(12/16) A Christmas Carol
I have told you several times that one of my all time favorite stories is Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. The story is about the life and transformation of the main character Ebenezer Scrooge. Now I know that most of you are familiar with the story. Scrooge was a seemingly heartless and self centered miser and kill-joy. For Ebenezer Scrooge,
Christmas and all the joy and grace and giving was a humbug.
Watch - Scene 2
By the way, do you know what a humbug is? I looked it up. A humbug is defined as a deluding trick, a hoax, a fraud, a deception, or, something devoid of sense or meaning; nonsense. Now you know.
At the end of the story, Christmas became an everyday way of life, as Scrooge became a repentant man, who was self-less, giving, graceful, and full of joy and peace.
Q. What Happened?
A. He was given a reality check and the result was an attitude adjustment.
Now, I love that story, because it is exactly what the Lord, our God and Father, wants to happen to each of us.
It is part of our human nature, as sinners, to be selfish and self focused. It is very easy to be overwhelmed and cynical in this world of problems and pain and people who are bent on being selfish and self centered. It is easy to be focused on #1, ourselves, instead of the world that God sent His Son to love and die for. The problem is that we arenít
very happy. We all want to get but we arenít all too happy about giving. For many, Christmas has become a bore, a bother, too commercial and a reason to pick a manís pocket every 25th of December. And we lose sight of what this Holiday ought to be and what Christmas is all about and what we need is an attitude adjustment.
Listen carefully, one of the things I have tried to tell people, especially when I was a Chaplain, is, "You may not be able to have any control over your circumstances, but the one thing that you have complete control over is your attitude." For example, you can get up in the morning and say one of two things:
- Good Morning Lord, or
- Good Lord, its morning!- Itís your choice
Years ago, two Christian Counselors, Frank Minerith and Paul Meier, wrote a book about overcoming depression and they titled the book, Happiness is a Choice.
Victor Frankel, was a Viennese Jew who was interned by the Germans for 3 years and moved from one concentration camp to another. He even spent 3 months at Auschwitz. Victor Frankel wrote these words (In, Manís Search for Meaning):
"The experiences of camp life show that man does have a choice of action. There are enough examples, often of a heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability suppressed. Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, in independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of physic and physical distress.
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: that last of all human freedoms-to choose oneís attitude in any given set of
circumstances, to choose oneís own way."
What does this have to do with the Christmas Story? Everything!
The first place that Paul preached in Europe was in northern Greece in a place called Philippi. His first convert was a woman named Lydia. But Paul and Silas soon ended up in jail, where despite their beatings and the chains, they chose to praise God and sing. It was there that an earthquake occurred and the jail was opened and a jailor and his family
came to know Jesus and soon a church was planted. But, churches are made up of people and soon there was a problem. Some were displaying old ways, murmuring and wanting their own way instead of seeking the best for each other and the cause of Christ. So, sometime later when Paul was in a Roman jail, he wrote a letter to the Church at Philippi. Look at 2:1-5. "Therefore, if
there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not
only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others."
The Humbled and Exalted Christ
Notice verse 5. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,"
The word, Ďmind,í is literally, Ďmindset,í or, Ďattitude.í Paul is asking them, and us, to have the same mindset, the same attitude that our Lord had when He left heaven and came to us. It is part of the Christmas Story according to Paul. When our Lord came to us, He came with an attitude and itís the same attitude He wants us to have as well. Letís
notice 4 things about our Lordís attitude.
I. His Attitude was Self-less (v.6) "Öwho, being in the form of God,
did not consider it robbery to be equal with God," You and I tend to not be self-less. Our tendency is to be selfish, or to be self centered. We tend to think in terms of: I, me, mine, my, myself, what about me, whatís in it for me, I want, why canít I be first. Just watch as children play and see if that isnít the course of the conversation. It is
part of our nature without God, our sinful human nature. That nature is also fed by modern philosophy and relativism. Relativism means that what is right and wrong is up for opinion and depends on my circumstances. If I can benefit from lying and cheating and killing and stealing and others arenít hurt, itís okay. Itís only wrong when some else does it and it hurts me. We
need to look out for ole number 1; but not Jesus our Lord. Notice with me (v.6)
A. Who He Is - Being in the form of God; meaning, the exact character, having the exact nature, not just resembling, but being God. (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-18; Heb. 1:1-3: 1Tim. 3:16) He is God- Immanuel.
B. What He Thought- It wasnít robbery to be equal with God; meaning, it was not something to be seized and clutched and clung to like a treasure. He did not say, "There is no way Iím going to give this up. Why should I? They donít deserve anything. They have rejected me and will reject me. Why should I stoop to their level? I donít want to give up the
praise and service of the angels and all this glory." He did not think that way, instead look at what:
C. What He Did - He made Himself of no reputation. He emptied Himself of His glory, laid it aside, as He laid aside the independent use of His power. He laid it aside like a winter coat after one comes inside the house. The omnipotent God became meek and humble in order to seek our best. The creator became as His creation. Michael Card said, "Eternity
stepped into time," and Mary had a little lamb, not in a palace or in a hospital like Johns Hopkins; not with trumpet fanfare or fireworks, but in an animal shelter; not to nobility, but to a peasant couple; not for a basinet, but a manger, with no halo, just a humble birth.
D. Why He Did It- Because it was our only hope. There was no other way to rescue you and me. It was this or nothing. To quote Michael Card again, "He would rather die than live without us." May I ask you, when it comes to Christmas, Church, giving, etc. do you say, why should I, whatís in it for me, or they will never appreciate it? Or, do you say, it
needs to be done and I will do it. His attitude was, first, that He was self-less.
II. His Attitude was one of Service (v.7b) "He took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of man."
A. What it Means - The exact form- a true servant. No charade. The Sovereign King of Kings and Lord of Lords came to serve His sinful subjects. He became exactly fully- a man.
B. How He did it. The gospels are full of accounts of healings, feedings, helping distressed people. And, He used this as a model of greatness in Godís eyes as His disciples bickered over who was #1 with Jesus. (Mark 10:45 and Luke 22:24-27) On the night before His arrest and trial and death, He washed His discipleís feet and said this in John
13:13-17. You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one anotherís feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.
17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." He often forfeited sleep and food to serve people, to touch the untouchables, and to pour His life into people. People that He hoped would turn the world upside down by doing the same things. Q. Whose life are you serving because they need it? Whose needs are you meeting? To whom are you pouring your life into for
the greater good? Jesus could have said, "I am God, bow before me and kiss my ring," but He did not, He came to serve.
III. His Attitude was one of Humble Submission (v.8) Some time ago, I listened to one of the best sermons I ever heard about submission by the late Adrian Rogers. Dr. Rogers said, "Submission is one equal willingly placing himself under the authority of another equal for the glory of God". Notice, "He became obedient unto death, even the death of the
cross." The author of Hebrews quotes from Psalm 40, as tells the story of Jesus in heaven saying to the Father, "I have come to do thy will, O God..." To accomplish our Salvation, the Son of God placed Himself totally under the authority of the Father and would even face one of the most horrible means of death known to man, in order to redeem us, for the glory of God. How
about you? Submission is a word we disdain today, yet it is Godís will and those who refuse it are disobeying the revealed will of God. Q. Have you placed yourself totally under the authority of the Father? Before you answer, let me ask you a few more questions. Are you serving God in His church, under the leadership of your pastor? Are you tithing? Are you praying for your
President? Are you doing your best for your employer? Ladies, have you placed yourself under the leadership of your husbands? These are all specific areas that God says we are to be submissive. Jesusí attitude was one of submission.
Cp. 1 Peter 2:13-16, "Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lordís sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish
menó 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God." Or every human institution, or every God ordained institution.
IV. His Attitude was one of Sacrifice (v.8b) "Even the Death of The Cross." To accomplish our redemption, so we could be saved, and adopted by God, He had to sacrifice His own Life. In order for us to be saved, there had to be death and hell to pay. Someone had to die. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Jesusí attitude was one of sacrifice. Turn
with me to 1 John 3:16-18. "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this worldís goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth."
This is love. Love is an action. Love is sacrificial giving. God didnít just say that he loves us. He demonstrated it for us. He sacrificed Himself for us. And, itís the way God wants us to display our love. Do you see that? Jesus once said that anyone can love those who can love us back. We give gifts to those who will gift is back. We send cards top
those who send us cards. We invite to our homes those who invite us to their homes.
Friends, there are real needs, ministries, neighbors, the elderly. These are not all financial, some are spiritual, some are emotional, some are lonely, some are physical needs as they need help with paint, repairs, etc. Some need parents, some need grandparents, some need grandchildren, and some need a friend. It will cost you. Thatís why itís a
sacrifice. Itís what God is asking from us. Itís what Jesus did (Read Romans 12:1, and Hebrews 13:15).
My friends, this was the attitude of Jesus that caused Him to leave heaven and give us a Christmas to celebrate. He became self-less, to be a servant, to be submissive to the Father, in order to sacrifice Himself for us.
It is this attitude that Paul says, should be in you and me. It is the attitude that results in real joy, for Paul reminds us in Acts 20:35 that Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." And in Hebrews 13:16, "with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
Christians; Will you choose to be self-less, and become a servant, will you be submissive to God and those He has called to be in authority, will you sacrifice yourself for the good of others? And will you make that commitment to God now?
Do you know this Jesus who did all of this for you? Would you like to know Him today?
If any of these messages have encouraged you, or if you have any questions please let me know. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you. And I promise, I will never ask you for money, nor place you on any mailing list.
Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman