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Remembering the Gospel This Christmas

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Cross Radio
November 26, 2021 5:00 am

Remembering the Gospel This Christmas

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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November 26, 2021 5:00 am

Allison Pittman inspires listeners to make Christmas more meaningful as she shares insightful parallels between the Bible and Charles Dickens' classic novel "A Christmas Carol."

Get Allison Pittman's book "Keeping Christmas: 25 Advent Reflections on A Christmas Carol" for your donation of any amount! And when you give today, your support will be DOUBLED to Give Families Hope! https://donate.focusonthefamily.com/don-daily-broadcast-product-2021-11-26?refcd=1180803

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There's a Christmas story that's almost universally known as the birth of Christ and let me give you a couple of hints and see if you can guess what it is humbug and God bless us everyone will today on Focus on the Family were going to explore the very familiar story of a Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens in 1843.

It has some wonderful themes and spiritual insights that are still very relevant to our families today your hostess focus Pres. and Arthur Jim Daly and I'm John from John.

I was shocked by this but there's more than 130 different versions of the Christmas Carol really hundred third all I have ever mined our listeners and our viewers the most famous ones included Mickey Mouse and George see Scott and Jim Carrey in the Muppets had remembered those wide-ranging and one thing they all have in common is the villain. We both love and hate Ebenezer Scrooge. She was a terrible yet insightful man right in the Internet via our family has loved the Christmas Carol from the beginning, and especially Jean. She loves hearing that story again and again because so many wonderful themes for the whole season gratefulness caring for the needy redemption.

Of course, that we see the greedy and uncaring. Scrooge transformed into a new man, which reflects the truth found in second Corinthians 517 if anyone is in Christ is a new creation the old has passed away and behold, the new has come. And that really is the message of Christmas right today on the eve of the beginning of the Advent season we thought it would be appropriate to give this classic tale another review with her yesterday and we had a great guest who studied this material extensively. Allison Pittman is an author's speaker English teacher and novelist and she wants to help kind of illuminate the Christian worldview.

We find in literature. She's written a book that will hear more about today keeping Christmas 25 Advent reflections on a Christmas Carol, and it is a terrific resource. Look for your copy we get the link in the episode notes Allison welcome the focus is so much for having always intimidated with an English teaching me and that's true was that how did you do in English when my better class of my list. I like that well is comfortable.

It is good to have you here. Let's start with how you describe yourself as a Dickens enthusiast. What is it mean to be an Susie*Dickens follower people, especially today, people who are really comfortable in their English classes can be really intimidated by the text of his stories and his writing style and for me it's not only do I think he's the best storyteller he always had these weird characters that never would fit into his society into our society always had these rough edges and strange names. And when you're reading a Dickens novel. Everything seems so spread out and splayed out in your thinking. How is this ever going to weave together into a story and he just takes the strand and it's just an adventure to dive into his text to just really run around in his words and his diction in his syntax and spool it all out and then put it all together and I feel like you've accomplished something when you get through an entire Dickens novel and you everybody should do that.

I would say start with great expectations you know you get to the end and it's like I've done something something man did you land in the right location. I felt the same way about football. Let me ask you understand that you use a Christmas Carol is a teaching tool in your lives, which is outstanding and you encourage people to use this classic story when they share their faith. How does that work well I'll Christian school.

Now that my most of my teaching career I was in public school and I taught high school English and so I could read a Christmas Carol because it it fit in with the curriculum. Reading classic authors, but I can also teach this message of redemption. This message of find something bigger than yourself and the way that Scrooge learns to love Christmas and embrace Christmas coming to me. The metaphor has always been that he's embraced Christ decant.

I could never separate the two of them and just the idea that you need to own your sin, you need to recognize what it is and you need to seek something better in your life and I guy could teach the gospel message sort of hidden in this story the whole time that I was in public school and then when I was in private Christian school.

I could really really die down because these kids had all of the vocabulary for it to really pick up on the metaphor yeah and sometimes I would say you might not feel comfortable sharing the gospel. You might not know how to share the gospel. But if you can retell this story from this angle it to me is a short step to the gospel without a doubt, you mentioned that in the book that you grew up in a Christian home and you were well-versed in Christian things. But the story. This story really caught your attention.

That's an interesting disconnect. I was curious about that, why, why, you know you can be sitting in church understanding things are course Dickens.

It seems wrote this from the Christian perspective, continue to unroll that for the listeners. But why do you think that disconnect was yet my mother probably kill me know this is a question we need to know that I had to clear this with her but I always had the separation Christmas was Christmas and church was church and even with the nativity scene and with the baby Jesus and all of that. I never really folded it all together until I started seeing all of the symbolism and metaphor in here and it doesn't get a kick me off the ship doesn't mean I didn't get it but I didn't get it for this book where I could see. Wait a minute, wait a minute, this is this is Christ.

This is not just becoming a better man.

This is Scrooge becoming redeemed and I I never really put that message of the season in with redemption rights and we are going to unfold as are so many I guess no examples in the store that point to the gospel in order to do that, but you also had kind of ears as a prodigal. Yes, you know so many people that may have a 20 something son or daughter there experiencing that right now, but the Lord really did use the story to turn you back toward him right yeah I and I'm a mother of 320 something Ron right so I think that that's in that something that as a Christian parent you know you you're always sort of worried about, and when you're when you're in that space.

I think that's just the beauty of God's mercy and that he's never moves. He is immobile in his love, and he is immobile in his grace and we can stretch ourselves out as far as working to stretch out, but we always have that same place to go back to and I I know that my parents had their times of of worry and I have my times of worry and that I think parents out there if you know that you have brought your child up in the way that he should go in the Scripture says he won't depart is when he is old when they look they are just departing.

They look like they're just on their way that I'd I think it's so important for Christian parents to remain as immobile as God is for our own redemption. One of my credos.

I go by is not to ever sever you know not to ever make a child think that they can't come home right or they can't keep the relationship is God to keep that relationship Allison.

Let's dig into the content you've identified some profound spiritual lessons that we can all going from the Dickens story and one is morally yet, character, and you equate morally and I think Dickens was also doing this as the rich man in Luke chapter 16, there's that analogy and what is that analogy what I love and that and in the Scripture that man says can we please don't warn my friends and and they said well they're not gonna listen to me what makes you think they're gonna listen to a dead man is like Dickens like hey, maybe somebody would listen to it that Matt is off and I'm kicking myself because this Scripture didn't get into the book and I don't know how and that it's first Timothy six square, Paul says warn your rich friends warn your friends not to rely on their money not to rely on their riches because they're not going to carry those over only in God do we have that safety and said that's what Marley is, he's this warning do not do what I did and what I love is that Marley's knocking to benefit from this at all. Marley's fate is sealed. Marley is what Marley is going to be so. He's acting altruistically for his friend just to say you don't want to end up like this.

You don't want to be like this. Somebody has to show him where it is stated yeah and in extending that in the book of Mark, there's that rich young ruler that Jesus meets. I think it's important and you also give a comparison to that painful goodbye describe that I idea that you have to leave behind everything that you know when and love recap the Scripture force Jesus say to the rich young ruler.

He says celebrated Bella get rid of of all of that you have. If you want to follow me. You have to get rid of everything, and that's you know relationship still in that is that it could be friendships that could be all kinds of things that he says yeah you want to, you have to sell everything you have to follow me with nothing and that really is Scrooge's issue, and I think that one thing that we have to remember about screws. I think it's lost or get sort of misinterpreted there's just this little lying words describing Scrooge's lonely, sad, cold life that there's a line word, Dickens says, and he liked it. We want to think that Scrooge was miserable and sad and lonely he wasn't. This is what he chose for himself, you know he he liked the way that he was living.

So even that aspect of his life that he liked he would have to get rid of. That's an interesting concept actually was quite comfortable being screwed drumming. That is what we say here, Scrooge yeah right, and that means your type with your money. You don't like many people know what it is. It's a descriptor which is amazing.

Ebenezer Scrooge has that vision of his future were used without friends or comforts or family and all of his wealth is meaningless. At that point, which is which is the point that you can put your hope in money.

Contrast that to the hope we find in Matthew six about storing up treasures in heaven, you know there's there.

We can access them here right and those things that we have stored up our acts of righteousness, the relationships that that we have formed that love that will have the worship that will have everything there is waiting and it can be hard when you're here and feeling like you're missing out or you're losing out of there something that you don't have that the things that are truly valuable in life aren't tangible. You know there they're not just as intangible as riches that are stored up in heaven. Allison you also in the book identify some powerful parallels between a Christmas Carol in the Bible and that you give an example how Scrooge denied Christmas three times similar to what Peter did about denying Christ so that paralleled well in the opening scene. The opening save their three different times were Scrooge's wish to marry Christmas and he Bah humbug sit with Cratchit with the collectors of charity and then his nephew Fred and I went back click that's kind of when the entire idea of the book clicked on that it could be more than just the simple because I was first looking at just the symbolism of of the gunsmith that will. This is something else that he denies and denies and denies.

But then, as we know he is redeemed. After that night that you would think well, you're outta here.

You know that Christ comes back to him and solely to him and restores him and he becomes this leader right and so Scrooge is the same it at the end.

Even though he we see him where he hates Christmas in terms of his family in terms of working with the poor in terms of his own poor clerk was there trying to work, he also though gets reading, but only when his own words are thrown back at him. He comes face-to-face with what he said that night in his denial and his denial of Christmas. The very words come back to him at the end and that's what you know we have to face. We have to face our sins we have to name them and say them in order for that redemption happened well and in taking metal further. That's the whole point right.

You've got a look at your own shortcomings your own sins. And that's what pollsters about yeah that and I sense he has to go through the past and he has to see where he was a victim you know when he was little and he was abandoned all of that but also where he made specific choices that put him on the path that he was eventually came on absolutely one of the most stark reminders. Your shares about the link between Christmas and death. That's the kind a crescendo of the movie right Christmas Carol begins with the death of Jacob Marley. Why is it so important to reflect upon death during the Christmas season. I mean, we see this is the new born wife, right yes the baby is been sent to give us salvation and then we also know that this is the baby who is going to die a horrific death for the redemption of of us and for the payment of our sins and it's fun to talk about the baby Jesus and that sweet story, but we also know that he was born to be a sacrifice, that this is what his purpose was so starting with Marley was dead to begin with. Also, the Victorian audience in a and we all love story right. We all love a little bit of a spooky story and something that sort of clues us in so Dickens works on that level II like were going to start and you're going to think this is this dark and spooky fun entertaining story and it just can it sort of sneak up on you what it's actually about, and with the story of Jesus not a story but with his life. You know, we center around that beautiful nativity scene but then it sneaks up on us if we follow his journey. We follow his life. That's where it ultimately leads to is his death and his resurrection, Elsa. One thing that the caught my attention and I don't know about your job or for me.

Occasionally I have the Bah humbug person on the corner is there with the sign.

Okay I mean it's tax-free income. I'm doing the Bah humbug thing you know someone who I respect as a juror scholar Ray Vandal on his done or that the world may know, I was with them in Israel.

And he always put change logo change in every cup of every beggar that he went by in Jerusalem or Bethlehem, where we were a just said to the group. God expects you to acknowledge the poor by doing that every time that's convicting the makers we can rationalize it all. We have welfare programs but the stories telling us to take care of the poor directly. It got and that's what that's what Dickens wanted to do.

That was his main mission was to say you need to take care of the poor and in the first edition of the book. It was printed on.

You know with fine leather cover and gilded pages and color illustrations. It was a very asked, pensive but expensive to publish expensive to buy because he knew his audience who needed to read this book are the ones who could afford to read this poem for a lot of his writing career. He published cereals and newspapers in unit published on the cheap. But this is like I want the people who can afford to make it difference to buy this book and read the story, and be changed by it and make a difference and I think there are times when you can put money in a Because you have money there times when you can't and which I don't think that that's the that's the convicting moment, but if you can help and you don't. That to me is where the lesson is when it's there and you can do it and you rationalize it away because of convenience because of time because of their just going to spend it on liquor or something like that, you know, let that sin be on their head. That's what we see in that first day when all of there's a woman in a Christmas Carol is a woman on the street and she's sick and she's cold and she's holding a child and they're probably going to die of hypothermia.

That night we can assume that Scrooge walked right past her at some point, but he looks out in the courtyard in the courtyard is full of all of these spirits who want to help her and they keep flying towards her, but their spirit right they can't touch.

They can't they can't do anything and that is their torment about not being able to help the poor, and I would say if if you are able to do something and you feeling that prompting of the spirit to do something.

Don't ignore that God repays tenfold right now that's so good you spoke to your children about making Christmas better and I think this can it does move toward tying the bow and the Christmas gift because you story here but what did you observe and what did you teach your kids when it comes to really knowing the connection between Christmas and generosity.

You know, we had we sat down one time with our boys think they were like six and 10 and we said what we get you for Christmas last year.

What you get for Christmas and not one of them could name a thing meant that for Christmas they named things that they had but none of those had been Christmas gifts and it was just this idea that you know I remember the Christmas before knocking ourselves out scrimmaging and that the budget trying to find enough money for this you know going on lack Friday sales to make sure I got to have something because I have twins and knocking people over in the aisle, probably to get it.

Sorry lady bug and they Amos single gift they could name a single thing and so for that Christmas we we took a vacation together.

Instead, like were not buying you anything not buying you any presents because in that same conversation I said do you remember when we went to we had gone to Atlanta a few months before, and they can recall all kinds of moments about that and even especially because we've just come out of a Christmas where so many of us had to be isolated and separated from each other unit we just have to remember that while that the core of it is of course the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. He came into a family right. He didn't have to be born into a family that that's what happened and when Scrooge comes into himself when he wakes up on that Christmas morning and he is reborn. He said different man.

You know, he goes to church. Then he goes to his nephews house, his nephew, who has invited him to Christmas every single year and he goes and a heat that takes care of the crutches.

We see the Cratchit's as this beautiful family. They under they have nothing they have absolutely nothing.

So this idea that that Christmas needs to be things and stuff and decorations and all of that, you know, if you don't have somebody to share it with an and I know that there people who don't have somebody to share with right they they need some to reconcile. Maybe some relationships reach out in a reach out to each other.

Well I think that's good advice. I think the last question with a little bit of time I have left is you know for the person that is already feeling the Scrooge effect Christmas you one more thing to do.

We got decorations to put up. I can build Scrooge like when it comes to putting Christmas lights up really build what I've heard about the light of looking up the ladder breaks on what advice you have for that attitude. That's what room that's the core of the whole message is how do we have a Christlike attitude during the season and not a Scrooge like all you know, this might not go over well with everybody but Christmas will still happen if you don't have lights, Christmas shall happen if you don't have a tree, if it doesn't give you pleasure like I have a friend who puts up her Christmas tree on October 31 because she wants to stretch the season. I put mine up the day after Thanksgiving because I'm Christmas. I get through Thanksgiving and then I do Christmas that you know if if it's giving you a grumbly spirit. Think to yourself why am I grumbling about this and if you're not doing it with a joyful heart maybe step back a year, you know, maybe, maybe do a little bit less, maybe only put up a tree and Garland don't worry with the ornaments this year. You know, it may be cut back on your shopping and think to yourself, what's the human interaction. What's the human interaction relationship price that I'm paying in order to fulfill what I think might be a social media feed needs. You know tip to please other people. You have to. I always directed our Christmas program at church for years and years and years and just now looking back on it I realize how miserable I make Christmas for my children. Sometimes because I was so distracted with all of those other things that they were sitting at home waiting for me to get back or they were getting, you know, fast food supper because I was too stressed to make a real dinner you happy. The people that are close to you are the people that are going to be there after Christmas and invest your time and your love in them so good and jeans will be so happy. I'm sure with this idea of what Christmas is all about in the Advent season gene was so good every year with the kids, particularly making sure sometimes we had to admit calendar is amazing. That means weight and so is its carveout that time and this is such a good message and I think you've captured something here that's really insightful. I don't think it was a mistake. What Dickens wrote and I do think there's a connection there. And of course writing this in the 1800s. He would've been informed about the gospel message absolutely so thank you so much. Things are live here share in the story, let me turn to the listeners.

If you don't know who the Lord is.

This is what Christmas is about to get in touch with us will be back in on Monday and we want to talk with you about what it means to have a relationship with Christ. That's Ground Zero.

So let's start there and get rid of the bomb bugs and the Scrooge attitude and really turn our hearts toward what Christmas and Easter are all, and to do that. I'll recommend you get a copy of Ellison's bookkeeping Christmas 25 Advent reflections on a Christmas Carol have it available here at our website along with an audio CD or download of our entire conversation with her. Just contact us about those resources and you might want to share them as gifts this holiday season. John was also decided to make it a giftgiving on all sides and make a gift of any amount will send a copy of Ellison's work as our gift back to you.

And that's a great Christmas and we'd love to hear from you. Don't get your copy of keeping Christmas week of the details in the show notes or call 800 K word for half of Jim Daly and the entire team. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family I'm John Fuller inviting you back, or help you and your family thrive