“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!
That is probably one of the most famous lines from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. That is next to one of my all-time favorite lines. “Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.”
The inherent warning in Dickens’ morality tale was to live a good and righteous life now, that is keep the Christmas spirit, because before you know it, you will be dead, to begin with as well and it will be too late to avoid the chains the you forged in life. Scrooge heeded the warning of the three spirits, repented, and led a life that kept Christmas well all year round.
But, as many times as I have heard that line, he knew how to keep Christmas well, I have wondered how exactly does one do that, especially all year round? I’ve heard preachers over the years talk about celebrating Christmas all year round and keeping the Christmas spirit every day of the year; but how exhausting would that be?! Buying, baking, cooking, shopping, running, singing, celebrating all of the time? Most of the time we feel like we barely make it through December and stumble into the New Year. I couldn’t keep that up all the time. Thankfully, I don’t think that’s what he meant by keeping the Christmas spirit.
Charles Dickens was a Christian who was very outspoken about the needs of the common man, railed against the abuses of power, and believed strongly in the practice of love, charity, and sacrifice. For Dickens, one of the main characteristics of an authentic Christian life meant caring for the poor and needy—that is, taking care of Tiny Tim.
All of those characteristics of the Christian life: love, charity, and sacrifice are found fully in the person of Jesus Christ born on that Christmas day long before Scrooge was ever dreamed of. So to keep the spirit of Christmas is to keep the spirit of Jesus Christ in our life all the year long. As Christians, to learn to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, to love what He loves, cry for what He cries for, celebrate what He celebrates, fight against what Jesus fought against, love like Jesus. To learn to let Jesus be born and fully grow into our life. Pastor Paul shares what this looks like.
“We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:2b-4
This may come as a surprise for you but the entire church year is established so we can do just that, keep the spirit of Jesus in our life by walking in His footsteps week after week. All of the words, colors, titles, and readings that we listen to and see every Sunday are organized in such a way that every year you will have walked through the life of Christ.
The Church Year, unlike the secular calendar we are used to, starts on the First Sunday in Advent. Advent is the season of preparation, Jesus has not been born yet, he is still promised by God and foretold by the prophets, we still have to wait for what we know will come—to come. We celebrate this season in our church home with the color of blue. Blue is a color of hopefulness, patiently waiting for the savior to be born. Next of course is Christmas Day when we traditionally celebrate the day the Christ Child was born and we celebrate the birth of faith that brings new life in Christ in our lives. We celebrate this with the color white to remember the purity of Jesus and the purity He gives to us in the forgiveness of sins.
Epiphany. This season reveals who Jesus is to all people represented by the Wise Men who came from the East to give gifts to the savior who is now a little child. During this season we see the baptism of our Lord by John the baptist and are reminded of our own baptisms that bring us into the life of Christ. White continues to be the color for Epiphany reminding us of the light of Christ given to us and the whole world.
After Epiphany we have a little season of green before Lent. These Sundays help us to grow up with Jesus from childhood to adulthood, to his first miracle after his baptism and the beginning of His public ministry. Green represents growth and that is exactly what we are supposed to do, grow up and become mature in our faith because the cross is coming soon. Then comes a shot of white for the Transfiguration of our Lord where we are given a mountaintop experience and see the glory of Heaven before we descend into the valley.
Next is the somber purple season of Lent, a time of repentance and discipline, seeing the cost of our sin in the sacrifice of the Christ. We enter into Holy Week with what we have often called Palm Sunday but is also called Passion Sunday. We see the crowds celebrate Jesus knowing in a few days they will shout crucify him as we contemplate on our own faithlessness and repent of our sins. We walk with Jesus to Maundy Thursday when He has his final meal with His disciples and institutes the Lord’s Supper for all Christians to take in Jesus bodily into ourselves. Then the black of Good Friday, a horrible day when the son of God was slain but a good day because it was done to save us. Then shines bright the white of Easter and the Resurrection, the hope of the Christian life and the fulfillment of Paul’s words, in faith “if we die with Him we will surely rise with Him.”
Finally, we see how what this Resurrected life looks like in the green time of the Christian Church that in her doors we grow as Jesus’s people all the way to our own blessed death on All Saint’s Day when we enter into the white of promised heaven. Finally, we end with the end of all of creation on the green Last Day. Green might seem funny for this day, but it’s not, it is the day when God makes everything new, including us, in the Resurrection of the dead.
This is how we keep Christmas well all year long by growing into the life of Christ in the seasons of His Church. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!