Of Christmases past

It’s been said that celebrating Christmas nearly died out in mid 1800s England. People were so busy at their work, possibly seven days a week, that there was little time or money for Christmas celebrations. It may also have had something to do with a Puritan influence that seemed to stomp out anything that was fun. At any rate, the famous writer Charles Dickens is credited with reviving celebrating Christmas with his play, A Christmas Carol. Familiar to most is the character Scrooge who has a severe shake-up in his life view by being taken to see various scenes of poverty and want, capped by a preview of his own miserable demise if he doesn’t repent. It is a review of his own life.
Strangely today, we remember Scrooge for being, well ‘Scrooge”, miserly and miserable. What isn’t celebrated is that Scrooge did repent and became a very generous and caring man. The theological basis for the possibility of a transformation in a person is somewhat muted in the modern day renditions of Scrooge. You see Scrooge saw his end, the very real possibility of a miserable death. He had a foretaste of death and hell. 
But Scrooge did repent and that  is the message of Christmas. While we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas time, we also honour the death and resurrection of Christ at Easter time. It’s both a complicated story and a very simple one. In a nutshell, God created the world and mankind and everything else in this world. God made mankind with a free choice and sin came into the world by way of that free choice. We can smugly blame Adam and Eve, but there’s blame enough to go around to us all. All have sinned. But there is a solution. We can recognize that we have sinned, we can ask God, through his Son Jesus, to forgive us our sin and we will experience two things. One, we will receive a ticket to heaven. That ticket has been called a lot of things, salvation, eternal life, among the most commonly used terms. But we receive a bonus. After we repent, we receive an empowerment to live an abundant life. That word abundant can throw people off a bit as there are Christians who have a worldly abundance and there are those who live in poverty. This new found abundance has nothing to do with possessions. Just ask Mother Teresa or the Christians in third world countries or Christians in our own country who have little to their name in terms of worldly goods. This abundance is measured in peace and joy and contentment. 
To illustrate what this abundance is like, I once was in the hospital room of a woman who was dying. In fact she did die of cancer a few days later. She was radiant, happy to see us and inquiring about our well-being. She knew her days on earth were nearly done, she couldn’t have been more frail, but she had abundance. I experienced the same thing at the death bed of an old man. Both these people were well known to many in the area, they had an abundant life but neither were rich in worldly goods.
The key to heaven when we die, and to abundant life now, is the baby in the manger. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus was laid in a manger. What is a manger for but a place to lay feed (food) for livestock? Jesus is our Bread of Life so there is a powerful symbolism there, Jesus was laid in a manger, a place for sustenance or food.
Today, the re-enactment of that manger scene, the Nativity, the Christmas story, is not nearly as common as it was in our childhood days or even just a generation ago. This is a challenge to our communities. As churches may have dwindling numbers of children and because the school system basically forbids us to tell the story of Jesus in school concerts, perhaps it’s time for the community to come together to tell the old, old story. We have a whole generation of children who don’t know the Christmas story, how to sing Away in a Manger or any of the other songs of Christmas.
We, like the England of Dickens era, have become too occupied with other stuff and allowed our government to help snuff out the story. It’s time to come together and re-tell the story of Jesus. It’s worth it. The key to heaven and the key to abundant life are too valuable to let them rust on an old hook behind some dusty door.

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kwaddell@kenwaddell.ca This is a Sunrize Group internet solution (204)226-2247