December 25, 2022 (Christmas Day 2022)
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.” (Psalm 118.24)
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is rife with religious tones (over or under depends on your point of view.) You would recognize them only because you are familiar with the Word of God itself. Those rich with the blessings of “wanting to know” are satisfied when they can see the redeeming work of God woven throughout the revelation of His Word. And the greatest line for me in the entire Dickens’ story is not Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, everyone.” No, it is the realization from Ebenezer Scrooge’s ownership of being saved from a fate worse than death. When “the bells of Christmas day ring,” he awakens to find that he has not descended to the grave where his past, present and future would have left him if not for a “changed heart and a changed spirit.” He rushes to the window. He throws back the sash being awakened from a “long winter’s nap,” so to say. He opens the window and is filled with the light and air of a brand new day. He catches the attention of a boy passing by on the street below. “Boy,” he bellows as only Ebenezer can, “Boy, what day is it?” The boy below looks up and declares, “Why today is Christmas Day!” And he is frozen in time as Ebenezer Scrooge reveals the power of the truth which now has made him truly rich. He speaks the golden words, “Christmas Day! I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done their work all in one night? Of course, they can. They can do anything.” And now giddy with joy, he begins his journey of renewal, charity and peace on earth. Yes, I know, he doesn’t kneel to the floor, clasp his hands and praise God from whom all blessings flow. It is from the mouths of babes that that ordained truth is given. It is Tiny Tim, whose mean estate struck Ebenezer to the heart, mind and soul of his own reality, who speaks the truth in love. It is the truth of Immanuel, God with us, which offers to us the message of transformation, reclamation, reconciliation and salvation. It is the truth of Immanuel, God within us, which offers to us the message of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The seed of truth which God has planted in each of us and has begun to sprout bears witness to whom we allow to be the gardener of our fruit-bearing. Who we are, whose we are and what we shall do with the answer to the first two statements determines our very future. It is Tiny Tim’s declaration which leads us to embrace the truth: “God has blessed us, everyone of us.”
For Mary, it was the silencing of the “ghost of Israel’s past.” God promised to Eve as He put judgment on the Serpent, the Fallen Lucifer who now wore the crown of Satan the Accuser, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.” It was in her offspring, the babe of Bethlehem whom she called at God’s command- Jesus, that the Word of the Lord was finally and fully revealed. The sins of the past now had their one true remedy outsourced by God in His only begotten Son to all the world who would believe in Them: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. She would utter His name at His birth- Jesus, the Son of the Lord Most High whose kingdom on earth was from of old as on the throne of David but it will have no end as He will reign forever and ever.
For Joseph, it was the silencing of the “ghost of Israel’s present.” No longer was he bound by the Law as interpreted and enforced by the religious leaders of the day. Their own depravity would have been his if not for the visit of Gabriel to reveal the truth of the matter before him. The very ethic of marriage and divorce was far more a spiritual revelation than a litigation of proof-texting God’s Word. True marriage is that which is seeded in the Word of God bound in the only authentic description of unity and harmony. It was spoken by God on the day of humanity’s creation: and the two shall be as one; what God has joined let no one put a separation between. Satan sought to do it in the past and in the present. (He will continue to attempt to do so and with success, unfortunately.) But, those who heed the lesson of Joseph will benefit in their every day on earth with the blessing of being “present to the Lord.” It is to him that the right of naming the newborn son was given. “You shall call His name, Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”
For Jesus, it was silencing the “ghost of Israel’s future.” One age would come to a close with the ministry of John the Baptist cried out in his mother’s womb with joy and would continue to call out to his last day, “Prepare the way, the Lord has come. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Repent and be baptized.” The age of the Temple and its forsaking the true law of God to be light and salt to the world by adhering to the “Great Commands” was closing in John’s fading light. He knew he must decrease so that Jesus as the Christ would increase. He would be no deterrent nor distraction to what was now happening; that which could not be stopped. A new age was dawning which would overcome the world. Israel would be redeemed and reconciled in their belief that Jesus was the Christ of God whom John declared. They would be born again, as Jesus would say to Nicodemus, “in spirit and in truth.” Out with the old which had uprooted itself to be planted in the unholy ground of disobedience, entitlement and sacrilegious arrogance a new Israel would rise up. The old Israel was no longer the spartan Bride of God’s promise bound in His Word of righteousness and holiness. She had sold herself to the highest bidder like Gomer. But, like Amos, Jesus would redeem her and make her new again and call her by a new name. It would be Immanuel, the Church where God is “with us and within us.” The greatest gift we can receive in our today is the promised future of life eternal and abundant bound and woven into Him who has no end.
For US, it is the awakening of the spirit of truth that has been planted in us from the beginning. It is the spirit of God which bears rich fruit unmeasured and unmatched by anything this world could imagine. The true richness of the spirit of God is not founded in silver and gold (sorry Burl Ives). As Peter said to the lame man he met on the way to the Temple to preach Christ and Him crucified, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I will give it freely to you: In the name of Jesus the Christ rise up and walk!” Christmas is our season for declaring the world as we know it has been overcome. We are of a new kingdom that shall have no end. We are bound by a redeemed life, a new life, a life filled with hope, faith and love. This is intended to be our “gift giving” experience as we use what has been given to us to build up the “body of Christ,” the Church- His new creation, into the fullest measure and grandest stature of Christ Himself. It is not with idols nor with fancy words nor with innuendoes of philosophic, political or pseudo-scientific treatises that the true kingdom of Christ is established on earth as it is in Heaven. It is by our repentance of denying God’s word rules in our lives and by the acceptance of God’s rule in our lives by the Word which is Christ Himself that we are intended to live to greatest benefit for one another and to the greatest glory for God Himself who is “with us and within us.” We can’t dare miss it! The Spirit has done its work just as it was said. We celebrate that truth today, the only truth that can set us authentically free and make us absolutely rich because “The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad!”
Father, our hearts are filled with gladness and hope because today is Christmas Day and we haven’t missed it! It is the day of the Lord, a resurrection day remembering all that You have done for us in His Name. AMEN.