I have to settle with re-reading Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol. First published in 1843, A Christmas Carol has remained a standard at Christmas for 168 years. My latest reading of A Christmas Carol was not so much for the story (as enjoyable as it is); this time I am trying to get a sense of Christmas in the early 19th century.
Dickens had such a talent with description of the particulars of daily life. It's almost like travelling back in time to Victorian London of the 1840s. In my imagination I can hear the sounds of horses' hooves on the streets, children playing, frosty shop windows and gritty smells of the old city. A spirit of Christmas excitement and goodwill is portrayed in A Christmas Carol that humanity still experiences in 2016. It illustrates for me that Christmas has given a bond to humanity throughout the generations. That bond is conveyed through the vast treasury of Christmas music and carols, art, literature and traditions.
I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS
The most meaningful Christmas traditions should point to Christ's birth, rather than merely generating warm fuzzy feelings associated with gift giving, elves, decorated trees and a fat little man with high cholesterol, wearing a red suit.
Christ's birth carries the same timeless hope across the centuries. Millions of Christians have experienced that hope as they contemplated the incarnation and placed their faith in Jesus Christ. God became man. Immanuel - God with us, as mentioned in the first chapter of Matthew's Gospel and alluded to at the end of Matthew when the risen Christ assured his followers, "I am with you always, until the end of the age."
Christmas reminds me of that promise. (That's the real reason it's my favourite time of year.) The reality of that promise is alive within all who have met the risen Christ and place their faith and hope in him. Christ is with us.
The road from Bethlehem to Calvary can lead humanity to the sublime love of Christ's sacrificial act on the cross and provides the means for reconciliation of sinful humanity back to God.
A traditional English Christmas carol mentioned in Dickens' novel is God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen which dates to the 15th century. It carries the beloved lyrics:
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.
Again Collins explained: "Thus when taken in context, the new meaning of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen becomes "God keep you mighty, gentlemen.'"
MEDIEVAL WISDOMPerhaps the person who penned this traditional English carol 700
years ago had a clearer grasp of the purpose of Christmas observance than many 21st century Christians. Yes, we should do acts of generosity to our fellow man, celebrate the birth of Jesus, but as the lyrics remind us "Christ, our Saviour was born on Christmas Day, to save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray."
Throughout Christmas Season, and throughout the year, let us commit ourselves to goodwill between ourselves and others, meditate upon our Lord's birth and expectation of Christ's return. Let's use Advent to recommit ourselves to the good news of Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection, and to be mighty in our faith and loving evangelism. Remember the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us, every one!" -- Mark
[Click on image below for Libera boys choir singing Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen]