My wife & I made a huge mistake last Saturday. We drove out to pick up a couple Christmas presents. Traffic was slow, people were everywhere, and my patience was tested. I should have expected it. The Christmas holiday comes with chaos. It is like a virus whose symptoms are mild on December 1st, but deadly by December 25. It seems the challenges of life become magnified at Christmas time. Family & friends have expectations for us & it’s hard to know if you can do everything that needs to get done. But the real message of Christmas is not about what we find ourselves doing. Christmas is the recognition of what God has already done in Jesus.
In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is a crotchety, mean old man for most of his life; until he goes through the process of the 3 visitations. He is reminded in Christmases past of the bad choices he’s made & the consequences of those choices. He visits Christmas present & realizes the past has an impact & influence on his present circumstances. And then Christmas future, when old Scrooge realizes there is a price to pay for how he lived. He wonders, is there still time. Is change still possible? And of course the answer is yes! And we see a beautiful transformation of this man.
A Christmas Carol is a wonderful metaphor of the gospel. The message is that there is hope & possibility of new life in the love gift of God’s son. We all know the definition of love if we’ve attended many weddings. (verses from 1Cor13) The thing that stands out to me is that love can always be trusted. Scrooge became trustworthy after that last visitation. Only love can bring a change like that. Love is what makes us trustworthy. In fact, love is the central demand of human life in relation to God & to other people. Jesus said the entire list of commandments is wrapped up in two. Love God. Love others. I can trust God, because God is love, and He proved it by sending His only Son as the sacrifice for my sin. And get this. He demonstrated His love to me before I ever loved Him. That’s the big story of why I can trust Him. But can God trust me?
That first Christmas – God found some people He could trust. He sent the angel Gabriel to Mary & said “I am trusting you to be a mother to my son. Wrap him in swaddling clothes & lay him in a manger & do all the things a good mother would do to take care of her child.” A sacred moment, when God said “I trust you Mary”. And Joseph, a man filled with love for God. A love so great that God trusted him to do the right thing; not divorce Mary & raise Jesus as his own. God knew that Joseph wouldn’t do anything to harm Mary’s life or reputation. A sacred moment, when God said “I trust you Joseph”.
This Christmas, I think, ‘how do I become trustworthy like that’? So that my love for God is so strong that I am committed to do what He asks me to do?
About 200 years ago, an Anglican priest in England, by the name of John Wesley said there are 3 basic rules to life & faith. 1. Do no harm. 2. Do good. 3. Stay in love with God. Pretty good advice. And love is the foundation for it all. Love is the passion, the conviction. Love is what fuels all of our faith. Love is what gives us strength.
Scrooge faced the reality of his own mortality. And he gains a new understanding that enables him to see that he doesn’t have forever. There is going to be an end. And the future starts right now. This is the season we must consider the same thing. Can we be trusted to carry God’s love into the world? Let’s not try to go through Christmas without the love of Jesus filling our heart. Let’s not wait till some Christmas in the future that we have no assurance of. Let’s ask God to help us live the 3 basic rules of life now. Let’s turn our heart & life over to Him this Christmas. Let’s start over. Let’s get a new hope & new life that honors God by loving others. Let’s align our plans with God’s purposes. (Proverbs 19:21)
Let’s be trusted by God to live the Christmas message this year & in Christmases to come.
Dave Wenrich is Pastor at Boston Harbor Community Church located at 9 Salutation Street in Boston’s North End.