Summary: This message looks at how Christmas impacts our past

Christmas Eve Stave two the Past

As a child he was a voracious reader and his favourite book was The Arabian Nights, which he read over and over again. For a while his family was able to afford to send him to a private school where he flourished, but that was short lived.

He was twelve years old when his father was forced by his creditors into the Marshalsea debtors' prison in London. His mother and younger siblings were sent to the prison as well, but because he was twelve, he was deemed to be old enough to be left to his own devices.

It wasn’t very long before he had to quit school and get a job working ten-hour days in Warren’s Blacking Warehouse pasting labels on bottles of boot blacking. The long harsh hours would have a lasting impact on him. He once wrote “I wondered how I could have been so easily cast away at such an age"

His father was released from debtors’ prison after the boy’s grandmother passed away leaving her son enough to pay off his debts. But the boy’s mother decided to let him keep working in the blacking factory even after the family was released. And that left another mark on the boy, he stated “"I never afterwards forgot, I never shall forget, I never can forget, that my mother was warm for my being sent back".

The boy of course was Charles Dickens and the righteous indignation that resulted from his childhood experiences as well as the conditions that he viewed working-class people living in became major themes of his works. He would later write, "I had no advice, no counsel, no encouragement, no consolation, no assistance, no support, of any kind, from anyone, that I can call to mind, . . ."

This is week two of our A Christmas Carol Series and we will be using Dickens’ most successful book as a frame work as we look at how Christmas affects our Past, our present and our future.

As I mentioned last week, A Christmas Carol is divided into five chapters or five staves as Dickens calls them. Last week we looked at how Stave one introduced us to the location and time of the Novel, which was London England in the mid-eighteen hundreds and to the main characters of the story, in particular the protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge.

From there we jumped into Matthew 1 and the first two chapters of Luke’s gospel and looked at how the Christmas story was introduced.

It was there that we were introduced to a young unmarried girl named Mary and her fiancé Joseph, the main Characters in the story. And we discovered that the story happened in Bethlehem as it been predicated in the Old Testament and that it happened at not just any time but at just the right time.

The second stave of a Christmas Carol involves Scrooge being visited by the first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past. Not the Ghost of the Long Past, but the Ghost of Scrooge’s personal past.

The spirit takes Scrooge on a journey back to his more innocent days, before he had become the man he became.

Then the spirit showed him how he had become obsessed with money to the point of alienating and driving away the ones he loved the most.

Scrooge was shaped by his past, just as Dickens himself was shaped by the events of his childhood.

And it is here that we discover that every person has a past and often our past defines our present and inevitably our future.

But what does that have to do with Christmas?

Last week we looked at some of the prophecies concerning Jesus’ birth and how the past pointed toward the events of that day. And maybe you are thinking: the question is still so what? How does that make a difference in my life today?

Well, if you are content to leave Jesus in the manger then Christmas will make no difference in your life.

And so, to illustrate this we are going to go to the most unlikely place for a Christmas message to take us, the crucifixion.

It’s 33 years and 9 kms from the manger and the baby is now a man. After teaching across Galilee and the surrounding area for 3 years Jesus has been accused of blasphemy and treason by the religious leaders who feel threatened by his teachings of a new kingdom.

As a result, these leaders have Jesus arrested and after a mockery of a trial he is sentenced to be executed in the most horrific way. He was beaten and then nailed to a cross and left to die.

It is toward the end of his life, late in the afternoon when we pick up the story in Luke 23:39-43 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

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