Summary: For many Christmas isn't easy. This message reminds us of three truths. First, life is hard. Second, sometimes we need others. Third, we always need God.
December 14, 2014
Christmas According to Dickens
The Ghost of Christmas Past
Opening words: It was Christmas Eve 1969. I was twelve years old and I can remember returning home from the midnight candlelight service at my home church. The family car was filled with my loved ones. Everyone was excited about the next day. On that evening, we took the same route home from church that we had taken every Sunday morning. We were a block from our home when we noticed something unusual. The air was thick with smoke and the sky was filled with color. There was a yellow haze around the area, only interrupted by the red lights of emergency vehicles. The police routed us around the block as we tried to see what was happening. It wasn’t until the next morning that we got the news. A house on the parallel street had caught on fire and had burned to the ground. The loss of property is hard; the loss of lives is unbearable.
The family that died on that Christmas Eve was the Campbell family. The only one who survived was their daughter, Maggie. The investigation revealed she was the cause of the fire. She was the one who lit the candle and left it unguarded. On that Christmas Eve, she lost her parents and her brother. At first he had escaped the flames, but returned to the house to save his parents. He didn’t return. Memories are such a powerful thing. It has been over forty years since that tragic night, but every Christmas Eve I think about Maggie Campbell. Every year on Christmas Eve I pray for Maggie Campbell. How do you live the rest of your life knowing you caused your family’s death? Maggie Campbell’s story reminds us that Christmas isn’t always merry.
This is sermon number two of my six-part sermon series, Christmas According to Dickens. We are looking at various scenes from the classic short story, A Christmas Carol. The name of Jesus is never mentioned in the book, but his fingerprints are found everywhere. Today’s scene is no exception. This morning’s message is called The Ghost of Christmas Past. Our primary scripture lesson is Luke 1:26-43.
Luke 1:26-43 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. 39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
You know the story. Everybody knows the story. Miserly old businessman Ebenezer Scrooge lived for nothing but money. The problem was, his money wasn’t making him happier, it was making him miserable. Everyone in his life knew it. His deceased business partner Jacob Marley knew it. Marley knew change was still possible, so he came to visit Scrooge and told him that three more ghosts would come to visit him. The first would be the Ghost of Christmas Past. The second would be the Ghost of Christmas Present. The third would be the ghost of Christmases yet to come, or the Ghost of Christmas Future. They were coming for one reason, transformation!