This is the fourth installment in a devotional series I’m doing called “Keeping Christmas Well.” My human inspiration comes from Ebenezer Scrooge, the main character in Charles Dickens’ beloved classic, A Christmas Carol. My divine inspiration, as always, comes from Scripture. The example of Scrooge, who learned to “keep Christmas well,” helps us to reflect upon how we might do similarly — not just during Advent and Christmas but throughout the year, and not just in our private lives but in every part of life, including our work.
At the beginning of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge is not the sort of person I’d like to be. According to Dickens’ classic description, Scrooge was “a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” He was also wealthy, with riches earned in many cases by mistreating those less fortunate than him. Yet, because of the intervention of supernatural spirits, Scrooge is ultimately transformed…
The name “Ebenezer” is not original to the English language. In fact, it is an Anglicized version of a Hebrew noun, which is itself composed of two Hebrew words. In 1 Samuel 4:1, for example, the Israelites camped at a place called Ebenezer.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to keep Christmas well, not just on one special day or during one special season of the year?
Today is the third Saturday in Advent, a season of preparation for celebrating the birth of the Savior. The main mood of Advent is one of serious hope. It’s a time more of quiet longing than loud celebration. But many Christians let the third Sunday of Advent be a time of joy…
Today is the second Sunday in Advent, a season in which we prepare for Christmas by remembering just how much we need God. In particular, we need God to save us by forgiving our sins. Psalm 130 reassures us that this is exactly what God will do for us, thus inviting us to wait upon the Lord and put our hope in him.
This is the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of the season in which Christians throughout the world prepare for a fuller, richer celebration of the birth of Jesus. Advent is a time of expectation, waiting, and hope. During the four weeks before Christmas, we put ourselves back into the mindset of the Jews as they yearned for a Messiah two millennia ago. Moreover, we get in touch with our own hope for the second coming of the Messiah. (The word advent comes from a Latin word that means “coming” or “visit.”)
Today is the last day of the year. Yes, yes, I know we’re still in November, and the calendar doesn’t change for another 33 days. But, today is truly the last day of the so-called Christian year (sometimes called the liturgical year or the church year). The yearly cycle of worship, Scripture, and prayer that centers in the life of Jesus is coming to an end. Tomorrow, a new year begins with the season of Advent.