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This year during Advent, I will revisit Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. This classic Christmas story is really a story of hope, a story of preparation. Marley, as dreadful an apparition as he is, is the prophetic bearer of hope – your reclamation and salvation will be offered this month through messengers. Will you listen? Will you heed their message?

LUKE 16:19-31

In this passage in Luke, we find not the poor man who needs salvation, but the rich man who needs a message of hope. While the poor and needy are all around us at Christmas (and every time of the year), I think we would be remiss if we declared that only the poor need Christ at Christmas. The danger for those of us who are rich in this world (both in spirit and resources) is that we often miss the message of salvation altogether – relying on our own means and sufficiency rather than on the hope and grace of God.

Advent lifts up the prophets of Isaiah and John the Baptist to call us with their prophetic voices to hear the message of salvation and reclamation. Be careful, lest you think you don’t need to heed the prophets' call.

ROMANS 13:11-14

Paul writes in Romans 13, “You know what time it is, this is the moment to wake from sleep. The night is far gone and the day is near. Lay aside the works of the darkness and put on the armor of the light. Live honorably in the day.”  In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the light that shines on our past is reflected in the Ghost of Christmas Past. While Paul uses the term, “The night is far gone and the day is near,” Charles Dickens uses the powerful image of the Ghost of Christmas Past, who shines light in the corners of our life. 

Remembering the past can be a good thing – if we use those memories to learn how to move forward. But there are some memories that don’t help. They haunt us. They enslave us and bind us.

MATTHEW 3:1-12

Scrooge, believing Christmas to be a farce and an invention of rich men to steal, accuses the Spirit of all the selfish things done in the name of Christmas and faith. “There are some upon this earth of yours,” returned the Spirit, “who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.”  The Ghost of Christmas Present is similar to John’s voice crying out in the wilderness. “Be careful that you think you have it all understood – it is much simpler and richer than you could ever imagine, but you have to get out of your own way first.”

True and pure love is the simple answer. Not in control, not in legalism, not in unforgiveness, not even in buying stuff! 

When it is all said and done, the secret to living life fully is not that difficult to figure out. Let us move beyond control, legalism, and judgment toward the power that can set us free: Love. The greatest of these is love.

ISAIAH 35:1-10

What is more fearsome? Death? Or a meaningless life?

As we look ahead into the future, we hear a voice from long ago – a call from Isaiah of the future Christ ushers in – a future that disturbs. The truth is that this passage is deeply disturbing to those of us who are comfortable. God always seems to afflict the comfortable.

For many of us, our own names are on the tombstones of life staring back at us. This is the result of living life in our own self-interest. How will we respond when we see our names written on the marble in front of us? What will our response be? How will we live our lives going forward? Will we continue on in the same manner? 

Or will we work with God, ushering in Christ’s Kingdom, being recreated fully in God’s image, and living a life of love?

ISAIAH 9:2-7

The bright light from the Ghost of Christmas Past that Scrooge fought hard to snuff out continued to shine in his life and revealed his true character. The light overcame Scrooge’s darkness and can overcome ours also, if we will open ourselves to see and hear the message Christ brings. 

Always be open to the challenge of God’s word! Examine your past and allow Christ to help you overcome the limitations of it. Remember the simplicity and purity of our faith and live in the present – with love for God and those around you every day.

Christ has come. The time for redemption is at hand. 

For Going Beyond the Sermon Notes for this series, click here. 

To join a Advent Study Group, learn more here.