From A Christmas Story to The Christmas Story

“You’ve never seen A Christmas Story?  You have to see it!”

Every year, sometime post recovery from tryptophan overdose (aka too-much-turkey) and pre pine-needle-fire-hazard-prevention clean-up (aka taking down the tree), I hear this phrase.  You’d think after 37 years I’d have done something to remedy my Christmas film deficiency.  Oddly, however, while most people have fond memories of this movie, and nearly everyone thinks my life is lacking without the ability to understand significant pop culture references related to its characters and scenes, no one really gets all that excited about the idea of watching it with me.  It’s more an experience to have had, not one to keep having, it seems.

Despite managing to get through over 3 decades since its release without watching this movie, I haven’t completely escaped knowledge of its contents.  Images from the movie are prominently displayed every year at this time.  There’s the leg-shaped lamp stand, the pink bunny suit, the tongue on the frozen telephone pole. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what these are, and you know why they’re funny, or meant to be. I, however, am missing the context.  Without the full story, I don’t know what any of these things actually mean.  Sure, I get the basic humor behind the tongue stuck to the pole.  But why is the boy in a bunny suit at Christmas time?  And what’s the significance of a plastic leg in fishnet stockings attached to a light bulb and fringed shade?

This isn’t actually an invitation to explanation.  I’m officially comfortable with this particular failure in pop cultural awareness on my part.  Instead, I’m now going to make my clumsy transition from trivial example to the more significant spiritual connection.

Far more prominent even than Ralphie bobble-heads and miniature leg-lamp replicas, are the nativity scenes, artificial stars, and pithy sayings in reference to the reason for the season.  In this country, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who had never seen a replica of baby Jesus in a manger scene.  Most people you meet probably know that a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ, the same Jesus represented by a figure lying in a basket of straw out on some people’s lawns, or inside on their mantelpieces.  And it’s common knowledge among your neighbors, co-workers, and the strangers you run into at the grocery store, that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, for those who claim to follow Him.  Our country is saturated with these images, thoughts, and concepts.

What’s missing for many is context.  Why does this one birthday matter?

As people who profess faith in Jesus, we have our answer to this question.  Though we may struggle with how to convey this to others, or even how to deal with our own confusion and questions, we’ve made a choice to follow.  In recognizing the gift of Jesus, there can be great joy in this season of remembrance.  But you can’t transfer your joy to another.  You can’t make your experience of redemption relevant to someone who hasn’t had their own experience.

When people express their shock at my having never seen A Christmas Story, I often feel like there must be something really good that I’m missing.  If people keep at it, I may break down one of these days and actually watch the movie.  I fully expect to be disappointed after so much hype, but like most people, I’m susceptible to external influence.  I have never, however, asked anyone to just tell me the whole story so I don’t have to watch it myself.  I know that would be a sure way to be disappointed. The enjoyment is in the experience.

There are people in your life who are susceptible to your influence.  But you don’t have to have the right words, or all the answers.  You don’t have to be able to explain the significance of Jesus’ birth in the most perfect and gripping way.  God is at work, and He is the one who will touch people’s hearts and draw them to Him.  Ultimately, any joy they eventually find will be from Him.

But He invites you and me to be a part of this.  We have been given experiences of Jesus.  We have heard His story and it has affected our lives and the lives of people close to us.  And with such an amazing gift readily available to others, the excitement should well up and give us the desire to say, “You have to hear this story!”

Sometimes people won’t respond right away.  Sometimes they’ll roll their eyes and say, “Yeah, I’ve heard all about that.”  But they’re missing the context.  You’re excitement, you’re experience, just might convince them they need to fill in the blanks and hear the story, start to finish.

Christmas at Discovery is a great opportunity to invite people to experience the story of Jesus in its true context.  Who could you invite to come hear about the greatest gift ever given?