I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.”
Today we conclude our series of devotions inspired by Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In the next couple of days, Life for Leaders will reflect on the end of a year and the beginning of a new year. Then, in 2016, we’ll return to Genesis to finish our slow devotional walk through this amazing book. We’re almost to the story of Joseph.
As Charles Dickens’ “Ghostly little book” draws to a close, Ebenezer Scrooge is a changed man. No longer a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner,” he enjoys life, gives generously, and treats his staff justly. Moreover, Scrooge “became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.” He “knew how to keep Christmas well,” not just during the holiday season, but also throughout the year.
The example of Scrooge encourages us to keep Christmas well by being “full of goodness.” This phrase comes from the Apostle Paul, not Charles Dickens, in Paul’s letter to the Romans: “I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another” (15:14). The Greek word translated as “goodness” refers to the “positive moral quality characterized especially by interest in the welfare of others,” according to the standard Greek-English lexicon. The Greek word can also be translated as “kindness” or “generosity,” though most English translations prefer “full of goodness” in Romans 15:14.
Can we really be full of goodness? I expect some of us hear echoes of Psalm 14:3 ringing in our memories: “There is no one who does good, no, not one.” This judgment reminds us that goodness is not inherent to us but, rather, something that comes as a result of God’s work and presence in us. Moreover, as Romans 15:14 suggests, our goodness is inextricable from our being “filled with all knowledge,” that is, the knowledge of God, his gospel, and all that follows from it (see Eph 5:9).
The more we know God and his truth, the more we allow the Spirit of God to guide and form us, the more we devote ourselves to God’s kingdom, the more we live in community with other believers so that we might “instruct one another” (15:14), the more God’s goodness will fill our hearts. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, we will keep Christmas well by being a good friend, a good boss, and a good man or woman. The incarnation of the Word of God, which we celebrate at Christmastime, will motivate and enable us to be different people — not just for a week or two in December but throughout the whole year.
May it be said of us, as it was said of Ebenezer Scrooge, that we know how to keep Christmas well. “And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Can you think of people in your life whom you might describe as being “full of goodness”? What traits or behaviors do you associate with goodness?
Can you see evidence of God’s work in you, helping you to grow in goodness?
If you were to keep Christmas well today, what one thing might you do that you would not do otherwise?
Gracious God, thank you for the birth of Christ, the Incarnation of the Word. Thank you for being present with us in Jesus, for entering into our reality, for making yourself known to us, for setting the stage for our transformation.
Help us, dear Lord, to keep Christmas well, to live in light of the Incarnation not just today but every day of the year. By your Spirit, may your goodness fill us, so that we might walk in the good works you have prepared for us.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us! Amen.