December 21, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Hebrews 10:24-25 (NRSV)
And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
In Charles Dickens’s novella, A Christmas Carol, the transformed Ebenezer Scrooge goes to church on Christmas morning. His example reminds us that Christmas should be celebrated in community with others as we gather to worship the Son of God, born in a stable and laid in a manger. This year, let’s be sure to gather for worship, even if we do so virtually.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Keeping Christmas Well.
I’ve watched several film versions of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. I’ve seen classics like the 1951 film starring Alastair Sim or the 1984 version with George C. Scott. I’ve also seen plenty of knockoffs, like Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962), Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983), Scrooged (1988, starring Bill Murray), and The Muppet Christmas Carol (with Michael Caine as Scrooge, 1992). In all of these film portrayals of Dickens’s story, Scrooge undergoes a magical transformation with the help of the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. In the final act of every film, Scrooge is beside himself with childlike joy. He demonstrates exceptional generosity and shows particular favor to Bob Cratchit and his family, especially Tiny Tim.
But, if my memory serves me correctly, there is one thing that Scrooge never does in any of the films I just mentioned. He does not go to church on Christmas. Yet, according to Dickens’s story, Scrooge does that very thing as he walks the streets on Christmas morning. This event is quite wonderfully portrayed in the 1999 film version of A Christmas Carol, starring Patrick Stewart. Here, Scrooge not only goes to church, but also joins in by singing the chorus of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” with great gusto.
Now, there is nothing in A Christmas Carol to suggest that Ebenezer Scrooge became a frequent churchgoer after his transformation. We get the sense that Scrooge went to church on Christmas morning because that’s what nineteenth-century Londoners did on the holiday. Yet, his example can remind us that our response to the birth of Christ is something to be shared with other believers. We not only gather for Christmas dinner and festivities, but also for Christmas worship. We come together to “provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
I’m not saying that all Christians must attend corporate worship on Christmas Day, though this is expected in some traditions (such as Roman Catholicism). For the most part, the churches in which I have participated have assembled for special worship services on Christmas Eve (with late night services spilling over into the first minutes of Christmas Day). Worshiping on Christmas Eve allows us to begin our celebrations with corporate worship, remembering the true meaning of Christmas. My point here is not to insist on fixed rules for how you celebrate Christmas, but rather to encourage you to find a time to gather with God’s people in worship on or around Christmas Day. (This year, of course, most of us will gather virtually because of the pandemic. I certainly hope we can be back together in person next year!)
Why do we come together in worship? Because the central reality of Christmas draws us, teaches us, and compels us. The Word of God became Incarnate in Jesus, not only to reveal God’s glory to us, not only to save us from our sins, but also to gather us together as the people of God. You can keep Christmas well, therefore, not only by going to church on Christmas like Ebenezer Scrooge, but especially by investing your life in the fellowship of Christ followers.
What are your Christmas worship traditions? Will you be celebrating Christmas this year by going to church (virtually)? If so, what are your expectations for Christmas (or Christmas Eve) worship?
Are you regularly engaged with a congregation of believers? If so, why? If not, why not?
If you haven’t already done so, make plans to join a worship service on or around Christmas Day.
Gracious God, you have called us to yourself through Jesus Christ. Yet, you have also called us into fellowship with each other. We are meant to respond to your grace, not individualistically, but as members of your body. Help us, Lord, to keep Christmas well, not only by going to special holiday services, but also by living our lives in community with other believers so that we might worship together and build each other up in love. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Realizing the Faith (Hebrews 10–11)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.