However, the one gift that comes with the biggest warning every holiday that poses the greatest danger is the "Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time." Since 1983 we've heard how much Ralphie wants one. In A Christmas Story he is repeatedly reminded that "You'll shoot your eye out."
Santa must not have gotten the memo. At the end of the movie, Ralphie and his brother have opened all their presents and there's no Red Ryder BB gun, at least not until his father points to a half-covered gift left by Santa. Ralphie opens it, takes it outside for a trial run, shoots at a sign and immediately gets his glasses knocked off by the ricochet.
Gifts can be dangerous. That's why we have watchdog consumer groups that let us know when there's one that can be harmful.
God must not have gotten the memo. That's why I'd better tell you about the first Christmas gift. It looked innocent enough — wrapped up in the body of a baby child, crying and cooing like a newborn, so small that he had to be held and so dependent that he had to be fed.
Harmless enough, don't you think? Other than maybe a diaper explosion or some baby spit up, nothing to make you afraid. Yet, King Herod went crazy over this child. Matthew's account tells us that "When Herod heard this [that the king of the Jews had been born] he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him" (Matthew 2:3).
Herod was "disturbed" by a baby. The word means to "agitate" or "to strike one's spirit with fear and dread." Not the kind of gift you expect to open on Christmas morning, but Herod had good reason to be full of dread. He liked his place in the world. He was a King.
How could one little baby boy be so dangerous? You don't have to be an Israelite King to understand. You need only look at your own throne. There's some Herod in all of us that rejects the idea of anyone else taking over our rule of our own lives.
That's why we like the birth narrative of Jesus. We like to keep him in diapers. There's a great theologically packed movie you may have seen that more or less says the same thing. It's called Talladega Nights. The main character — Ricky Bobby — is offering the prayer before supper. He prays "Dear Lord Baby Jesus" and continues to refer to Jesus this way.
His wife, Carley, tells him: "Hey, you know, sweetie, Jesus did grow up. You don't always have to call him 'baby.' It's a bit odd and off-putting to pray to a baby."
To which Ricky replies, "Well, I like the Christmas Jesus best."
I think many of us do, too. We can hold the Christmas Jesus. We can cuddle him. We can put him away in a manger when we want to. We can't do that with the grown up Jesus. He confronts our kingdoms and calls us to enter his. To follow him, we must give up control of our lives and let him rule our lives. When he does, he shakes things up — he agitates us, he creates a stir, we can come away disturbed.
So be careful if you opened up this gift over Christmas. He's dangerous to all your thrones and kingdoms. You will lose your throne.