I came across this devotional, written by Tim Gustafson that I thought was very pertinent to this special season of Christmas as we gather as families to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s special Christmas gift to us. Let me share it with you.
The 1988 movie Scrooged took a lighthearted look at Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. In the film, the writers reinvented the tightfisted Ebenezer Scrooge as a TV tycoon Frank Cross (played by Bill Murray). As Christmas approaches, Frank’s sole goal is to make an epic and way over the top holiday special. Along the way, he runs roughshod over everyone, including those closest to him.
Near the film’s conclusion, as Frank is repenting of his self-centered ways, he declares of Christmas, “For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be! It’s a miracle!” It’s a nice thought, but is it true? Do we really become different just because it’s Christmas? Is that a miracle?
Scrooged took obvious liberties with Dicken’s original text for the producers own entertainment purposes. Still, the movie leaves us with this all-important question: What should Christmas really mean?
Years ago, a young man grew tired of the music in his church. He found the lyrics poorly written, the tunes unimaginative. So, his father challenged him to write some new ones. The young Isaac Watts began by putting the Psalms into the language of his day. Watt’s goal was to rewrite Psalms like “David would have composed them if he had lived in our day.”
One of his new poems was a paraphrase of Psalm 98. Nearly 100 years after Watts wrote it, a man by the name of Lowell Mason put the words to music by George Frederick Handel. Mason’s creation became “Joy to the World.”
Watts never intended his version of Psalm 98 to be a Christmas carol, but it’s easy to see why it is. The first verse announces, “Joy to the World!” because “the Lord is come.” The phrase “let every heart prepare Him room” reminds us of the child for whom no room was found in Bethlehem. The line “Heaven and nature sing” hints of the angels announcing the arrival of the Messiah to the shepherds and flocks in the fields. But it is a third verse that emphasizes our hope.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
We live on a good yet cursed earth, and we see the results of our selfish choices all around us. Sins and sorrows do grow. Often it seems as though the bad guys are winning. And wherever Christmas might find us this year, it won’t likely reveal us to be the “people we always hope we would be” – not even for a couple of hours. But the story isn’t over. Psalm 98, and Christmas itself, look forward to a time when…
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love.
We won’t become the people we want to be – not even for a couple of hours a year – just because it’s Christmas. Yet because of Christmas we do anticipate the day when “He will judge the world with justice, and the nations with fairness” (Psalm 98:9). We celebrate because Jesus transforms us into more than we ever hoped we could be. That’s the miracle.
It can be difficult for us to understand this miracle. How is it that Jesus transforms us? Consider the words of Jesus himself. “I tell you the truth,” He said to religious leaders who questioned him, “those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life” (John 5:24).
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Son of God and places their trust in Him will have “a rich and satisfying life”(John 10:10), as Jesus put it. This rich life is not in the sense of material wealth, but in the things that last – the things that truly matter. Our life gains genuine purpose. We give up the selfish ambitions that bring only death in exchange for the things that bring life. These are the very things that God values: justice, mercy, unity, peace, love.
So, who is Jesus? Just a baby who grew up to say some wise things a long time ago and then left us? Or is he really the Son of God who came to rescue His creation? The answer that matters most is the one you give. This Christmas, the miracle might be the one that takes place in you.