Transcript of a special Christmas message.
.During this Christmas season, next to the original Christmas story, the most re-told story is that of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” There have been all kinds of versions made for it. Animated versions with the Flintstones and Mr. Magoo. A version with the Muppets. A sci-fi version, a western version. Even some detective programs have taken to making their own spin on this story. It’s a timeless tale. It was written in a culture strongly influenced by the gospel. And there were some powerful truths in that story and some great lessons to be learned. There was that profound idea of Tiny Tim that men seeing his infirmity would think and consider whom had made lame men walk and blind men see.
The one I’m going to talk about comes from the end of the Christmas Carol when Scrooge has changed and is talking about how he will live his life. “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.”
I think that is a good idea for how we observe Christmas.
There is the Past of Christmas and that can be seen in this season in so many ways.
This is the most nostalgic time of the year. It’s the time of the year when people who don’t watch anything that doesn’t have CGI and expensive new special effects sit and gather around a television and watch movies in black and white or animated specials from the 1960s.
And of course it can be seen in music. Every year, musicians release CDs of Chrismas music with original Christmas songs and fans will listen to them and then promptly bury the CDs.
And during this season we are repeatedly driven to old songs. Not decades old but in some cases centuries old. We sing Joy to the World, a song written in 1719.
During the advent season, we sing O Come O Come Emmanuel, based on a song from the ninth century. In some cases, we’re trying to remember something, recapture something that has been lost. And there is a danger that the great past of Christmas isn’t something that is living in us but dead. It’s a fact of history, like Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. And we take it for granted just like that. But that past must live in us. We have to recapture the wonder. We can never let it become common place that God came and dwelled with us, that Christ was our Emmanuel and he came to redeem us.
We have to look with new eyes as the shepherds did as they were sitting there, just doing their regular routine as shepherds had done for centuries and continued to do. And the scripture tells it.
“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
[ref: Luke 2:9-14 KJV]
That moment is powerful and it lives, if we’ll let it, within us.
Of course, the past not only talks about Jesus’ coming but why He came. He came to free us from sin, to redeem us, that we might be saved through him. And that is the past that must live within us.
And then there is the Present of Christmas.
Christ’s coming to Earth wouldn’t have helped us much if, before he ascended, he has said, “well, I died so you could be redeemed, but you’re on your own from here on out, fellas. Figure out how to live and how to [prevent] evil in the world because I’m out of here.”
But that isn’t what Jesus said. He promised that he would be with us always, even to the end of the earth, and he said he would not leave us comfortless and gave us the promise of His Holy Spirit with us.
And there’s something remarkable the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:5, of the gift of the Spirit that”it hath been given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.”-
Now other modern translations say guarantee, which is fine I suppose but I like the term earnest because it is something that we use today. I remember that when we bought our house, and we made our offer to the realtor, we had to present earnest money so they would not market and sell the property to others. We were serious about purchasing this property. And they took our earnest money because we had a pre-approval letter. They knew we were serious about fulfilling our promise and that we were credit-worthy to be able to fulfill the promise to purchase the house from them. So it is an interesting image.
So God has left his spirit to be with us but it is only a down payment. Well, that raises the question, “A down payment on what?”
And that brings us to the future of Christmas.
And I’m not talking about the future five years from now or ten years from now. I’m talking about the ultimate future, the promises that God will bring us. And there are a few I will talk about. There are many more we could go through.
The first is a place for us with God. In John 14: 2,3, Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
He also promises to wipe away all tears. Revelations (sic) 21:4 says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And He promises peace. Not in the sense that people on Earth usually promise, “we won’t shoot at each other for a while. That’s peace.” But Jesus’ promise is so much more powerful. As revealed to the prophet Isaiah. He writes:
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain. [Isaiah 11:6-9]
And in Isaiah 2:4 he says, “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,neither shall they learn war anymore.”
These are the promises of what Christmas means in the future, in that ultimate future. But it can be hard to hold onto as we continue to experience pain and sorrow and tears and sadness. As we look at the news and we see violence and that peace God promised seems so far away with all the violence and hatred and terrorism and evil running rampant in the world. We have to live in the past, the present, and the future.
And Christmas is about the promises, the promises that God has kept, with the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the redemption. It’s the promises He’s keeping, with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And it’s about the promises He will keep. And we can trust Him to keep those promises. He has given us the earnest of them, and He is credit worthy. He is worthy of our trust and our faith and Christmas reminds us of that.