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The Ghost of Christmas Present

From Charles Dickens we received the classic story of A Christmas Carol in December of 1843. We watch the movie still, a movie “improved” in sound and script but sadly lacking in the original message. 

Christmas 2022 has now passed. It is Christmas Past. Nothing more to do, or undo. I pray it has departed gracefully, leaving memories –  mainly joyful – for you, as it does for us. Today we find ourselves facing a new year – 2023 – the Present. We are unwrapping the gift of a new day, a new year in which we are able to delight in the potential woven into a new beginning. But how to begin?

Returning to 1843 and seizing upon Dickens’ exquisitely formed theme of redemption I would like to offer my “Christmas letter,” now more appropriately (and perhaps even intentionally) a New Year’s letter.

Ebenezer Scrooge’s turning from darkness to light, from a lifetime of pennilessness of soul to joy overflowing from the Fountain of Life is the story of the redemption of one man; so wretched, so mean, so miserly, his turning seems impossible, even to himself! 

The redemption story is of one man, who was visited sequentially in one night (of course you remember!) by three spirits who reveal his past, the present and his possible, although reversible, very bleak future. One man, exposed to himself, whose quickened heart can slow the tide of humanity’s descent to death and destruction; at least the humanity around him, which, if he is transformed, is a predilection of the fortunes of all men, and mankind, through the love, joy, and kindness of a changed heart. 

One scene emerges frightfully relevant to the spirit of our own Present. This Present spirit reveals beneath the unfurling of his luxurious, emerald green, fur-trimmed cloak, two naked and dirty, bruised, and emaciated children. Two destitute children are bared; one whose name is Ignorance, the boy, and a girl, called Want. The spirit cautions Scrooge, “Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.” “Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out his hand toward the city. “Slander those that tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!” Scrooge is moved, horrified by the sight, terrified by hearing the Spirit repeat his very own words:

“Have they no refuge or resource? Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”

“The bell struck twelve. Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost but saw it not.”

Now dear friends, this writing is not meant to be a condemnation or denouncement of any one of us, or group of us, but it is a gentle and loving reminder to all of us that there is in fact a good Spirit that roams the earth, eager to rest peacefully and profoundly, in the hearts of all who welcome Him, who call on the name of Jesus. That Spirit is forming His legacy right now in the heart that welcomes the new year, and each new day, and all the benefits of each new beginning, as if seeing Christmas and the gift of a Savior, Christ the Lord, for the very first time! 

Jesus, whose Advent is the way to “erase the writing” of Doom. 

Jesus, who lived for the purpose of His own sacrifice, once, for all, to conquer sin, indifference, and coldness in each individual, compliant heart. 

Jesus, whose resurrection from the dead is the first of many resurrections He promises to those who repent and believe He is truly the Son of God. 

I write so that anyone reading this meditation on Dickens’s, A Christmas Carol, will consider as his or her own the choice offered Scrooge… to remain the same, mired in our own transgressions, our self-centered opinions, our inflexibilities, our blind and feeble excuses, and yes, I admit it, my own utter coldness of heart, or, be transformed in a new way, in this new year, on this first day, by God’s Spirit. Have we the courage to see the world, to see ourselves, through His Spirit eyes, exposed, even Ignorant, and Wanting; to see ourselves as we really are, … and acknowledge the need for a Savior, the need for the “living water” that brings new Life to all who believe? 

Believe in the Jesus Who, a Person, is able to come alive in us, to lead us to repentance. 

Believe in the Jesus who is able to perform daily a transformational and life-giving heart surgery, molding and shaping hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. 

Believe in the Jesus who was born on Christmas Day as Redeemer-King and Priest, and believe in the Holy Spirit, the great Comforter, the third member of the Trinity of our one God, the Spirit of Truth. Believe that today is the day your spiritual new year begins. 

This writing is not meant to be focused on our communal political, social, or moral shortcomings, already known by God, but it is a commentary on the POWER of that good Spirit, our High Priest, who always, but always, lives to intercede for those who believe in Him. My prayer for us all is …. Lord, 

“Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today!” And have a…

Happy New Year! Amen.

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