Longing for Christmas

Imagine an elderly Jewish man tucking his grandchildren in bed nearly two thousand years. His son is imprisoned for the allegation that he didn’t pay all of his taxes to the Roman government. He encourages his grandchildren with the promises of God telling them that everything will be okay before he gives them a final hug.

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The Silence of the Lambs: A Panoramic of the Christian Life from Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want,” I remember hearing as a child. It’s from the first verse of the famed twenty-third Psalm. I didn’t understand this when I was young. Why would the Bible have a verse that says God is the shepherd I don’t want? I always wondered.

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Tear-Stained Joy

Most of the Psalms are stained in tears. They are written from a place of brokenness. They offer hope for nearly every season of life.

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The Falling Reign of the Rising Son

I had never heard a sermon exclusively about the ascension. So I decided to preach one. To be honest, what I learned and what I was reminded of was soul-stirring.

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The Lowly Gifts

The following is a poem by Frances Chesterton, wife of G.K. Chesterton from the book Gospel Rhymes published in 1934. The title of the poem is “The Lowly Gifts.”

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Our God, Our Help: A Hymn for Fragile Hearts

For me, one of the most sobering lines from old hymns comes from Isaac Watts’ Our God, Our Help. “Time like an ever-rolling stream,” Watts writes, “bears all its sons away.” The point of the song is to remind us that God is the source of our hope and our help in the midst of these fragile, temporary lives.

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Whom Have You Fed Today?

Poem by Nixon Waterman

We shall do so much in the years to come, but what have we done today? We shall give out gold in pricey sum, but what did we give today?

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The New Freethinker

One of the joys of reading books from over a hundred years ago is to be reminded that there is nothing new under the sun. Things that claim to be novel never really are. What’s new is really old. What boasts of youth is usually trivial. The following is an old poem by that wonderful British gadfly of late, G.K. Chesterton, about new freethinkers.

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The Sad Gospel of Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens is an author who needs no introduction. Those who may not know him well likely still know of his more popular works, particularly A Christmas Carol. Even my children know him indirectly through the Disney character Scrooge McDuck. And something even those more familiar with Dickens might not realize is that he penned a version of the Gospel of Christ for his children.

But before he died he made it absolutely clear he did not want it published. It was a guarded treasure for years as it circulating through the hands of his immediate family.  But shortly before Dickens’ youngest child, Sir Henry Fielding Dickens, passed from this life, he bequeathed the manuscript to his wife with these words, “Being his son, I have felt constrained to act upon my father’s expressed desire that it should not be pub- lished, but I do not think it right that I should bind my children by any such view, especially as I can find no specific injunction against such publication.

It was published as The Life of Our Lord in 1934, 64 years after Charles Dickens’ death. It also includes a prayer he penned for his children to memorize and recite in the evenings. It is in this prayer that we find a deficient, and to be totally honest, sad, understanding of the gospel, and perhaps a hermeneutical key for interpreting religious references in his other works:

O God, “Who has made everything, and is so kind and merciful to everything He has made, who tries to be good and to deserve it ; God bless my dear Papa and Mamma, Brothers and Sisters and all my relations and friends. Make me a good little child, and let me never be naughty and tell a lie, which is a mean and shameful thing. Make me kind to my nurses and servants, and to all beggars and poor people, and let me never be cruel to any dumb creatures, for if I am cruel to anything, even to a poor little fly, God, who is so good, will never love me. And pray God to bless and preserve us all, this night, and forevermore, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I wonder what it must have felt like for one of his children if they actually believed that their cruelty to a fly would prevent God from loving them. Sadly, this is a widespread misconception of God’s love that leaves one much like Ebenezer Scrooge trembling before the final spirit, The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, instead of running to a Father who bids us come; No, better yet, a Father who visits us in our despair when we are incapable of taking the first step.

While Ebenezer’s acts of repentance and benevolence in Dickens’ famous story is touching, when seen in light of this children’s prayer, it reveals Dickens’ man-centered understanding of the gospel.

The good news of the gospel is that we can never deserve God’s love, but while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly, even children with messy fly swatters. Shoot, I used to pull the wings off flies when I was a kid. I’m glad the gospel isn’t contingent upon our perfect treatment of insects. I won’t even mention what I used to use a magnifying glass for, but just know I took it upon myself to regulate the ant population in my childhood hometown.

Tim Keller offers a helpful contrast to this sort of misunderstanding of the gospel in his powerful summary of the meaning of the Incarnation:

Christmas is the end of thinking you are better than someone else, because Christmas is telling you that you could never get to heaven on your own. God had to come to you. It is telling you that people who are saved are not those who have arisen through their own ability to be what God wants them to be. Salvation comes to those who are willing to admit how weak they are.

Now that is A Christmas Carol that really captures the heart of Christmas. And that is a message that I pray will captivate the hearts of my children.


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