It was December 19th, 1843 and the Christmas Novella that Dickens had been working on for six weeks was finally released, to immediate success.
By Christmas Eve all 6000 copies of A Christmas Carol had been sold out. And they weren’t cheap, the little book sold for five shillings which we are told is the equivalent of $39.00 today.
Because of a feud with his publishers, Dickens had financed the project himself and insisting that the book be bound in red cloth with gilt-edged pages. The high production cost ate into Dickens profits and he was disappointed that he only made a profit of 230 pounds from the first edition. By the way that would be the equivalent of $35,000.00 today, not bad for six weeks work, but still. The next year he would make close to the equivalent of $150,000.00 from the little book.
A Christmas Carol was almost immediately adapted for the stage and three productions opened on February 5 1944, less than two months after the book was released.
Most of us are familiar with Dickens works, in particular Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, a Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. But A Christmas Carol would remain his most popular and enduring work.
The book has never been out of print, has been translated into several different languages and sold over two million copies in its first hundred years, and has formed the framework for our Advent series this year at Cornerstone.
The book is divided into five chapters or staves as Dickens called them. There are some who would say that Dickens calls the chapters staves because each individual stave is a stand-alone story. But when the five staves are put together, they combine to form a harmonious whole.
Others say that Dickens simply used the musical term to remind us of the title of his book. But because Dickens never explained his rationale, we only have speculation.
And so the book began with Stave 1: Marley’s Ghost, and it is here that Dickens introduces the key elements of the book. Where and when the story is set, London between the first and second industrial revolution, which sets the context for the story with the gap between the working poor and the wealthy. And it’s here he introduces the main characters of the story with particular emphasis on the protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge.
And so on week one we introduced the Christmas Story, that it was set in the small town of Bethlehem, just as the prophet Micah had said it would be. And that it would involve a virgin conceiving a child. It was here we were introduced to a young unmarried woman, Mary and her fiancé Joseph. And here that we read Mary’s objection to the news of her impending pregnancy when she tells the Angel in Luke 1:34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
And the Angel responds by telling her, Luke 1:35 & 37 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. For nothing is impossible with God.”
In Stave two we see Scrooge visited by the first of three spirits, in this case, the Ghost of Christmas Past who takes him back to his more innocent days before he was consumed by greed. The Ghost showed him how the choices that he made in his past had brought him to where he was in his present.
And we looked at how Christmas impacts each one of our pasts. That Jesus didn’t just come, he came to save people from their sins. And we illustrated that by looking at the story of the Thief on the Cross, and how because of Christmas and his choice to commit his future to Christ his past was forgiven.
Last week was Stave 3, and it was in this third Chapter that the second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, showed Scrooge how Christmas was celebrated outside of his narrow twisted little worldview. And we took that opportunity to see how Christmas has impacted our present, 2018. How time is basically divided in half, things that happened before the first Christmas and things that happened after the first Christmas.
And we looked at how because of Jesus teachings, hospitals and universities were started by Christian Churches, how the church helped to end slavery in North America and was a leader in the woman’s rights movement.
Which brings us to Stave four. It is here that we are introduced to the third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. And it is this Spirit who shows Scrooge a Christmas Day in the future. It is here that Scrooge sees the funeral of a disliked man, the only people to attend are some local businessmen, and they only came because they were promised lunch.
Then the spirit shows Scrooge the family of Bob Cratchit as they mourn the death of Tiny Tim and finally Scrooge is shown his own neglected grave. The Stave ends with Scrooge sobbing and vowing to change his ways.
So what impact did Christmas have on the future? As a matter of fact, where does the Christmas story end and the story of Christmases yet to come, begin? Is it found in the scripture that was read earlier, as the wise men ride off into the sunset?
Or perhaps it ends with the story we looked at in week two, with the crucifixion of Christ, when Jesus told the thief on the cross, “today you will be with me in Paradise.”
I would suspect that in my mind anyway that things changed 40 days after the death and resurrection of Jesus, on a hill outside of Jerusalem. We pick up the story in Acts 1:6-9 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him.
And while there are some who would think that this was the end of the story, in reality, it was simply the transition from Jesus’ earthly ministry to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
It is here that we discover that the story that began in Bethlehem didn’t end when the Holy Family fled to Egypt, and it didn’t end thirty-three years later on the Calvary, or three days after that at the Garden Tomb or even forty days after the resurrection on the Mount of Olive when Christ spoke those words.
Because it was on the Mount of Olive, before Jesus ascended to be with his father that he gave his followers, The Promise of Christmases Yet to Come. If Jesus had simply come, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, taught while performing miracles, died on a cross and rose from the dead and then left, the first Christmas would have been for naught.
Throughout the gospels and into the book of Acts we see Jesus promising the disciples that what began at Bethlehem wouldn’t end at Calvary.
Often, we think that the Holy Spirit was a last-minute thought by Christ, “Oh by the way. I’m leaving, but don’t be upset, tell you what I’ll leave the Holy Spirit for you.” But that isn’t the case at all. The Holy Spirit isn’t an afterthought he was part of the original plan. Early in Christ’s ministry right after Jesus taught the disciples the Lord’s Prayer, he makes this comment
Luke 11:13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
As a matter of fact, before Jesus began his earthly ministry, he was announced by his cousin John who said Matthew 3:11 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
And so, it should have come as no surprise when hours before his arrest Jesus told his apostles in
John 14:15-17 “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. . .
In our Christmases yet to Come we are Promised the Holy Spirit Maybe the question you’re asking today is “So what”, what does that have to do with me. Everything. When Jesus made the promise to the disciples that the Holy Spirit would be a presence in their lives the promise wasn’t limited to those twelve.
It is as real today as it was then and as real for you as it was for them. The Holy Spirit is not an option in the Christian life, it’s not like getting power windows and air conditioning in your new car to make it more comfortable. Instead, we need to understand that He is the engine, he is what makes it go, he is the power of our Christian experience. Jesus said The Holy Spirit is the very centre of our Christian life and you cannot live an obedient, productive, fruitful Christian life without the Holy Spirit’s presence.
So what is it the Holy Spirit does? What is it you need him to do? A lot can be learned just by looking at the word that Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit. In John 16:7 Jesus says John 16:7 But in fact, it is best for you that I go away because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.
The word that I want to look at for a minute is Advocate in the New Living Translation, in the King James version the word is translated comforter, in the New King James version it’s helper Parakletos, and it can mean a variety of things, it can mean an intercessor, consoler, advocate, comforter or it can mean counsellor. But however, they choose to translate the word it means someone who comes alongside to help you.
And whichever of those definitions you use, it’s good. Who wouldn’t want an intercessor in their life or a consoler or an advocate or for that matter a counsellor?
What does He want to do for you? The Holy Spirit didn’t just come to hang around and give Christians something to argue about, so let’s take a look at why has the Spirit came?
Why did Jesus think it was so important for the apostles to wait for the Holy Spirit? How did the Spirit’s presence affect the church then and what effect should He have on the church now?And not just the church collectively but the Christ Followers who make up the church. Let’s let the book answer: Acts 1:8 Jesus said “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” In Our Christmases yet to Come we are Promised Power
Power, what an incredible concept, power. For everyone who thinks that they don’t have what it takes to live the life that Christ expects of them let me tell you this: You’re right, you don’t. But cheer up because the Holy Spirit has buckets of what it takes and he wants you to have it. This is one of my favourite scriptures; I love the very concept of the promise that when the Holy Spirit has control of our life you will receive power. Not you might receive power, or you may receive power or there’s a chance you will receive power, but you will receive power. And not just a little bit of power, but wonderful, incredible, dynamic world-changing power.
The power you need to conquer bad habits, the power you need to start good habits, the power you need to tell others about Jesus, the power you need to be everything that God wants you to be. He doesn’t expect you to do it alone, as a matter of fact, he doesn’t want you to do it alone, he wants to help you to do whatever it is you have to do.
Do you realize that you have the infinite power of almighty God in your life? That is his promise to you today. He’s saying: Let me come into your life and you will have power. But it’s not just a matter of power.
Romans 5:5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. In our Christmases yet to Come we are Promised Love
Christianity places a high premium on love, after all, Christianity itself is rooted in love, John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
And in John 13:35 Christ said Christianity would be defined and identified by Love John 13:35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Probably the one commandment that is given the most page space in the New Testament is to Love One Another. And as long as the church is made up of people that is going to be tough, especially when you use the definition of love that is given in the New Testament,
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
You cannot love people in the church like that in your own power. Because there is always going to be some Jerk that you just can’t get along with, and God still expects you to love me. And even though you can’t do it on your own the Holy Spirit can fill your heart with love. Is it any wonder that the first characteristic mentioned in the fruit of the spirit is Love.
1 Corinthians 12:4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. In our Christmases yet to Come we are Promised Gifts What would any Christmas be without gifts?
Now I don’t know if this will come as a shock to you or not but if you are a Christian then the Holy Spirit has a gift for you, and he also has a reason why he gives it to you. If we continue along in 1 Corinthians 12:7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us
and then it tells us why so we can help each other. Some of those gifts are Prophecy, teaching, evangelism, discernment, healing, hospitality, speaking in unknown languages, interpreting unknown languages. And each Christian is given at least one spiritual gift, why? As a means of helping the entire church. If you have never taken a spiritual gift test you should, you might be amazed at what your gifts are.
We all love gifts so we should be excited to find the gifts that the Spirit has for us.
Galatians 5:22-23 Is a familiar passage for most of us. Paul has described what a person’s life is like when they are controlled by sin and then he goes on to tell what it should be like when it is controlled by the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
In our Christmases yet to Come, we are Promised Character
Notice that the word fruit is singular, these aren’t several different characteristics that we can pick and choose from, if your life is controlled by the Holy Spirit then this is how you will live. The converse is also true if this isn’t how you are living then the Holy Spirit isn’t controlling your life.
It’s not rocket science, but it is the evidence that demonstrates that we are maturing in our faith.
If you’ve been around Cornerstone for a while, or you’ve been on our Website then you’ve probably stumbled onto our mission statement, that says: Cornerstone Wesleyan Church exist to reach pre-Christians through dynamic worship and relevant preaching, bringing them to a life expanding relationship with Jesus Christ and guiding them into a practical holiness as evidenced through the fruit of the Spirit.
The growth that happens after we become Christ followers is evidenced by our character.
So what’s the bottom line? Romans 8:6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
Through my thirty some years of ministry, time and time again I’ve heard Christians either pray or make the statement “I want more of the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit is God, he’s not a collection of pieces. You can’t have more of him or less of him. It’s like being pregnant you either is or you ain’t there’s no in between.
And it’s not that we don’t have enough of the Holy Spirit, it’s that the Holy Spirit doesn’t have enough of us.
If we go back to the book, we discover that at the end of Stave Four Ebenezer becomes committed to changing, and that required a choice. For each one of us, asking God to forgive our sins and committing our life to him, requires a choice. A choice that no one can make except you.