christmas stories we lived. However, in all of the short stories that make up this movie and all of the sub-plots that fill the story line, never once is Jesus mentioned; never once is Christmas recognized as a time to celebrate the coming of our Lord and Savior. The movie is funny and nostalgic. It conjures images of an era when it was fun to be a kid. I suspect that there are many here who will not want to watch this with their children and will be offended at the movie. Others won’t see anything wrong with it. I’ll leave that judgment to you, as parents. However, if you watch this movie with your kids, you might want to preview it first.

Transition: This movie is a great reminder for me to make sure that I don’t miss Christmas by placing all of my attention and focus upon the secular and traditional. These in themselves are not bad; however, they can be when they replace the real reason for the season! They can be, if you get to the end of the Christmas season and say: This was the best Christmas ever and yet you never acknowledge Jesus.

So, how can you miss Christmas this year? Our text this morning is from Matthew 2.1-11, where we find some folks who missed that 1st Christmas. I’ve identified them and have listed them as being: The Intolerant, The Indifferent, The Ignorant

Intolerant – like Herod (The Potentate; The Ruler of the People)

Indifferent – like the Religious Leaders (The Priests; The Religious Leaders)

Ignorant  – like the people of Jerusalem (The People; The Region of Jerusalem)

So, who are the ones who miss Christmas in this story?

  1. The Intolerant

exp.: The intolerant are the ones who choose to make Christmas all about them. That is how Herod was! And, that’s how Ralphie was, too. Look at Herod’s response to the situation; Rd 2.1-4; the verbs

  1. He was troubled; stirred up
  2. He Inquired by assembling his team of scholars
  3. He summoned and ascertained the time

exp.: he sure is doing a lot here! Why? He’s intolerant. He’s king of this domain and he doesn’t want to give it up! He doesn’t want any interference with his position in life.

app.: It seems to me that there are those who are king of their own lives – ruling over all they survey! They don’t want to give up that spot.  They sit on the throne of their lives and refuse to get up and give that spot to Jesus. Along comes Christmas and messes up their plans by removing the focus from them to Jesus

Transition: But look, there are more here who miss that 1st Christmas. 1st it was the intolerant now it is …

2.     The Indifferent

exp.: look at the chief priests and the scribes of the people: we read Herod inquired of them where the Christ was to be born; that’s huge! It seems that something should have triggered their thoughts, but no, they were indifferent to this inquiry! They give him the answer and they quote the scripture! Rd v 5-6;

  1. They know where he is going to be born: Bethlehem of Judea, some 6 miles away. He’ll be born in Gresham.
  2. They know the Scripture that tells them this. Micah 5.2 – Book, Chapter, Verse. How do I know this? They quote it!
  3. Notice then they say to the King, “Why do you ask?” No! they didn’t, did they? Why not? Because they were indifferent! They’re happy with the way things are. They’re happy with their ritual and tradition. They don’t want someone or something to come in and mess that up.

app.: Here’s what really gets me: Israel had been looking for the messiah since Deu. 18:15; How long ago was that? Some 1800-2000 years; Here the religious leaders knew the answer, but couldn’t care any less.

ill.:  J. MacArthur: These men were too busy with themselves to be concerned about Jesus. Engrossed in their own pride, their self-righteousness, their self-sufficiency, they carried on their ritual and their petty theological discussion in the confines of their own comfortable system. They had no time for the Son of God.

Transition: This should get our attention. It’s been a long time – nearly 2,000 years; we’ve become comfortable with our ritual and tradition for years now. We must be careful to not grow indifferent to Christ at Christmas. There is a 3rd group mentioned here: The Intolerant, The Indifferent, and now…

3.     The Ignorant

exp.: Ignorant simply means: without knowledge. There are people in the region of Jerusalem who are also caught up in a stir with the king. They’ll do whatever he does. Their main concern is with the one who governs them. They follow along ignorantly. As long as the king is happy, their ok; whatever he says goes; rd v 3; ταράσσω; To stir-up; John 5.6-7; When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”

app.: that’s the picture of what’s happened to king and to the people; they’re stirred up because he is; but, they really don’t know why? My guess is that they’re not even aware of all that’s going on. If they did, if they truly understood, I think they’d follow this caravan south, to Bethlehem. Instead, they’re happy to get along with their daily lives as the caravan makes it’s way out of Jerusalem.

ill.: A recent interview of people on T.V.: The views ranged from sentimental to irreverent. Some were sentimental saying Christmas is a time for family and friends. Others said it is a time for Children. Some people were humanistic saying it is a time for brotherly love, to put aside our differences and come together. Others were just down right rude, saying that it was just another excuse to party. Not one person said it was a time to recognize the birth of Christ.

To further illustrate this point: Is Jesus featured on television at Christmastime? According to a National Religious Broadcasters analysis of 48,000 hours of programming during December 2002, 90 percent of programming did not have a significant spiritual theme.

Some 7 percent had a religious or spiritual theme but did not refer to Jesus.

Jesus was the focus of only 3 percent of Christmas programming.

Transition: So, with so many ways to miss Christmas, how can you be sure you won’t miss Christmas? Enter the Wise men who incessantly search for the Christ Child.

4.     The Insistent  (3-5)

exp.: Those who incessantly insist that Christ be the focus – like the wise men; I think we are already doing that around here; in commercials; in Christmas displays; In the songs playing in stores; more and more, people are saying let’s not let commercialism detract from the real reason for the season.

app.: you won’t find Christmas on TV or in the papers; you’ll find him…we’ll may I quote: Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Transition: Van Morris from Mt. Washington, KY tells the story of a woman was doing her last-minute Christmas shopping at a crowded mall. She was tired of fighting the crowds. She was tired of standing in lines. She was tired of fighting her way down long aisles looking for a gift that had sold out days before.

Her arms were full of bulky packages when an elevator door opened. It was full. The occupants of the elevator grudgingly tightened ranks to allow a small space for her and her load.

As the doors closed, she blurted out, “Whoever is responsible for this whole Christmas thing ought to be arrested, strung up, and shot!”

A few others nodded theirs heads or grunted in agreement.

Then, from somewhere in the back of the elevator, came a single voice that said: “Don’t worry. They already crucified him.”

I get the idea that this woman was missing Christmas. The truth is that Jesus is responsible for this season, but he’s not responsible for what we’ve turned it into!

This season, as you make your plans, do your shopping, attend your parties and celebrations. Don’t forget the baby and real reason for why it all takes place.

Observations & Implications:

  1. Christmas isn’t about you, Herod.
  2. Don’t confuse religion and tradition. You might miss the real party!
  3. Don’t blindly follow the god of commerce and secularism. You’ll walk right by God in the Manger.
  4. Assiduously seek the Christ Child, the real reason for the season – Jesus.
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