December 9, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 2:7 (NRSV)
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In Charles Dickens’s beloved story, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge starts out as anything but a lover of Christmas. For him, Christmas is a “Humbug!” But, after his encounter with the Spirits of Christmas, Scrooge is a changed man. As Dickens observes, Scrooge “knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” What would it mean for you to keep Christmas well? What would it mean to live each day in light of the fact that God came to dwell among us in the baby born in a manger?
This devotion is part of the series: Keeping Christmas Well.
In the first stave (chapter) of Charles Dickens’ classic story, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge didn’t have much enthusiasm for Christmas, to say the least. “If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly to his nephew, Fred, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”
Fred was understandably horrified. “Uncle!” he exclaimed, to which Scrooge replied, “Nephew! . . . keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine. ”
“Keep it,” Fred responded, “But you don’t keep it.”
“Let me leave it alone, then.”
Indeed, Ebenezer Scrooge did not keep Christmas well, at the beginning of what Dickens called his “Ghostly little book,” that is. Yet, by the end of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge promised, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” Indeed, that’s exactly what Scrooge did. The final paragraphs of A Christmas Carol report that Scrooge “knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” To this Dickens adds, “May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”
Yes, indeed! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to keep Christmas well, not just on one special day or during one special season of the year? Shouldn’t we who profess to follow the One whose birth is celebrated on Christmas live in light of its reality “all the year”?
When I echo Charles Dickens in speaking of “keeping Christmas well,” I’m not thinking of decorations, gifts, and parties, though I have nothing against these. I love my family’s Christmas traditions. In fact, I’m rather famous (infamous?) for filling my front yard with thousands of lights at Christmastime (see photo). But, when I talk about keeping Christmas well, I’m thinking about living in light of the reality of Christmas, namely, the birth of the baby Jesus. As it says in Luke 2:7, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” This is the essential reality of Christmas. Mary gave birth to Jesus, the one who, as the Messiah, would save his people from their sin, the one who was Emmanuel, “God with us.”
What would it be like to keep Christmas well, really to keep Christmas well, not just in this season of the year, but throughout the year? What would it be like to keep Christmas well as we go about our lives as workers, bosses, artists, spouses, parents, citizens, church members, and friends? What would it be like to live in light of the Incarnation, the coming of God in human flesh, Jesus, Emmanuel?
In the days to come, I’m going to devote twelve devotions to the idea of keeping Christmas well. I’ll take my lead from none other than Ebenezer Scrooge, noting what he did as he began to keep Christmas well. Each devotion, as usual, will be guided by a passage from Scripture, with dear old Scrooge as an illustration of biblical truth.
Today, I would invite you into a time of discovery. You can keep Christmas well by living each day in light of the Incarnation of the Word of God in Jesus.
When you think about keeping Christmas well, what comes to mind?
Have you ever known someone who, in your view, keeps Christmas well? Who is that person and why do you think of them in this way?
How might your life be different if you lived in light of the birth of the Messiah, the Word Incarnate? What difference might there be in your work? Your home? Your neighborhood?
Today, as you go about the business of your day, think to yourself, “What difference does it make that Jesus was God Incarnate?” Ask the Lord to help you connect the miracle of the Incarnation to your daily life.
Gracious God, as we begin this Christmas series, focusing on the Incarnation, teach us what it would mean for us to keep Christmas well. Inspire us by your Spirit to live the reality of Christmas each day, wherever we are and whatever we’re doing.
All praise be to you, O God, because you came in the flesh for us! 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: God at Work (Luke 1, 2 and 4)
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.