Luke 15:4, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?”
Most everyone has heard of Charles Dicken’s timeless classic: A Christmas Carol. The tale of a greedy miser who becomes the most generous man is as engaging a story as it is profound. It’s a short book, yet it packs so much. My family prolifically watches several versions of it every December. I could spend hours discussing all its elements, and one of its most memorable are the three ghosts. Each one engages Scrooge differently. The Ghost of Christmas Past gently re-educates him with what’s familiar. The Ghost of Christmas Present is jovial yet appropriately stern apologist, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come guides in complete silence. Still, their combined tactics miraculously softens a stubborn man. How remarkably this mirrors the process of Christian conversion is quite stunning really. God declared He’s made himself clearly known to every man. Not a one can claim complete ignorance of Him. For just as we daily face three enemies (Satan, the world, and ourselves), our Triune God placed three witnesses of His character and existence in our modern world. I just can’t help but notice the parallels between them and Dicken’s Ghosts.
The Past - The Scriptures
Society is fickle about history. We act reverent of the past’s importance, yet we resist, change, and ignore the pieces we dislike constantly. Fact is, un-sanitized history sheds a steady beacon on the shames that created our troubled world. How tragically appropriate then for the Ghost of Christmas Past to be piercingly bright yet forced to carry a cap forged from men’s selfish passions for the purpose of snuffing out its truthful light. When it comes to the Bible, that same resistance doubles. God’s Word is indeed a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths. There’s never been nor never will be a more perfect historical record than it. However, people generally hate reminders of what’s transpired between us and God; what it had lead to; and what it is leading to. To the unsaved, Scriptures teach of distant pasts that speak to their familiar reality—uncomfortably so. Still, Jesus taught that mankind had been given Moses and the prophets for their welfare. If they won’t listen to them for truth, they stand little chance of listening to truth at all—even if it were told to them by one raised from the dead. For what else can hearers of unfiltered Scriptures do besides accept it or stubbornly mute it?
Present - The Church
Theologians dubbed our current times the Church Age. For at His ascension, Christ founded and instructed His redeemed followers to be His hands and feet in all communities. Thus, we’re to be living breathing reflections of Him to the present world. The Ghost of Christmas Present is similarly the most personal among Dicken’s ghosts and in two crucial ways. You see, this ghost is eager to bless others, especially the needy. However, he boldly exposes evil wherever it lies. He handily disarms Scrooge’s every defensive argument until he quiets, yet he still stays inviting to the old miser. This encapsulates everything God meant the collective Church to be. Scoffers of Scripture deny their own ignorance and are blind to the spiritual wants of this world. Jesus moves through His true Church to handle both. In gentleness and joy, we’re to generously serve the poor in spirit. We’re also to unapologetically judge the world by God’s standards. Thus, we awaken the ignorant and reduce the critic to silence. For so long as God keeps and empowers His church here on this earth, He delays the doom of unrepentant men another second longer.
Yet to Come - The Holy Spirit
How often the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is misinterpreted as a Grim Reaper is a travesty. This spirit is dark and largely shapeless not because he’s death. He’s precisely what the future is: terrifying and unknowable. The fact it never speaks but points the way harkens to how the future can only prompt us forward. It’s undoubtedly the most misunderstood of the ghosts, just like He whom it mirrors: the Holy Spirit. There’s a fixation on God as a personal ‘buddy’, but Scripturally, that’s an immature picture. He’s loving, yes, but His glory and righteousness is so overwhelming, it’s also terrifying and unknowable—deserving of fearful respect. Beyond that, (just like the future) nobody, not even the unsaved, is beyond the Holy Spirit’s influence. To the lost, He silently condemns through inner guilt. Even those with no conscience know what’s evil. Still, deep down we all know the painful truth that the Spirit presses upon us is for our good. Despite its unbearable presence, Scrooge recognized how much the third ghost pitied him. God’s nature, likewise, wishes to intercede for us as well. Hence why His Spirit silently judges and convicts harshly, so we may seek the life He alone can mercifully give.
Jesus taught a parable of a sower and the soils. The hardened path, rocky ground, and thorny patches failed to accept the seeds he cast. Only the good soil, the one that had been cleared, tilled, and fertilized, produced harvest. So it is with God’s message and human hearts. How can packed, unconditioned ground accept new seed? No more than an unaware, unchallenged, and unsoftened heart can. We Christians, who continually share the Gospel with no visible result, aught not to despair. Every time it is heard, the soils of the listener’s heart is upturned. They might pack it back down, but when God determines to change a life, He won’t cease to send His Word, His Church, and His Spirit to testify of Himself—no matter how many times it takes. Seeds take root in broken hearts. Then the time comes, and His Spirit will reap the harvest. May God continue to bless us all with all three, so that all men may thrive in Him.
“I will honor Christmas in my heart and keep it all the year. I will live my life in the past, the present, and the future. The spirits of all three shall strive within me! I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” — Ebenezer Scrooge
John 4:35-38, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
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