Summary: I once saw a sign outside a church that made me smile. ‘Merry Christmas,’ it said, ‘to our Christian friends. Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends. And to our atheist friends, good luck.’ Times are changing!
SermonCentral Editor’s note: J.John, a Greek Cypriot, has been described as "The Billy Graham of Great Britain," speaking to more than 300,000 people in person each year. He has authored 21 books and has more than one million copies in circulation. You may learn more about his ministry at: http://www.philotrust.com/
‘I have endeavoured in this little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly...’ Charles Dickens, December 1843
I once saw a sign outside a church that made me smile. ‘Merry Christmas,’ it said, ‘to our Christian friends. Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends. And to our atheist friends, good luck.’ Times are changing! Today, we live in a multi-faith, multi-cultural society, and that sign said it all. Our society is like a melting pot, with all sorts of cultural and religious flavours thrown in, stirred around, and seasoned to personal taste.
Today, many people have developed a consumerist way of seeing religion, in which they ‘pick and mix’ their favourite faiths and spirituality like a selection of sweets. But even though I enjoy variety, I don’t completely buy the consumerist way when it comes to spiritual faith. Christianity, which began with Jesus’ birth in a stable in Bethlehem, comes with a price.
The Good News is that it’s a price money could never buy...
Christmas is here again, the festival that calls from its ancient past to our present. You might feel that you are familiar with the story that you know it and that you don’t need to take another look.
But we can all get so used to things that we ignore the detail. We think we know what it’s all about, but do we really?
Take Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Published in 1843, it’s one of the best-loved stories to be set at this time of year. We probably think we know the story back to front. After all, it’s been adapted into over 200 films, and is such a powerful tale that it’s credited with helping to define our contemporary understanding of Christmas.
But a fresh look at this all-time classic, reminds us that it’s far more than just a feel-good festive tale featuring a miserly old humbug with one of the oldest catchphrases in the world. In fact, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his tormenting spirits helps us to consider what is of eternal value, here in the 21st century. For that reason alone, it’s worth a closer inspection.
Dickens set out to persuade his readers to summon the spirit of Christmas not just for a week in December, but also for all the year round. His message, sent deep from within the 19th century, resonates with us today. It has a timeless, universal quality, like all the best works of art.
The book’s main character, of course, is the mean and intimidating Ebenezer Scrooge, who lives to make money and very little else. He certainly has no use for religion or sentimentality.
One Christmas Eve, however, Scrooge receives a terrifying wake-up call. The spirit of his business partner, Jacob Marley, who died seven Christmas Eves previous and was a miser like Scrooge, comes to visit, bound and wrapped in terrible chains. Marley has been condemned to roam the face of the earth, tormented in death by the things he neglected to value in life.