The Gospel According To Ricky Bobby

Ricky Bobby

Ricky Bobby

Last Christmas, I had the privelege of preaching at our Church’s Christmas Day service. Me, being a guy who doesn’t know where the box is half the time, let alone think inside it, thought I’d be a bit creative with my sermon choice. So instead of preaching from one of the accounts of Jesus’ birth, I preached from Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. I’d hoped to upload the sermon mp3, but some how I’m missing a huge chunk of it. So here is my best attempt to present my sermon in written form.

Christmas is always a big time in my family. When me and my brothers were kids, we’d be waking up before the crack of dawn. Our parents had barely got to bed themselves before we’d be making a ruckus and knocking on their door, trying to wake them up so we could open presents. As we became teenagers, the waking up part got later and later. So much so that Dad would be sitting in the lounge room, waiting for us to wake up so he could open his presents. Times sure did change.

My parents never do anything by halves, so when we’d enter the living room, we’d find the place full of presents. You could barely move. Each of us would stake out there little bit of space where you could unwrap your presents and pile up your loot. Most of us live out of home these days, but the practice hasn’t changed. A couple of years ago, my youngest brother was wondering what happened to his copy of the memo that said Christmas morning was bring a date, seeing as I was there with my wife and my other two brothers were there with their girlfriends.

After we’d unwrapped our presents, either we would go to one of my aunts places, or they would all come to us. My mum is one of six kids. And they all have kids. So you can just imagine my grand dad’s 18 grand kids running around the place, plus their partners as we started to grow up, plus any other random people that happened to join us that day. It was a loosely organised chaos.

Some time in the late afternoon, we’d get our act together long enough to bring out lunch. There were tables upon tables of food. Cold meats, salads, potato bakes, seafood, you name it. And we’d all get our food and find somewhere to eat. One thing that never happened with my family was grace. We didn’t pray before meals. That wasn’t our thing. It’s not something we ever did. It was an alien concepts. When I married Katherine and started having Christmas dinner with her family, it was weird to me to have a civilised meal around a table where grace was said before eating.

What’s meal time like at your place? Is it organised chaos or a civilised affair? Do you say grace before you eat? What do you say as you pray? I’d like to show you what meal time is like at Ricky Bobby’s house. Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is a movie starring Will Ferrell. Ricky Bobby is the number one NASCAR driver in America. He has it all – fame, wealth and a beautiful wife. Let’s check out his place at meal time.

When Ricky Bobby prays, he’s praying to Jesus. Jesus is the focus of his grace. Look, I like the Christmas Jesus best and I’m saying grace. When you’re saying grace you can say it to grown up Jesus or teen age Jesus or bearded Jesus or whoever you want. He’s praying to the Christmas Jesus. Here we are on Christmas morning and we’re talking about Christmas Jesus. That’s what you expect when you come to Church on Christmas morning, right? You expect me to say that Christmas is all about Jesus, and not about Santa or presents or any of the other stuff that gets in the way at Christmas time. But when I say that Christmas is all about Jesus, which Jesus am I talking about?

Christmas time is a birthday party for Jesus. It’s a time when we remember his birth and celebrate that he came into this world. Luke 2:1-20, a popular Bible reading at Christmas, shows us the birth of Jesus, with all the angels and manger and shepherds. At most shopping centres this time of year you’ll find a nativity scene on display. Christians are on about the birth of Jesus being central to Christmas. It’s all about Baby Jesus.

But what’s so special about a baby? Across the world, 260 babies are born every minute. They’re not unique. Everywhere you go, there’s babies. And babies don’t really do anything. They just sleep, eat and produce waste. When you think about it, praying to a baby is pretty stupid. What’s a baby going to do? They can’t even hold their own head let alone answer your prayers.

We celebrate Christmas, not because it’s a birthday party, but because God himself came into this earth as a human being. Philippians 2:5-11 tells us:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature a God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature b of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death-
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus Christ, in very nature God, became a human being. The creator of the universe, the big brains behind the Big Bang, became a baby. A defenseless, powerless baby. A baby that, just like every other baby, is entirely relient on another being just to survive. A baby can’t look after itself. Let alone do anything of lasting consequence. If the story of Christmas was the climax, if God becoming a baby was the end of the story, then this is all a waste of time. There would be no point to celebrating Christmas.

But Jesus didn’t stay a baby. Like most kids, he grew up. He spent time with his family. He learned a trade from his step-dad. He made friends, got an education, and grew to maturity. In the same time it takes most people he went from being a little baby to being a full grown man. He lived amongst us. He went through all the same trials and tribulations that we go through. He may have never had to deal with his internet connection crashing, but he knew what it was like to make friends and lose friends. To balance respecting his parents with doing his own thing. To be picked upon and be accused of things he didn’t do. To have people he cared about get sick and die. To want to change the world, only to find that the world didn’t want to be changed. He went through all of this before ending up crucified on the cross. God himself lived amongst us and ended up executed for his trouble.

We celebrate Christmas because God gave us the ultimate gift. Jesus was born so that he might die and save us from sin. We couldn’t get to heaven on our own. Because of our sin there was an impenetrable barrier between us and God. We couldn’t be his friends, let alone spend eternity with him. As much as we tried to deal with our sin on our own, we kept coming short. We needed God to step in and rescue us. By dying on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. By rising from the dead, Jesus established the new deal, the new way of doing things. God has raised Jesus to the highest place. He is the king over all creation. Jesus Christ is Lord! We celebrate Christmas because we remember that God put his plan for salvation into action by sending Jesus to earth.

Everyone who follows Jesus receives a “Get In To Heaven Free” card. His death was sufficient to pay for the sins of everyone on this planet, including you. At Christmas time, you’ll often hear the song Santa Clause Is Coming To Town. You know the words.

He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good. So be good for goodness sake.

If you want the gifts that Santa is offering, if you want to get the most out of your Santa experience, then you need to be good. You need to do the right thing or you’ll miss out and get a lump of coal instead. Jesus is not Santa. Jesus is far better. Because Jesus brings a gift that will outlast any toy or gift voucher. Jesus brings the gift of eternal life with God. And unlike Santa, this gift Jesus brings us is not contingent on being good. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been bad or good. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the naughty or nice list. We’re not living in a perpetual state of uncertainty regarding if we’re getting something good or a piece of coal. Because God is checking HIS list twice. And if you’re a follower of Jesus then you’re on the list and you’re going to heaven.

When we think about Jesus at Christmas, we need to move beyond the baby Jesus. We need to move beyond the imaginary Jesus’ that live in our heads. Ricky Bobby might have his baby Jesus. His friend Carl might have his own idea. But they’re not the real Jesus. As much as I’d love to think of Jesus as a ninja fighting evil samurai, it’s not the real Jesus. The real Jesus, the Jesus that we find in the Bible, is far greater. Jesus is God in human flesh. He lived a human life. He died on the cross. He conquered death and rose again.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is real and powerful. He is the mighty king over all creation. There will come a day when everyone will have to bow down before him, whether they want to or not. He is not a feeble little baby. He is God himself.

When you sit down to lunch or dinner together with your family today, you might find yourself saying grace. Who are you going to say grace to? Are you going to pray to the Christmas Jesus? The small, innocent baby lying in the manger? Or are you going to pray to the powerful king of the universe? Remember which Jesus you’re praying to. Because Jesus is someone who is real and worthy of honour and praise. Remember that we are celebrating the arrival of the one who would save us from our greatest enemy, sin. Remember that Jesus has offered you this gift of life and there’s nothing you need to do to accept it. Remember that because of him, you can guarantee your place in heaven.

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About Joel A Moroney

Associate Minister at St Luke's Anglican Church, Liverpool (in the Sydney Diocese). A very strange man, but he usually has Pez, so that makes it okay.
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