- Adam Schell
Turbo Man's Not the Problem
Last Sunday at Melbourne Heights, we started a new series of sermons called “The Best Christmas Ever.” But if you came here today hoping that I would tell you how to bake the best Christmas cookies, or how to have the best light display in your neighborhood, or how to pick out the perfect gift for everyone on your list…well, you’re in the wrong place.
Because throughout this series, we’re not going to be 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 isn’t going to work. Your Christmas cookies might burn. You may have more problems getting your Christmas lights to turn on than Clark Griswold. 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 talking about how you can set those reasons aside so that you can enjoy the Christmas you’re actually going to have.
So we started last week by talking about the fact that many of us want to have a perfect Christmas because we think everyone else is having a perfect Christmas. And it’s kinda hard not to think this way this time of year. I mean, when you open up Facebook or Instagram and you see people posting pictures of holiday decorations that would make Martha Stewart jealous and family photos that look like Norman Rockwell could’ve painted them. So it’s easy to think that everyone else is having a perfect Christmas.
But last week, we saw that in spite of how it may look, there’s no such thing as a perfect Christmas. So rather than stressing ourselves out and driving our friends and family crazy by trying to make this Christmas something it will never be, if we want to make the best of this Christmas then we have to focus on our blessings instead of on what could be better.
And that brings us to today. Today, we’re going to be talking about another reason why so many of us want this Christmas to be the best Christmas ever. And to help explain what this reason is, I need to talk about what I believe is one of the most underrated Christmas movies of all time.
Now, we all have our favorite Christmas movies. So you might be the kind of person that loves some of the old-school Christmas movies like It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street. Or you might prefer some of the classic Christmas cartoons that came out in the 60s like A Charlie Brown Christmas or How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Or you might prefer some of the less Christmasy Christmas movies like Home Alone or Die Hard. But I’m willing to guess the movie that I’m going to be talking about today isn’t number one on anybody’s Christmas list.
So what movie am I talking about? I’m talking about Jingle All the Way, which came out in 1994 and starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as a mattress salesman, named Howard. So how many of you have seen Jingle All the Way?
Well, if you haven’t, this movie came out when Arnold Schwarzenegger was in his comedic prime. It was released just a few years after he made movies like Twins with Danny DeVito and Kindergarten Cop. But in this movie, Arnold’s character – Howard – is on a quest to find a toy called Turbo Man for his son. Now, this is something that just about every parent can relate to – having their child really only want one thing for Christmas. My parents went through this, and they’ll tell you the only time they ever waited in line on a Black Friday was to buy my sister a Tickle Me Elmo when it came out in the mid-90s. Ashley and I have been there when Hannah really only wanted that one big present sitting under the tree. And, if you’re a parent, you’ve been there too.
But the problem that Howard runs into is that he forgot to buy this toy early in the Christmas season…so when his wife reminds him, there aren’t any Turbo Man toys left to be found. And that’s where the comedy kicks in.
Over the course of 90 minutes, Howard runs all over Minneapolis and St. Paul to try to find a Turbo Man for his son. When he stops by his first toy store, he gets trampled by a mob of people trying to get their hands on one of these coveted toys. When he finally reaches the display, a little old lady swats him with her purse to make sure she has a Turbo Man for her grandson on Christmas day. After striking out at toy stores, Howard meets a shady Santa impersonator in a parking lot who’s selling Turbo Man dolls for $500. Howard reluctantly makes the deal only to find himself caught up in a counterfeit toy ring led by mall Santa Clauses all across Minnesota. This, of course, leads to a giant brawl where Howard gets beaten up by a mall Santa that was played by a professional wrestler who was known as the Big Show.
And as hard as it is to believe, things only get worse from there. And Howard ends up hitting rock bottom when he breaks into his neighbor's house to try to steal the Turbo Man doll his neighbor bought for his son.
So why does Howard put himself through all of this just to buy a toy that his son will probably outgrow before the next Christmas season rolls around? Well, Howard is constantly busy at his job as a mattress salesman. And because he spends so much time at work, he also constantly disappoints his son…like, right when the movie begins. Right when the movie begins, Howard’s son is participating in a karate class, but Howard is so caught up at work that he misses seeing his son earn his purple belt.
Of course, Howard’s son is disappointed…like any other kid would’ve been. And Howard wants to make it up to him. So Howard promises to get his son anything he wants for Christmas…and his son wants a brand new Turbo Man. So Howard is willing to brave any mall or even get in a fight with a room full of Santas to keep from letting his son down again.
And that’s the same reason why many of us try so hard to have the perfect Christmas. We want to have a perfect Christmas to make up for all the times we haven’t been perfect.
We want to have a perfect Christmas to make up for all the times we haven’t been perfect.
In Howard’s case, he thought if he could just get his son the one toy he really wanted for Christmas it would make up for all the times he wasn’t a perfect dad. For you, well, you might be just like Howard. You might try to buy your kids everything on their list to make up for being a lousy parent. Or you might try to find the perfect present for your spouse to make up for all the times you were less than perfect.
Or you might be the type of person who bends over backward every Christmas to make you make it home to spend Christmas with your parents…just because you want to make up for all the visits you didn’t make throughout the year. Or you may try to throw the perfect Christmas get-together for your family to make up for the argument that you had with your sister last year.
But the point is, we all do it. We all want to have a perfect Christmas to make up for all the times we haven’t been perfect…and that includes me. One of the things that I want to be able to do every Christmas is to pick out a gift for each of my siblings that shows just how well I know them. So I will spend hours scrolling through Amazon until I see something that sparks some distant childhood memory. And I do it because deep down I know that I’m not especially close to my brothers or my sister. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I think if I can find them this great sentimental gift then it shows that I really do know them.
But here’s the thing, even though you might want Christmas to be a way to make up for past failures…it’s not going to work.
Even though you might want Christmas to be a way to make up for past failures…it’s not going to work.
I mean, just stop and think about it for a minute. In the movie Jingle All the Way, Howard isn’t going to be able to make up for all the karate classes, soccer games, and school assemblies that he missed just by giving his son a fancy new toy. That’s not the way life works. So even if his son appreciated the gift, even if his son saw that his father finally came through for him, one little toy couldn’t make up for all the times his dad had failed.
And, as hard as it is to hear, the same thing is true for you too. Even if you somehow manage to make this the best Christmas ever…it’s not going to make up for all the times you should’ve done better. It won’t make up for all the times you were a lousy parent or spouse. It won’t make up for the times you failed to visit your parents. It won’t make up for the argument that you had with your sister…life just doesn’t work that way.
So, if making this Christmas the best Christmas ever isn’t going to make up for all the times we’ve missed the mark then what will? How can we use this Christmas to really get back on the right track?
Well, if we want this Christmas to help us get back on the right track – if we want this Christmas to help us make up for all the times we’ve missed the mark – then we need to remember why we celebrate Christmas to begin with. Christmas is the day we celebrate Jesus’ birth…it’s when God entered this world as one of us.
And why did God enter this world? Well, this is something that the apostle Paul – who was the foremost missionary of the first century – talks about in a letter that he wrote to a church in the ancient city of Ephesus. So, if you’ve got a Bible close by go ahead and grab it and turn with me to Ephesians 2.
Now the interesting thing about the book of Ephesians is that Paul actually wrote this letter, at least in part, to help the members of this church learn how to get their lives back on the right track after they had missed the mark. So let’s see what Paul says starting in Ephesians 2:1. Paul writes:
1 At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. 2 You used to live like people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. This is the spirit of disobedience to God’s will that is now at work in persons whose lives are characterized by disobedience. 3 At one time you were like those persons. All of you used to do whatever felt good and whatever you thought you wanted so that you were children headed for punishment just like everyone else.
Ephesians 2:1-3 (Common English Bible)
So, in these couple of verses, Paul isn’t telling us anything that we haven’t already talked about. In these verses Paul tells us that we’re not perfect, we all make mistakes, we all miss the mark. And we have a word in our faith that we use when someone misses the mark. That word is sin, and the word sin is a translation of the Greek word amartia. And the word amartia literally means for someone to miss the mark.
But that’s not all that Paul does in these verses. In these verses, Paul also alludes to the fact that something has already been done our sin, something has already been done about all the times we’ve missed the mark in our lives.
In this passage, Paul says you were dead…that you used to live like people of the world…that you used to do whatever felt good…that you were headed to destruction. But all of those are in the past tense. So something has happened that has fixed our sins. Something has happened that has let’s us get back on the right track after we miss the mark.
But what is it?
Well, I’ll tell you what it’s not. It’s not something that we did because there is nothing that you can do, on your own, to fix the brokenness of sin.
There is nothing that you can do, on your own, to fix the brokenness of sin.
Instead, it’s up to God. And as Paul continues writing to the Ephesians, he explains what God did for you and for me. Paul says:
4-5 However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace!
Ephesians 2:4-5 (Common English Bible)
This is why we celebrate Christmas. This is why Jesus came into this world. Jesus came into this world to beat sin. Jesus came into this world to help us get back on the right track when we have missed the mark.
Now, clearly that helps us when we miss the mark with God. God forgives our mistakes. God gives us grace. And God gives us the chance to get back on the right track…but how does this help us when we miss the mark with our kids, our spouses, our parents, or anyone else in our lives?
I mean, just because God forgives us and gives us grace, that doesn’t automatically fix all the relationships we’ve messed up in the past. So what can we do to start repairing those relationships this Christmas…since we’ve already seen that buying the perfect gift, or throwing the perfect party isn’t going to fix those mistakes either?
Well, from what Paul wrote to the Ephesians, we know that God forgives our mistakes. We know that God extends us grace. We know that God will help us get back on the right track. But there is something that we need to do. And a man named John, who was one of Jesus’ first disciples as well as one of Jesus’ best friends tells us what that is in a letter that he wrote.
In 1 John 1:9, John tells us:
9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong.
1 John 1:9 (Common English Bible)
John tells us that if we want God to forgive our mistakes, we have to ask for it. We have to ask for forgiveness. That’s what you have to do to repair your relationship with God. You have to ask for forgiveness…and then you have to stop doing whatever you did that you needed to be forgiven for (we call that repenting in church).
And the same thing is true in your relationships with others. If you haven’t been the perfect parent, or spouse, or child, or sibling, or neighbor, or whatever else; the only way to get back on the right track is to ask for forgiveness. The only way to get back on the right track is to ask for forgiveness.
So rather than trying to make this Christmas perfect to make up for all the times you haven’t been perfect, what you should be doing is asking the people you’ve let down to forgive you. And then, do everything you can to make sure you don’t let them down again.
And sure, asking for forgiveness probably isn’t part of anyone’s vision for a perfect Christmas. But if you admit that you haven’t been perfect, if you ask the people you love to forgive you, and if you change those past behaviors…you might just make this the best Christmas ever for the people you love the most.