Restoring the Joy of Christmas
The miserly old Scrooge, who thought Christmas was a scandal is about to discover how his “Humbug” can be changed into “Hallelujah!” But before we look at Scrooge let me purpose a few question that each of us need to ponder.
What is your attitude about joy? Most of us, I think, would rather be happy than sad; up instead of down. Though you and I know people who have a downward attitude – a complaining spirit that puts everything into a negative point of view.
But most of us would rather be around a joyful person than a Scrooge. We even avoid people who make us miserable.
Though there are many who lack real joy. Underneath on the inside many of us have the same attitudes that Oscar the Grouch or Eeyore or Scrooge than what we want to admit.
But happiness and joy are not the same. Joy is about an attitude – happiness comes from an event or occurrence. The situation has to be right for happiness to happen. So what is joy?
According to the Scripture joy is an attribute of the Holy Spirit.
The word means to be glad; to rejoice; to celebrate; to be merry. It means to be joyful and full of euphoria, full of God's presence and glory
For Jesus His focus was always on God the Father – that is what created joy. Our focus needs to be on Jesus.
What is your attitude about joy?
Do you take time to cultivate joy in your life whether you are feeling happy of not?
Where does that joy come from? In other words where is your focus in life? What occupies your thoughts?
The reason I ask these questions is that I know people who lose their focus – like Scrooge their attitude is “I’ll get around to being joyful once everything that I need to do has been accomplished.” The trouble is there is always something else to do so they only experience small tastes of joy.
The good news is that we can increase the joy in our lives regardless of the situation by refocusing on Christ and celebrating. We need to learn to celebrate.
Scrooge used to celebrate, but he forgot how. The Ghost of Christmas Past had come to shine light on Scrooge’s life by helping him remember things that he chose to forget. Sometimes it is painful to look at the past. If you were here last Sunday we saw Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s deceased partner warn Scrooge that he needed to make a change from his Humbug attitude.
The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to visit his past – those past events and circumstances shape our present and control our attitudes. As we look at Scrooge’s journey let us be mindful of our own past.
I. The ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge his past that shaped who he is and how he got there – our past effects our present and future:
A. The Ghost begins by showing Scrooge his childhood school days. Scrooge sees his friends rushing home to be with families for Christmas. But Scrooge had to stay at the boarding school for the holidays – alone and unwanted by his family. Instead of a time of great joy it was a time of great pain.
B. Not all of us have happy childhood memories. Sometimes as holidays approach we remember the negative, painful experiences. Some wounds cut very deep. As the Ghost of Christmas Past says, “our memories are what they are.” We can’t change our memories. But we can alter how those memories affect us.
C. Fortunately, his sister Fanny reached out in love to her brother and brought him home for the holidays. Scrooge felt the transforming love of his sister and his loneliness turned to joy.
D. We need to have celebrations in our homes. If you want to see joys then celebrate times of the year like Christmas, Easter, birthdays. We have a tradition in our home of Christmas stocking. Thirty-nine years ago in the toe of Mary Beth’s Christmas stocking was an engagement ring. Her mom and I made sure that it went into the toe of the stocking. I just wanted her to get to the toe but there were life-savers, tangerines, socks, and other things on top of the ring.
1. Both our families did Christmas stockings – it still is a big thing in our family.
2. In the Seibert home – everyone wore elf hats when they opened packages – they even had your name on them.
3. Rev. – Mary Beth’s dad loved to put lights outside for Christmas – there was a sign with a big NOEL with lights around it – which we used for a few years after we got married.
4. When Josh was little we would drive around Christmas Eve – checking out the lights. Living in New Castle, PA, many of the Mafia bosses from Youngstown lived there and they would decorate the outside of their homes with lights and Christmas decorations everywhere – Josh called them “Wowzers” we still call those homes that are well decorated with lights as Wowzers.
5. How do you celebrate?
E. The Ghost reminds Scrooge of this truth of celebration by showing him the Christmas Party that his former boss had for his families and employees. VIDEO CLIP
Luke 2:8-14 (NIV)
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
II. Christ’s coming is “joy to the world!” When we celebrate we will discover that we aren’t alone. As we learn to focus on the joy and blessings we have in Christ regardless of our situation our humbugs will turn to hallelujahs.
A. Old Fezzwig knew about the heart of God. He drew Scrooge into the love of his family and blessed him with joy. He made Scrooge’s life worth living. Did you catch the conversation?
1. The Ghost said, “A small matter to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.
“Small!” echoed Scrooge ….
2. “Why! Is it not? He has spent but a few pound of your mortal money, three or four perhaps. Is that so much that deserves this praise?
3. “It isn’t that,” said Scrooge… “It isn’t that Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things of slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ‘em up. What then? The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”
B. The Spirit of Christmas past show us that our memories do not have to be barriers but actually they can be bridges to joy and freedom in Christ. We should focus on memories that bring joy. Like sled riding or tobogganing with friends, the smell of Christmas cookies coming from the kitchen, making snow angels or Christmas Eve services.
C. Secondly, let the Living Lord touch and redeem the painful memories. We need to give them over to Christ who came to redeem us, to bring forgiveness to us and the power to forgive others, and to heal damaged emotions so that experience Christ’s joy in the present and the future. That healing takes time and effort on our part but we have the Champion of Redemption and Salvation working with us.
D. Thirdly, let’s learn a rather simple lesson from Mary. The angel gives her the wonderful news that she is the chosen one to give birth to the Messiah – but there is a problem she is a virgin. She didn’t sit in her room tweeting on social media or facebooking – she sought out help and went to be with Elizabeth who understood the predicament for she was expecting a miracle child of her own as she was advanced in years.
1. So much is done on social media that we forget about the importance of having a spiritual partner to talk with. They provided each other with encouragement, joy and comfort. Mary gave one to the most beautiful expression – we call it the Magnificat:
Luke 1:46-55 (The Message)
46-55 And Mary said, I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened— I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now.
2. Then Joseph comes along to care and love her as a wife and spiritual partner.
3. We need one another. That was Scrooge’s problem – he was alone by his own choosing. Let us choose differently.
III. In Christ we have the power to make people happy and to make their service light and pleasurable as we reach out to them in love and invite them to share our joy. How can we cultivate joy?
A. Begin by taking some quiet moments to reflect on God’s Glory Sightings – Answered prayers, times when God has blessed you, people like Old Fezzwig whom God brought into your life to make a difference.
1. This exercise is especially beneficial if you are going through a difficult time.
2. It is good for us to remember the many times God has been there for us.
B. Block out time times for celebrations:
1. A surprise date with your spouse.
2. Special time with the kids
3. Do something fun with good friends
C. Find a partner that will help you remember the joyful memories. Someone that you can pray with, bake cookies with, make something out of wood with so that you are creating new memories.
D. Lastly, if you know someone going through a difficult time or may not have the blessings that you do ask God to show you ways to bless that person. Do something unexpected to bring joy to another person. Joy is even sweeter when it is shared.
Scrooge is making the connection; are you?
ILL: FINALLY CHRISTMAS
Senator John McCain of Arizona was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict. He was shot down and held as a prisoner of war in Hanoi for 5 ½ years, 1967-1973, spending much of it in solitary confinement.
John McCain said this, “When I was being mistreated by the North Vietnamese, many times I found myself asking to live just one more minute rather than one more hour or one more day. And I know I was able to hang on longer as a prisoner of war because of the spiritual help that I received through prayer.”
“At Christmas, I was the room chaplain, not because of my excessive virtue, but because I knew all the prayers that went with a church service, since I had been in a boarding school and was an Episcopalian. We asked for a Bible, and the Vietnamese said they didn’t have any. Later we learned that thousands of Bibles had been sent to us.”
“Four days before Christmas, I was told that I could copy prayers and stories from the only Bible the Vietnamese had available…Our service consisted of a biblical passage read by me, followed by an appropriate song by the choir. I talked about the birth of Christ and the choir sang, ‘Silent Night.’”
“I looked around the room and there were tears in those men’s eyes. They weren’t tears of anger or fright or sorrow or bitterness or even longing for home. They were tears of joy that, for the first time in seven years for some of them there was a celebration of Christmas together shown by their love for each other”.
Dr. James Dobson relates a story of an elderly woman named Stella Thornhope who was struggling with her first Christmas alone. Her husband had died just a few months prior through a slow developing cancer. Now, several days before Christmas, she was almost snowed in by a brutal weather system. She felt terribly alone——so much so she decided she was not going to decorate for Christmas. Late that afternoon the doorbell rang, and there was a delivery boy with a box. He said, "Mrs. Thornhope?" She nodded. He said, "Would you sign here?" She invited him to step inside and closed the door to get away from the cold. She signed the paper and said, "What’s in the box?" The young man laughed and opened up the flap, and inside was a little puppy, a golden Labrador Retriever. The delivery boy picked up the squirming pup and explained, "This is for you, Ma’am. He’s six weeks old, completely housebroken." The young puppy began to wiggle in happiness at being released from captivity.
"Who sent this?" Mrs. Thornhope asked. The young man set the animal down and handed her an envelope and said, "It’s all explained here in this envelope, Ma’am. The dog was bought last July while its mother was still pregnant. It was meant to be a Christmas gift to you." The young man then handed her a book, How to Care for Your Labrador Retriever.
In desperation she again asked, "Who sent me this puppy?" As the young man turned to leave, he said, "Your husband, Ma’am. Merry Christmas." She opened up the letter from her husband. He had written it three weeks before he died and left it with the kennel owners to be delivered with the puppy as his last Christmas gift to her. The letter was full of love and encouragement and admonishments to be strong. He vowed that he was waiting for the day when she would join him. He had sent her this young animal to keep her company until then. She wiped away the tears, put the letter down, and then remembering the puppy at her feet, she picked up that golden furry ball and held it to her neck. Then she looked out the window at the lights that outlined the neighbor’s house, and she heard from the radio in the kitchen the strains of "Joy to the World, the Lord has Come." Suddenly Stella felt the most amazing sensation of peace washing over her. Her heart felt a joy and a wonder greater than the grief and loneliness.
"Little fella," she said to the dog, "It’s just you and me. But you know what? There’s a box down in the basement I’ll bet you’d like. It’s got a little Christmas tree in it and some decorations and some lights that are going to impress you."
Please click here for slides to accompany the sermon.