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This has been A Christmas Carol Christmas season for me. I didn’t go looking for it, but it seems at every turn I have been bumping into it.

It started a couple weeks ago when I was reading an article in Mockingbird by Alison Kjergaard, titled A Christmas Carol and Grace in Practice, which I highly recommend. I was inspired and challenged by it and thought it would be a good jumping off point for a blog post. She focused on the quote above.

Shortly after reading that article I was listening to a Christian podcast about A Christmas Carol (sorry, don’t remember which one). But I do remember listening to the In Our Time podcast with Melvin Brag and his guests who spent 45 minutes talking about Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic. Also the podcast The American Story touched on it. Finally, I read an essay from the Imaginative Conservative by Chuck Chalberg called Christmas Dinner with G.K. Chesterton where he referenced an essay by Chesterton. Chesterton mentioned the “soul of Scrooge and the body of Cratchit”.

After all that, I decided I should gather the family around and watch the movie since I have not seen it for years, and my children never. I forgot how mean and humbuggety Scrooge was throughout the movie and how transformed his life was at the end-a man who ended up keeping Christmas as well as any man alive. I must admit I shed a few tears. Some because of the wonderful change in Ebeneezer Scrooge, and some because of the scroogieness that still dwells within me. I don’t know if it is my culture, nurture or bent nature that occasionally brings out the humbug in me, but I know I don’t like it. I’m still a man in need of a Savior.

The Christmas Carol thing that really got my attention through the Scrooge deluge was the quote above from Jacob Marley which comes toward the beginning of the book and the movie, “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Isn’t that a great line? Especially hard hitting for a lot of us who are more task oriented than people or relationship oriented. Even though I grew up in a Christian home, it seems to me that the task is what was usually front and center in my developing years. My family lived on a farm and there was always pigs to feed, fields to seed and a garden to weed! That was beside regular household chores and schoolwork. Certainly there was love expressed in various ways between the family members, and the message of the love of God was never far off, but what primarily stuck for me was to accomplish the task. Do the business and do it good. Even after Bible college and 16 years of giving of my time, talents and treasure here at the home for needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico, I sometimes forget the reason I am here – charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, and I end up more focused on planting gardens, watering plants, killing bugs and pulling weeds, since I am the gardener.

So, just as Jacob Marley had to give Scrooge the business about what is the true business of life, I have to remind myself that people are more important than projects, relationships are more important than responsibilities, and the well being of my neighbor is more important than the well being of my garden. Loving and helping humanity is my business because it is God’s business.

I think we should all try to be more devoted to making others lives beautiful rather than our own; living the love of God rather than loving the “good life”; tending to souls rather than careers. If we have these attitudes and actions we will enjoy God more and truly glorify him in our lives, families, churches and world.

Truly he taught us to love one another

His law is love and His gospel is peace

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother

And in His name all oppression shall cease

From O Holy Night

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Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11

The Jews who lived at the time when Jesus was born were waiting for a savior. They had been oppressed and subject to foreign rule for over 400 years. The prophets who lived back in the day, back in the glory years, told of a time when the rebellious nation of Israel and the kingdom of Judah would fall to other rulers as punishment for their disobedience to God’s law. But they also told of a Savior who would come and rescue them one day.

So they waited and waited and endured the pagans who ruled over them, mistreated them, and taxed them heavily. But no true Savior appeared to deliver them. To save them. A few wannabe saviors rose up and led the people for short periods of time, but it always came to nothing. And while some of the Jews surely gave up on the idea of a Savior, others kept holding on to the dream; hoping and waiting.

One day an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. We all know the story. Joseph felt himself in need of a savior, because he was in a real pickle. His fiance, Mary, was pregnant, and the child inside her wasn’t from him.

“What to do? What to do?” Joseph must have been thinking and I imagine it took awhile until he fell into a fitful sleep that night.

The angle told him to take Mary as his wife because what was conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit. He was told to give the baby boy the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means The Lord Saves.

Well, this isn’t exactly the kind of saving that Joseph was hoping for. As a matter of fact, this wasn’t the kind of saving that the Jews were looking for either. According to the angel, this “savior” would not liberate Israel from foreign oppression and restore it to its former glory, but would “save his people from their sins.”

What kind of savior is that? They already had forgiveness of sins through sacrifices of animals in the temple. Isn’t that enough?

Not really. While they had forgiveness of sins, they weren’t saved from their sins. A greater power was oppressing them than Caesar Augustus. An unrelenting tyrant called Sin had enslaved them; not since the days of the Babylonian Exile from Israel, but since the Exile from Eden.

Because of the Savior growing in Mary’s womb- the Savior that would be laid in a manger in Bethlehem- the Savior who would die on a cross- and the Savior that would rise from the dead and walk out of a tomb, all of God’s people would be saved from a fate worse than physical death – that would be spiritual death.

Paul writes in Ephesians 2:

As for you, you were dead in in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (verses 1 and 2)

Sounds pretty grave and hopeless, but then the Savior came!

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in sins – it is by grace you have been saved. (verse 4)

This Christmas let us rejoice in the Savior who has saved us from Sin and raises up with Christ in the heavenly realms!

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Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what the author of Hebrews thought about when he or she began writing about the incarnation. Hebrews 2:9,14,15 says, ‘We see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone…. Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what the angel of the Lord was thinking of when he told Joseph to name Mary’s son Jesus, for he would save his people from their sins. (Mt. 1:21) It was Jesus death on the cross that accomplished salvation from sin.

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what Herod was thinking about the newborn king. “When the magi had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ “

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what Paul was thinking about in Philippians chapter two when he wrote, “And being found in appearance as a man, Christ Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.”

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what Paul was thinking about when he thought about his own death. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. Paul thought about Christ’s birth and death and resulting reconciliation with God. “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled shall we be saved through his life.” (Rom. 5:9,10)

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. This Christmas maybe we can change our focus a bit. Sure there are gifts, decorations and family gatherings to consider, but perhaps these last few days before December 25th, we can orient our thoughts toward something more substantial, like death – the true reason for the season. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross. Jesus was born to die so that we can live. Let’s embrace death to self so that we can live meaningful lives in Christ. God became flesh and dwelt among us and died for us because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death, and celebrate!

Reasons Why Jesus Was Born

Today is Tifani’s birthday. She is my oldest daughter and I dedicate this post to her. In Romans chapter 12 we find five ways to be, five ways to treat one another and five Do Not’s. Considering and living out these 15 admonitions from Paul we can all experience happier birthdays, merrier Christmas’s and happier lives.

The Five Be’s

Be devoted to one another in love.

Be spiritually passionate, serving the Lord.

Be joyful in hope.

Be patient in affliction.

Be faithful in prayer.

Five Ways to Treat One Another

Share with one another.

Rejoice with one another.

Mourn with one another.

Live in harmony with one another.

Live in peace with one another.

Five Do Nots.

Do not be proud.

Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.

Do not take revenge.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21

God loves us and wants us to be happy. He inspired Paul to write these words so that we would take them to heart, put them into practice and live in right relationship with God and our fellow human beings. I think of them as 15 gifts  around the birthday cake or presents under the Christmas tree. Each one to be carefully unwrapped, treasured and used daily.

christmas12

For the joy that was set before Him, 

God became flesh,

And dwelt among us.

jesus manger1.jpg

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10

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I was thirsty, and you gave me living water.

John 4:10,14

I was hungry, and you gave me the bread of life.

John 6:27,35

I was naked, and you gave me a garment of praise.

Isaiah 61:3

I was a stranger, and you adopted me.

Romans 8:14-16

I was sick and you healed me of all my diseases.

Psalm 103:3

I was in prison and you set me free.

Luke 4:18

christmas6God, open the eyes of our hearts to get a glimpse

of the height and depth and length and width of your

immense love for us,

and then help us to spread it around.

 

christmas5

If Christ is in our hearts then Christmas is in our hearts.

 

christmas4

God loves us and wants us to be happy –

Christmas season and all year round!

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