Through the Advent Season here at Faith Church we have been looking at some of the most popular Christmas movies of all time and how they point us to the real Christmas Story of Jesus. From Miracle on 34th Street
we have seen how characters like Santa Claus and Buddy the Elf point us to Jesus and we have heard how important it is to believe even when common sense tells us not to. Through the series I have been asking myself, what makes a movie good? What made Miracle on 34th Street one of the best movies of all time while another Christmas movie, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is one of the worst?
Not just one of the worst Christmas movies but one of the worst movies ever made.
There are 3 key elements to all good movies.
1. Characters you can identify with.
2. Storyline that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
3. A timeless Message
Relatable characters, a great story and a timeless message can all be found the classic 1983 movie A Christmas Story but they are also part of the Real Christmas Story.
If you have never seen the movie, A Christmas Story, I have good news for you; you can go home and watch it constantly for the next 24 hours. It’s one of those movies that you either love or hate, but it does have characters we can identify with. There’s the wisecracking friends, the tag along little brother and the mother trying to hold the family together, but the main character is a boy named Ralphie who has his heart set on a special gift for Christmas. He tells his parents what he wants and he writes about it in a theme for his teacher but because he really wants this gift he makes sure to tell the big guy himself.
An official Red Ryder carbine action 200 shot range model air rifle. That’s all Ralphie wanted. He believed that gift would change everything and make his life complete. He thinks about it, dreams about it, writes about and even tells Santa about it because more than anything a Red Ryder BB Gun is what Ralphie wants. Can you identify with that?
Have you ever wanted something with this much conviction and passion? Maybe it was that special toy when you were a child or a car when you learned to drive. Maybe what we had our heart set on was that certain job when we graduated from college or living someplace we loved. Maybe what we wanted more than anything was a good marriage, or children, or a family filled with love and laughter. We can all relate to Ralphie because we have all had our heart set on something that we wanted more than anything and we find this in the Real Christmas story.
As a young Jewish girl, Mary dreamed about being the mother of the Messiah.
That was the highest honor for any young girl. Little girls didn’t grow up wanting to be Elsa or Anna – they wanted to be the mother of the King and Savior. As a faithful young girl, this would have been Mary’s dream, it would have been the best gift ever and it would have made her life complete, so imagine the unspeakable joy it must have been for Mary when an angel told her that she had been chosen by God for this honor. Luke 1:30-38
Mary had her heart set on something very special and when she received that gift her heart was filled with joy. Luke 1:46-49. While our dreams may not always come true we can identify with Mary in having a dream and thinking about what it would be like to have that dream fulfilled. If nothing else, her story keeps us dreaming and praying. If what we long for is love and joy and peace in life, these are the things God wants for us too so praying for them and believing that they can and will be part of our lives is important.
So we can identify with Ralphie in wanting that perfect gift, but we can also identify with him because he also knows the pain of disappointment. Not every dream becomes a reality. Ralphie not only had his heart set on the Red Ryder BB gun but every day he checked the mail for his official orphan Annie decoder ring and the day it came he was thrilled, but things didn’t turn out the way he thought they would.
Most of us can identify with this kind of disappointment. That great car turned out to be a lemon. Our job was not what we thought it would be. That perfect relationship didn’t last. While we all long for things to go as planned, more often what we experience is disappointment and we find this in the real Christmas story as well.
While Mary was filled with joy at the news of being the mother of the messiah, her fiancé, Joseph, was not as happy.
Joseph was filled with doubt. Mary tells him that the child she is carrying is the Messiah, a gift from God, but how does he really know this is true? Maybe Mary has just been unfaithful. For Joseph, life was not turning out the way he wanted it to and there might always be a cloud hanging over his relationship with Mary and his reputation in the community. Many of us can relate to this kind of doubt and disappointment. Our lives never turn out the way we thought they would and while there might be blessings we experience, there is also disappointment and pain.
What makes the Real Christmas Story so powerful is that we can find ourselves in this story. We can relate to Mary and Joseph. We have our hopes and dreams but we also know those times when we have to pick up the broken pieces of our lives and keep going. Think about it, God came for people just like us, people with dreams and disappointments. The Real Christmas story is powerful because it is our story. God comes with his love and power into our lives. Unto us is born this night in the city of David, a Savior. God has come for you and me.
The second requirement for a good movie is a storyline that keeps us on the edge of our seat. In A Christmas Story the journey to Christmas for Ralphie is fast paced and filled with memorable scenes that have become iconic. There is the major award his father wins, Leg Lamp.
There is the triple dog dare to see if your tongue really sticks to a frozen light pole.
And then there is Ralphie getting his mouth washed out with soap.
I can relate to that one, it happened to me.
The story line keeps us guessing and laughing and is filled with surprises, and that is what we see in the real Christmas story as well. Mary and Joseph don’t wait out the pregnancy and give birth to the Messiah quietly at home. Suddenly there is a census so they have to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. There arrive in a crowded city so there is no room available for them which means that the long awaited child is born in a stable and laid in a manger. Not what anyone would have expected.
The visitors that night aren’t handmaids to assist in the birth but shepherds coming in from the fields talking about a host of angels who shouted and sang the news of the Messiahs birth. Again, not what was expected. If we keep reading, we find that a few years later that Wisemen traveled from the East and told Mary and Joseph that a star appeared at the birth of their child telling them that he indeed was the new king in Israel but the current king, Herod, wanted to kill their child so they had to run and hide. The story keeps us on the edge of our seat, it is filled with twists and turns and it reminds us that through all the unexpected challenges we face in life – God is with us and that God has a plan for us. God has purpose in it all.
There was a plan and purpose in every detail of the Real Christmas Story. Bethlehem was the home of David and the city where the Messiah was to be born since the Messiah was to be from the family of David. The shepherds were there to make the statement that God had come to love and save us all. The gift of Jesus wasn’t just for the righteous and religious but for all people. The Wisemen from the east remind us that Jesus came to be the ruler of all the world and the star in the sky was a sign that Jesus was indeed King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Even the journey to Egypt was part of God’s plan because the Messiah was to be a leader and redeemer like Moses who led God’s people out of Egypt. The story line not only keeps us engaged but it helps us see the hand and power of God in every twist in turn in life. This story reminds us that God is with us in every twist and turn in our lives. God is with you in this chapter of your life – no matter what it is, positive or painful, God is with you and God has a plan for you today and in the New Year.
But what makes the Real Christmas Story so life changing isn’t the characters or the twists and turns in the storyline, what makes the Real Christmas Story so life changing is the timeless message and we get a hint about that message from the movie A Christmas Story. Beyond a little boy wanting a Red Ryder BB Gun, the message of the movie is about the love shared in a family. When the Christmas turkey gets eaten by the neighbor’s dogs, Christmas still comes, the family is still together and new traditions are made. The end of A Christmas Story may not be very politically correct these days, but it is classic.
The message is about being together as a family. Whether it’s at home with the turkey or at the Chinese restaurant with a cooked goose, they were a family, they were together and that is what makes Christmas. The movie isn’t about getting the perfect gift, it’s about the love of a father who gives a gift and the love of a family being together. That is also the message of the Real Christmas Story. A father gives the gift of his son Jesus and through that gift God makes us a family. Through Jesus, God brings together and then holds together Mary and Joseph.
God extends that family by bringing in Shepherds and Wisemen. Through Jesus God made a family out of the most unlikely people at all ends of the spectrum and from all places of the world and if God can do that, God can make and hold our families together.
Jesus came to help us live in peace with one another and as we look at the world today, this peace is desperately needed. Families need peace. Communities need peace. Our government and political parties need peace. Germany, Syria and South Sudan need peace and Jesus came to bring this peace. Jesus came to show us how to love and forgive and how to make this peace a reality in our lives. It can start today in our own lives and families and as we live in peace in our homes so that love and grace will grow and spread.
While Jesus came to bring peace on earth, he also came to bring us peace with God. Our sin separates us from God and this separation brings all kinds of brokenness and pain, but Jesus came to forgive our sin and heal our brokenness and make us one with God. Jesus came to save us, for unto you is born this night in the city of David a Savior, and Jesus is that Savior who reconnects us to God which brings us life here and now but also brings us life eternal. When we receive the child born in Bethlehem we receive salvation.
John 3:16 says, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Everlasting life, eternal life, the assurance of life with God forever is part of the timeless message of Jesus and it is part of the gift we are given tonight, a gift that won’t disappoint, a gift that won’t let us down, a gift that will change our lives, our destinies and yes a gift that can change our world. This gift has been given to all of us and this gift of Jesus can be yours. Reach out and receive the love of God given to us in Jesus Christ the Lord.