Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Holy Spirit of Christmases Yet to Come

Welcome Home!
Well, two weeks ago, we talked about Christmases of the Past.  Last week, we talked about Christmas Present.  Now, today, we are going to talk about The Holy Spirit of Christmases Yet to Come!  (I wish I had echo on this microphone!)
I don’t know why in the story, A Christmas Carol, this ghost, the Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come, is the ghost that Scrooge fears the most.  I guess it has something to do with all of Scrooge’s “chickens coming home to roost.”  All the things that he had done in the past, all the people he had used and abused, all of the consequences of these behaviors were suddenly made very clear to Scrooge.  And the sad thing was that Scrooge only really changed when he was able to see that all the wealth he had amassed was for nothing.  He only really changed when he was able to see and hear what the people really thought of him.  And then he only changed because he was scared of dying alone.
I would love to rewrite the story.  I would love to have the ghosts tell Scrooge about the real reason for Christmas.  Yes, we hear from the mouth of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone,” but Scrooge does not really get the whole story of Christmas.  Scrooge only changes to save himself.  I guess that is not bad, but there definitely seems to be more.
I would have hoped that Scrooge would have learned that he was a wonderful person simply because he was a wonderful creation in Christ.  I would have hoped that Scrooge would have learned that even before he was conceived he was loved and cherished by God.  That the amassing of worldly possessions and the awe and fear he felt from those who were around him were only a distant second to the knowledge that God loved him.  But, unfortunately, Dickens does not elaborate on this point.
However, for us, Christmases Yet to Come are not something that we need to fear.  We are children of the promise, not children of the threat.  I would hope we know that we are God’s wonderful creations.  And we are the ones who have received the baptism of Spirit and Fire that John speaks of in the gospel.  We do not need to look to the future and see death and abandonment like Scrooge saw; we can look to the future and see the promise of love and forgiveness!  We may have chickens in our past that may be looking on coming home to roost, but, unlike Scrooge, we have the promise of love in Christ, not just aloneness and dispair.
But right here, right now, what is the Holy Spirit of Christmases Yet to Come saying to us?  How is the Spirit prodding us?  What has the Spirit placed upon our hearts?
I guess maybe I should first say something about the Spirit and how the Spirit the Spirit speaks to us.  If this is all old hat to you, then I apologize.  But when I speak of the Spirit, I am sometimes afraid that I may be misunderstood.  When I talk about the moving of the Holy Spirit, I am talking about the thoughts, the desires, and the urgings that we feel in our lives.  You may feel the urge to go over and help someone who seems to be in trouble.  It might just seem like your own idea, but it may also be the working of the Holy Spirit.  You may feel like this is just your own idea, but I also believe that it could be the Spirit at work.
With small things like helping people, going with what you are feeling is one thing, but what about the bigger things?  How do we tell if the bigger things in life are our own ideas or have been put on our heart by the Spirit?  That is a much more difficult task.  Unfortunately, it is often difficult to know what is of God and what are our own wishes.
It is when we are trying to discern the leading of the Spirit that we really need to be part of a community of faith.  When we come together as a community of faith, we are able to help each other discern the way the Spirit might be moving.  We are able to discern how the Spirit is moving us as individuals and for us as a community.  When we come together as a community of faith, we are able to help, guide, and support each other.
So, as God’s wonderful creations, as people baptized into the promises and wonders of God, we can look toward this Christmas and Christmases yet to come with anticipation and excitement!  We can look forward to a world where God not only is there for us, but is there to help lead and guide us.  When we look toward this Christmas and Christmases Yet to Come, we need feel no fear, we can rest assured that when we reach out in faith, we can accomplish what God has set before us.
Scrooge changed out of fear, but God asks us to reach out to those around us out of the assurance that we are loved more than we can ever imagine.  God asks us to reach out, knowing that the one who baptizes with the Spirit and fire blesses us so that we may be a blessing to others.
Hopefully we see how God has been at work right here at St. Swithins’s and hopefully we can also have faith that God will continue to see us through.  No matter what we may feel, no matter what we may fear, we need to go out into the world in faith.  We need to remember that in this and all things, God is with us.  No matter what, we must rejoice in the Lord, always!
We are starting to near the day of Christmas.  We are approaching birth of the one foretold.  We are nearing the fulfillment of the promises of the ages.  Our God has been with us, our stronghold and our sure defense.  Our God has been with us through our past Christmases, and our God will continue to be with us through our Christmases Yet to Come.  As we approach Christmas, as we approach the manger, I pray that God removes our fear and fills our lives with peace and courage.


Lemuel said...

This is a wonderful and timely message, Ben, prodded I am sure by the very Holy Spirit of which you speak. One of the main messages is that we need not fear. It is a message woefully lost on those who play at Christianity in our world and who speak their messages of damnation and fear with loud voices and in public places. But its the message of the Gospel nonetheless: that Christ was born to save, not to condemn and that he calls us to follow him out of a response to his gracious love, not out of our fear.

Urspo said...

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is really Death - as is all our enivatble futures. We will die. It seems sensible to bitch slap Scrooge or any of us with the reminder we will die - what will you do with your life until then?

james said...

i have never heard such claptrap in all my life, christmas my ass !!! clearly you are a deacon,minister or priest not that is matters or a jumping for jesus lay person,(no offence intended) but think how the church in Ireland is fucked given the physical and sexual abuse of children for years and the subsequent cover up by bishops who are now by the general public being asked to resign and rightly so !!!

Benton said...

Thank you so much for your opinion. I will be sure to take it under advisement.