Keeping Christmas Well

  • Steve Hatter
Family of four during Christmas

In Charles Dickens’ legendary short novel, A Christmas Carol, there is a lovely line of prose at the end of the fictional story wherein the fully redeemed Ebenezer Scrooge is summarized: “And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”

I love the idea of keeping Christmas well! And what a clever way to close the tale—on a note of warmth and hope! We readers can only speculate regarding how the transformed Scrooge may have kept Christmas well going forward in his fictional 19th century London life. But we are assured of this: the awful self-centered and cruel Scrooge is to be considered gone for good, and a new man of joy and graciousness is born! Ebenezer Scrooge’s keeping of Christmas well, of course, was Dickens’ way of assuring us the glorious change in what seemed an impenetrable black heart, was permanent.

A Christmas Carol’s popularity and influence are unquestioned. This beautiful little story has indeed become a true literary classic. Some even go as far as to label it a Christian allegory in the class of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. However, while the Christian gospel is at the heart of A Christmas Carol, the story is not a Christian allegory. The three Christmas spirits are not stand-ins for the Holy Trinity, nor does Scrooge receive salvation in a theological sense. Yet, Scrooge’s story paints a vivid picture of the idea of personal redemption, which is the main reason I love it so much. Thinking of the before and after Scrooge does help me keep Christmas well.

Like Ebenezer Scrooge, my salvation—just as everyone who is truly in the faith—came by grace alone. I was not looking for God back in December of 1990, but little did I know, He was pursuing me. I cannot pinpoint exactly the moment of regeneration, but I do know that thirty-one years ago this very month, I was plucked from a life of control and predictability and plopped into the deserts of Saudi Arabia as a deployed soldier sent to fight Sadaam Hussein and the Iraqi armies. Like Scrooge’s three unwanted ghostly visitations, the shock and awe of such drastic change of my personal circumstances showed me much about reality and the truth of my own heart. Spiritually, I found myself broken and contrite before my Creator. That brokenness was the beginning of a new life in Christ, and I have never looked back.

One writer commented that somehow everything is better at Christmastime, and I can honestly say that idea rings utterly true for me. The emotion of leaving Cynthia and our three little ones (we’ve added two more since then) as I answered the call to go off to fight a foreign war seems alive in my memory as if it were but a year ago. I feel it now considering what God did for me in difficult temporal circumstances. Truly, deploying to Operation DESERT STORM was the best thing that ever happened to me. I rekindle my gratefulness every Christmas because that is so!

So how do I keep Christmas well considering God saved me some thirty Christmases ago? I first thank our Lord and Savior with all my heart for the grace and provision of His Gospel. In so doing, I am better able to keep what should be important in the right priority, while also keeping at bay those things that are mere temporal life noise and not particularly important.

I also see the immeasurable blessing of marriage and family. I’m inspired to intentionally tell my close family members how I love and appreciate them. Christmas reminds me to live each day preventing the potential regret of failing to tell the special people God has placed in my life that I love them.

Finally, Christmas encourages me to see the good that is evident in a fallen creation. Yes, the world, the nation, our state, and our city are struggling, but God is still on His throne and Christ’s finished work on the cross has made for a field of souls ripe for the Gospel harvest. And within this context, there are both good works to be done and godly joy to be found in doing that work.

The Apostle Paul in the thirteenth chapter of first Corinthians describes this phenomenon—where we can see just enough of glory in our lowly lives lived out in a fallen world to be inspired, even as we may be threatened by the worst of temporal circumstances:  

For now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Cor 13:12

I pray you will contemplate both your salvation and how good our God truly is as you keep Christmas well!