“We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” – 1 Corinthians 2:12

The title of this Advent’s message series “Keeping Christmas” is inspired by the final paragraph of Charles Dickens’ well-known and beloved book A Christmas Carol:

“He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!”

We do not know how to “keep Christmas well”, if our stress, spending, and spiritual celebrations were to be used as the evidence.  We need to know how the Lord would have us “keep,” or observe, the birth of our Savior.

Throughout this series we will describe and discover how we, like Dickens’ main character Ebenezer Scrooge, have failed to keep Christmas and how we, like he, are in need of a visitation; not by three spirits, but by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:12), with the result that we find and celebrate what the Lord most wants us to have – and keep – this Christmas.

Each week, we will consider one of the spirits that visited Scrooge, and the corresponding message that the Holy Spirit wants to convey to us through His Word and the Birth of God’s Son at Christmas:

  • December 4 The Ghost of Christmas Past – “Sorrow”
  • December 11 The Ghost of Christmas Present – “Repentance”
  • December 18 The Ghost of Christmas Future – “Transformation”

“Bah!  Humbug!”  was Scrooge’s favorite saying.  What does that mean?  “Bah!” is a kind of dismissive expression.  “Humbug” refers to “deception.”  That’s what Scrooge thought of Christmas.  He thought it was nothing more than foolish trickery.  Why?  For one thing, Scrooge was carrying around a lot of sorrow – baggage that turned him into what Dickens called “A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!”  He had been abandoned in boarding house as a boy, and lost the love of his life because he loved the idea of becoming wealthy more than he did the girl who loved him. That sorrow became a chain that weighed down his soul.  You and I carry our own sorrow and it interferes with us truly “Keeping Christmas.”

The ghost of Christmas Past came to “reclaim” Scrooge.  In the same way, Christ came to ransom, or reclaim us.  The ghost takes Scrooge on a journey all the way back to his childhood.  Then the next ghost takes Scrooge to the present day where he must confront the world that he has created for himself.  He learns of the way that others speak of him and his scrooginess.  He is shown that the actions of the present will shape his future – but that future is changeable.  So it is for us Christians.  Christ forgives our past and as we turn from our sin He then works in and through us to fashion a future for us – a better one.

How do we hope to “keep Christmas” this year?  How might we serve those around us as a way of keeping Christmas well?  The Apostle Paul underwent his own “visitation” as he was overcome by the blinding light of Christ.  In that experience, Paul was transformed by the only power that can transform any of us: the grace of God.  It is the Spirit’s power that enables us to die to self.  And it is God’s grace that gives us new life, the life of Christ.  May we keep it well.

Keeping Christmas with you,

Pastor Augie