A Christmas Story was released in 1983 to moderate success. From those humble beginnings, it has become a perennial Christmas movie, a movie so popular that even CC Banks Productions is presenting the play adaptation this Christmas season in Antwerp.
One of the most famous lines in the show is Ralphie being told by his teacher, by his mother, and even by Santa, that he will shoot his eye out if he gets the official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot range model air rifle.
And as we see, the warnings were right. Ralphie heads out to play with his newly received Red Ryder BB gun and on his first shot has the BB rebound off of a tin sign and break his glasses.
I don’t know if you were ever warned not to do something, but desired it so much or were just rebellious enough that you did it anyway. I remember when I was four my parents would let me play outside in the yard. We lived in the country on a farm with many barns. The rule was that I was not to go into the hayloft. One day, while climbing into the hayloft, my hands slipped off of the handle and I fell, whacking my head onto a horse feeder. A concussion and stitches later I realized the err of my young ways.
As adults, we often become too prideful to take the advice of others and avoid things that are harmful for us. We might hear grown-up versions of “You’ll shoot your eye out” or “You can’t go in the hayloft,” but we are talented at ignoring the warnings. For starters, we rephrase them. Things like sexual immorality become casual sex or porn. Pride, the word I used at the beginning of this paragraph, becomes self-esteem and a feeling that we are expected to feel about our homeland if we want to be patriotic. Usury becomes the normal means of the haves helping the have-nots. We imagine appropriate scenarios where murder, which was forbidden, is allowed. And with greed, we don’t even try to morph it. Society has adopted the Gordon Gekko’s moniker from the movie Wall Street that “Greed is good.” We have a difficult time staying away from the sins that God has told us to stay away from. In the many years since the time of Jesus, even before the time of Jesus, humanity has mastered justifying our sinful lifestyles as necessary means to our selfish - although we wouldn’t dare use that word - ends. We have become experts at disguising and justifying our sinful lifestyles, and we, our families, and our society pays the consequence for that mistake. There. I just did it. I used the word mistake rather than sin.
“Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15 ESV).
On a simple level, it would be learning new information and changing your actions because of it. Many of us travel to Fort Wayne. We have our routes that we take. An unrepentant person would be one who learns of a different way that would save them ten minutes but continues to do it the way they have always done it. A repentant person would be one who changes their course based upon the new information. That might be a light-hearted explanation of repentance, but I hope you get the idea.
During the Christmas season, we are faced with new information. God came to the earth in the form of a little baby. He came for a few major reasons. One was to be the sacrifice for our sins. Another was to transform God’s kingdom. The other was to show us how to live our lives. It is in this latter that he wants to tell us, “You’ll shoot your eye out if you continue to live the life that you are currently living.” God knows what is best for us. He came down to earth to live with all of our vulnerabilities to show us what is best for us. When we believe that He knows and has shown what is best for us, that is the information that should cause us to change. That is the gospel that should bring about repentance. What needs to change in your life as a result of the truth that God knows what is best for us?
If you are looking for a church home this holiday season, I invite you to come join us at Riverside Christian Church. Throughout this month, we will be exploring the themes of A Christmas Story. Sunday, December 14, will be “Oh, I hate the smell of Tapioca.”