What the Dickens?

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Charles Dickens has influenced the way we celebrate Christmas in so many ways.

His 1843 masterpiece, “A Christmas Carol”, influenced our Christmas customs and created many new Festive traditions.

His description of the season recaptured the spiritual elements of the Grand Miracle.

One of the characters says: “It is a good time: a kind and forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut up hearts freely, and to think of other people below them as if they really were fellow-passenger to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

None of us want to be seen as a grumpy, stingy  Scrooge. It is really a book about redemption as God comes and shows Ebenezer just what a misery-guts he has become. His whole life is transformed and through it our celebration reaches down to transform us too.

Scrooge is totally altered on the inside and begins to express his newfound faith outwardly by sharing his wealth with his employee’s family and provides for the medical treatment of their son Tiny Tim.

It is a wonderful story for children and adults who need to know that a person can be changed by the power of the Spirit at any age.

Other people also influenced the revival of our Merry Christmas celebrations. Prince Albert brought the German custom of decorating the Yuletide Tree to Britain.

Christmas cards were invented for people who had new jobs due to the Industrial Revolution.

The singing of Christmas Carols developed as ordinary people formed a market for songs that could be harmonized.

And we need to point out that the mighty influence of the Wesleyan Revival brought about a more Scripturally based and celebratory expectancy as the days toward Christmas grew closer.

Christmas became a time when the Spirit of God could bring new life to the many would-be Scrooges. A sense of great expectation has become a real part of our celebrations.

Great Expectations are an integral part of our New Testament story of the coming of Christ.

There had not been a prophet of Israel for hundreds of years and the people longed for a fulfilment of the Old Testament’s apocalyptic vision of a Messiah.

They first had hopes that John the Baptist was the Messiah, but although he was a charismatic and popular preacher who was well received, he made a quick disclaimer that one much greater than him was coming soon as the Messiah. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with power.” proclaimed John.

Another Dickens novel, Great Expectations, tells the story of the young man Pip who longs to someday rise up out of poverty and become an English Gentleman. Pip finally receives a large sum from a will and is able to realize his longed for dream.

Dickens captures the experience of longing, expectation, eager anticipation, intense desire and hope that is such a great aspect of our Advent/Christmas spirit of soon- to-be fulfilled promises.

Pip’s great expectations are presented by Dickens as another aspect of the Christian process of redemption. We have to see our need for salvation before we can have it.

Likewise, Ebenezer Scrooge came to realize that his sin was separating him from his fellow human beings, and his God, and was given a life changing desire for new life and redemption.

The Christmas season is a time of heightened awareness of just how much we need God in our lives and a reminder of how He has sent His Son to save us. The Christmas story is the story upon which all other stories hang.

And what greater way to begin the greatest story ever told than with a baby? Everybody loves a baby!

God used a baby as a way of showing us that new life creates new life. The old miser Scrooge was given new life through the new life that Jesus brought into our realm. And what greater expectancy do we experience than during the nine months that we await the arrival of a precious little child?

We all have great expectations – thank God they are fulfilled by the baby of Bethlehem and the Risen and Reigning Christ who satisfies all our needs and answers all our desires.

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Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

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