And she gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:7, NIV)
In Charles Dickens’s beloved story, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge starts out as anything but a lover of Christmas. For him, Christmas is a “Humbug!” But, after his encounter with the Spirits of Christmas, Scrooge is a changed man. As Dickens observes, Scrooge “knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” What would it mean for you to keep Christmas well? What would it mean to live each day in light of the fact that God came to dwell among us in the baby born in a manger?
In the first chapter of Dickens’ classic story, Ebenezer Scrooge didn’t have much enthusiasm for Christmas, to say the least. “If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly to his nephew, Fred, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.” Fred was understandably horrified. “Uncle!” he exclaimed, to which Scrooge replied, “Nephew! . . . keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.” “Keep it,” Fred responded, “But you don’t keep it.” To which Ebenezer replied, “Let me leave it alone, then.”
Indeed, Ebenezer Scrooge did not keep Christmas well, at the beginning of Dicken’s story. Yet, by the end of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge promised, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” Indeed, that’s exactly what Scrooge did. The final paragraphs of A Christmas Carol report that Scrooge “knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” To this the author adds, “May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”
Yes, indeed! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to keep Christmas well, not just on one special day or during one special season of the year? Shouldn’t we who profess to follow the One whose birth is celebrated on Christmas live in light of its reality “all the year”?
When I speak of “keeping Christmas well,” I’m not thinking of decorations, gifts, and parties, though I have nothing against these. Perhaps you fill your front yard with thousands of lights at Christmastime. But, in “keeping Christmas well,” I’m thinking about living in light of the reality of Christmas, namely, the birth of the baby Jesus. This is the essential reality of Christmas. As it says in Luke 2:7, Mary gave birth to Jesus, the one who, as the Messiah, would save His people from their sin, the one who was Emmanuel, “God with us.”
What would it be like to keep Christmas well, really to keep Christmas well, not just in this season of the year, but throughout the year? What would it be like to keep Christmas well as we go about our lives as spouses, parents, children, church members, friends and workers? What would it be like to live in light of the Incarnation, the coming of God in human flesh, Jesus, Emmanuel? Today, I would invite you into a time of discovery. You can keep Christmas well by living each day in light of the Incarnation of the Word of God in Jesus.
What comes to mind when you think about keeping Christmas well? How might your life be different if you lived in light of the birth of the Messiah, the Word Incarnate? What difference might there be in your work? Your home? Your neighborhood?
As you go about your daily business, ask yourself, “What difference does it make that Jesus was God Incarnate?” Ask the Lord to help you connect the miracle of the Incarnation to your daily life.
May God teach us how to keep Christmas well,
and to live in the reality of Christmas daily.