On November 18, 1983, MGM Studios released a movie that would become a Christmas classic. This movie plays round the clock on TBS on Christmas Eve, and it tells the story of a 9-year-old little boy who lived on Cleveland Street. His name was Ralphie Parker and all he wanted for Christmas was the holy grail of gifts for any little boy. Ralphie wanted a carbine action, genuine, Red Ryder, 200-shot, range model, air rifle – or, if all of that's too hard to follow, Ralphie wanted a BB gun for Christmas.
And Ralphie knew that if his parents, or at the very least Santa Claus, were wise enough to give him his BB gun then life would be perfect. He knew he'd be able to protect his family from the fictitious grizzly bears that prowled the streets of his small Indiana town, and if any imaginary marauders – like Black Bart – attempted to invade his home, he had no doubt he could fight them off too. But like countless little boys before and after, Ralphie soon learned that getting a BB gun for Christmas isn't as simple as just asking for it.
You see, every time Ralphie even attempted to ask for a BB gun for Christmas, his mother, father, teacher, and even Santa Claus himself – or at least the mall version – would utter that dreaded phrase that has been used by responsible adults since the beginning of time to block any child's affection for a BB gun – telling him “You'll shoot your eye out.”
So Ralphie pulled out every trick in the book to make sure his waiting wasn't in vain. He dropped hints. He slipped ads for the BB gun into his mother's favorite magazine. He told fanciful tales to his father. He wrote about it to his teacher. And he even went straight to Santa to beg for that BB gun.
And Ralphie had no idea if all of his hard work would pay off until Christmas morning rolled around. Until he hopped out of bed and headed down the steps, until he started handing out the gifts, until every last present was passed out, Ralphie didn't know if he'd get his BB gun or if he'd end up disappointed on Christmas.
Well, if you’ve ever seen A Christmas Story, you know that Ralphie got his BB gun. But do you ever wonder what would’ve happened if that BB gun wasn’t hidden away behind the piano that Christmas morning? Or can you imagine how Ralphie would’ve reacted if the BB gun was broken when he opened the box?
Well, even though I never asked for a BB gun for Christmas, I have a pretty good idea of how Ralphie would’ve reacted in either of those situations because I know how I reacted one Christmas long ago when I was disappointed with one of my Christmas gifts.
This happened when I was like six or seven years old. And that year, there was really only one thing that I wanted for Christmas. So when I wrote out my Christmas list that year, I did what every kid does when they write down the most important thing on their Christmas list: I circled it half a dozen times and drew enough stars beside it to fill up the night sky. If I could have I would have put a giant neon sign beside it saying, “This is what Adam really wants for Christmas this year.”
Well, Christmas morning finally came. And after tearing through tons of presents, I was surrounded by shreds of wrapping paper, empty boxes, and piles of toys and candy and other stuff. But I still hadn’t received the one gift I really wanted that Christmas.
But there was still one present left to be opened…and it was for me. So I was about to find out if all of the circles and stars on my list and all the effort I put in to be a good boy that year were going to pay off. I could barely contain my excitement as my fingers slid into a seam in the wrapping paper. My eyes were as big as saucers as I began to tear the paper back. The smile on my face went from ear to ear as I caught the first glimpse of what I had been waiting so long to see. Then it was finally unwrapped, and I held in my hands an official, scale replica, WWF wrestling ring, complete with elastic ropes and a genuine announce table.
Now, let's not forget that this was the late 80s and I was like 6 or 7 years old, and at that time professional wrestling was precisely the third coolest thing in the world for a little boy, right behind MacGyver and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So I had been dying to get this wrestling ring. And now that it was in my hands all I could think about were the epic matches my action figures would have when Hulk Hogan took on Andre the Giant, or when the Ultimate Warrior battled it out with the Macho Man.
But before I could get to these epic matches, I noticed those small words printed on the side of the box that have become the bane of every parent's existence: Some Assembly Required. So I sat down and dumped everything out of the box and started putting my official, scale replica, WWF wrestling ring together...and as I was getting ready to put the final ring post into place I came to one of the most horrific revelations of my entire life: the ring post was broken. And without that ring post, I would have a wrestling triangle, not a wrestling ring, and that wasn't going to cut it.
And you better believe that I let everybody know about it. As my sister was playing with some brand new baby doll, I complained that my toy was broken. When my brothers were playing with their new A-Team van, I complained that my toy was broken. When my parents pointed out that I had roughly a gazillion other toys I could’ve been playing with, I complained that my toy was broken. When we got together with my extended family for Christmas brunch, and everyone else was piling their plates high with casseroles and cinnamon rolls, I was complaining that my toy was broken.
No matter what else was happening that Christmas Day, I complained that my toy was broken. And I’m sure that by the time my family piled back in our minivan to head out that night everyone else in the family was happy to see me go. Because even if all of my whining and complaining hadn’t completely ruined Christmas, I’m sure that no one in my family would say that that Christmas was the best Christmas ever.
And that, of course, is what we’ve been talking about at Melbourne Heights all throughout this Christmas season. We’re in the middle of a series of sermons called “The Best Christmas Ever.” But if you came here today hoping that I could give you tips on how to keep one of your kid's toys from breaking on Christmas Day, or how you might be able to convince your kid that they don’t need a BB gun without breaking their tiny little hearts, or how you can make sure you buy your kids the one thing they really want this Christmas…well, you’re in the wrong place.
Because throughout this series, we’re not talking about what you can do to have the best Christmas ever. Because no matter how hard you try to make everything perfect this Christmas, it’s not going to work. Toys are going to break. Your kids are going to ask for things that you don’t want them to have – whether it’s a BB gun, a bucket of slime, or a pony. And you’re probably going to strike out on a couple of gifts that you buy.
So rather than increasing the pressure that we all feel this time of year – and giving you an unrealistic expectation that you could have the perfect Christmas – we’re really talking about something else during this sermon series. Instead of trying to have the best Christmas ever, we want you to make the best of this Christmas.
Instead of trying to have the best Christmas ever, we want you to make the best of this Christmas.
And to help you make the best of this Christmas, we’re addressing some of the reasons why we all want to have the perfect Christmas. And we’re also talking about how you can set those reasons aside so that you can enjoy the Christmas you’re actually going to have.
And the reason why we want to have a perfect Christmas that I want to talk about today is the one I alluded to in the story I told you just a minute ago…you know, the one where I was acting like a complete brat. So what is this reason for wanting to have the perfect Christmas? Well, we want to have a perfect Christmas because we don’t want anyone to complain.
We want to have a perfect Christmas because we don’t want anyone to complain.
Now, let’s just be honest here, we live in a world that is filled with complaining. We complain about the weather. We complain about the economy. We complain about politics. We complain about customer service. We complain about how our favorite sports teams are performing. We complain about the ending of the latest Marvel movie.
And you better believe that we complain about Christmas. We complain when people start putting up their Christmas trees right after they throw away their jack-o-lanterns. We complain about the lines that back up around the block on Black Friday. We complain about how much we have to spend to buy gifts for people we barely know. We complain about the fruit cake that our Aunt Edith sends us every Christmas. We complain about the traffic we get stuck in when we hit the roads on Christmas Day. We complain when our mom burns the Christmas cookies. We complain when someone buys us the wrong size sweater or when our brand-new toy breaks.
We complain. And we complain. And we complain.
And there is actually a good reason why we complain. According to Thomas Henricks, who is a retired professor of sociology at Elon University, we complain to vent our frustrations about situations we cannot control. And that’s something that we all need to do from time to time, we all need to vent when things are out of our control.
But there’s a fine line between venting about what annoys you and annoying everyone around you. And when you cross that line, when your complaining starts annoying everyone around you then you ruin that experience for everyone.
That’s what I did when I was six or seven years old and I complained about my broken wrestling ring all day on Christmas…I ruined my family’s Christmas celebration. And you’ve experienced the exact same thing. At one point or another, someone’s complaining has ruined your Christmas. So, we try to make Christmas perfect so that no one can complain and ruin our Christmas celebrations.
But I want to let you in on a little secret right now. Are you ready for it? Here it is: Even if your Christmas celebration is perfect someone will still complain.
Even if your Christmas celebration is perfect someone will still complain.
And if you don’t believe me, just think about the very first Christmas. On the very first Christmas, Jesus – who was the Messiah – was born. And the people of Israel had been waiting for thousands of years for the Messiah to be born. So you would think that everyone in all of Israel would’ve been excited when they heard that Jesus had been born…but you’d be wrong.
There was at least one person in Israel who wasn’t happy that first Christmas, and his name was Herod. Herod was the King of the Jews when Jesus was born. But Herod knew that the Messiah was predicted to rule over Israel, so Herod wasn’t happy when he heard the Messiah was born because Herod knew that meant he was going to be out of a job.
So how did Herod react to the good news of Jesus’ birth? Well, in Matthew 2, we’re told:
16…he grew very angry. He sent soldiers to kill all the children in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding territory who were two years old and younger…
Matthew 2:16 (Common English Bible)
So even when everyone else in Israel was celebrating when they heard the good news that the Messiah had finally come, there was still at least one person who complained about this good news.
And again, no matter how hard you try to make this the perfect Christmas, there will still be someone who complains. There will be someone who thinks you put too many lights on your Christmas tree. There will be someone who thinks you should’ve served turkey instead of ham. There will be someone who thinks you spent too much money on your kids. There will still be someone who can’t believe you didn’t buy a present for them.
No matter how hard you try, you’ll never make everyone happy. So, if you want to make the best of this Christmas, you have to learn to do something else instead. And this is something that Jesus teaches his disciples to do in the Gospel of Matthew. So, if you’ve got a Bible close by, go ahead and grab it and turn with me to Matthew 10.
Now, just to remind you, the book of Matthew is essentially a biography of Jesus. So in this book, we’ll read about Jesus’ birth and his baptism, his ministry and the miracles that he performed, his crucifixion and his resurrection. But in the passage we’re looking at today, we’re going to read what Jesus told his disciples to do when Jesus sent them out to share the good news that the Messiah had come.
So, let’s see what Jesus tells them starting in Matthew 10:5. It says:
5 Jesus sent these twelve out and commanded them, “Don’t go among the Gentiles or into a Samaritan city. 6 Go instead to the lost sheep, the people of Israel. 7 As you go, make this announcement: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, and throw out demons…
Matthew 10:5-8 (Common English Bible)
Now, I want to make sure you heard what Jesus is sending his disciples out to do. He’s sending them out to tell the people they meet that God is near to them, and to prove it his disciples are going to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse skin diseases, and throw out demons.
Now, I don’t know about you, but if I were able to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse diseases, and throw out demons; then I would think that everyone would be pretty excited to see me. When I rolled into a new town, I wouldn’t expect anyone to complain that I was there.
But Jesus knows better. He knows that even when his disciples start healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing diseases, and throwing out demons that there will still be some people who aren’t happy. So, as we pick back up in verse 12, we’re going to see what Jesus tells his disciples to do when people complain about them and the work they’re doing. So here’s what it says, it says:
12 When you go into a house, say, ‘Peace!’ 13 If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if the house isn’t worthy, take back your blessing. 14 If anyone refuses to welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet as you leave that house or city.
Matthew 10:12-14 (Common English Bible)
So what does Jesus tell his disciples to do when people complain about them? Jesus tells them to shake the dust off their feet and move on. And that’s what we need to do when someone’s complaining starts to ruin our Christmas. We need to shake the dust off our feet and move on.
We can’t let someone’s complaining ruin our Christmas. Just because they may not like the way we decorate or how much money we spend on gifts, that doesn’t mean that we have done anything wrong. So when you hear someone complaining about your Christmas celebration, shake it off. Move on. And keep celebrating the way you want to.