If you’ve never read Charles Dickens’ seasonal classic, A Christmas Carol, you’re missing out, my friend. (And no, watching the Mickey version doesn’t count. You don’t get, for instance, things like this: “Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know … what there is particularly dead about a door-nail.” And that’s just in the first two paragraphs. It’s a hilarious piece of work.) The miserly Scrooge is haunted on Christmas Eve by three ghosts in an effort to save his soul. They do their jobs well, and he is a changed man ever after (or duck, if you do watch the Mickey version).
I’d like for us to take our own journey of sorts with three different spirits of Christmas this year. Not as an effort to save our souls—that’s already been taken care of, and quite brilliantly enough to suffice—but as an effort to grow our souls in that salvation we’ve been given.
The Ghost of Christmas Past is arriving: do you hear Him? Lean in close. Impossibly small and soft, scented like the hands of heaven that didn’t want to let Him go. He yawns and breathes Himself back to sleep. This ghost is a baby come to save us all. (And He’s not as quiet as the songs say; He’s just exhausted from being shoved into the world and has cried Himself out by this point.)
His mama curls next to Him, snoring gently, worn from the day, the year, the countless seasons since this little one’s coming was first foretold way back in a darkened garden. His adopted daddy stands guard against the evil that must surely be stirring at such heavenly triumph. Hay releases its sweet aroma, but the sheep, not so much. Angels and shepherds head back home now that the festivities have ended, bursting with hope, and won’t stop telling this story for the rest of their lives. Distant kings kiss their wives goodbye and set out on a quest that will take years to complete, but the joy set before them is too much to ignore.
Christmas Past is our peace. Wrapped in baby fat and swaddling clothes, surrounded by an angelic host and cow dung, this gift to the world set our souls free in a way we didn’t even know was possible. Because of this past, we have a future. Because He came, we can go home. Because He arrived so helpless, we are no longer hopeless. Never has one baby changed so much.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…