Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas Carol

Review: A Christmas Carol

Rating: ★★★★★

Full Title: A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. Dickens divided the original story into “staves” (i.e. stanzas), with the title likewise being an analogy to verse or song.

Who: Charles Dickens, the most famous English novelist of the 19th century.

Overview: A Christmas Carol is Dickens’ compelling and imaginative story of the life of a miser reformed by a tour through time in which he is visited by Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. In all three tenses, Ebenezer Scrooge sees the truth that he had been missing about his own life, the life of his employee, and the effects of his miserable—pun intended—lifestyle on others.

Meat: This story, which many learned growing up from various adaptations such as those of Disney, is much more than a children’s tale. Like the story that follows it, it has elements of horror and fantasy woven into a simple story. And Scrooge is reformed by the vision of the results of his selfishness; in that sense, the story parallels a Christian conversion, and this is clearer in the original book.

Quotes:

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”

“Bah,” said Scrooge, “Humbug.”

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”

You can read A Christmas Carol for free on Kindle, Project Gutenberg, or listen on LibriVox.

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The Cross of Bethlehem

Shrouded in mist, behold the scene:
The Tale-teller is entering—
The man we name Immannuel,
Who didn’t blink when Satan fell.
But sweeter motives sent him here,
Like starlight to our atmosphere,
To take back what that serpent took.
He spurned man’s fig leaf and forsook
Immortal crowns a babe to be—
Clothed only with humility.
Becoming flesh he left heaven
And saw the cross at Bethlehem.
He lived as dead. He took no thought
For rights or power though being God.
Misunderstood, betrayed, tortured,
God gave no curse—nay, spoke no word—
Then ending what birth had begun,
Was hung shame, and hid the sun.
Naked he came; naked returned.
By blood his own perfection learned,
He offered up humanity—
Heard no reply. Surrend’ring, he
Went lower still, to deepest earth,
And changed the grave from dread to mirth.
Now—thought of thoughts—sin’s blindness cured,
Our man of sorrows has secured
The highest throne, the noblest name,
The purest bride for which he came,
And crowning all rewards of grace,
The smile upon his Father’s face.

A Clouded Christmas

F. W. Boreham, My Christmas Book, Part II, ch. IV

It is an infinite comfort to us ordinary pulpiteers to know that even an Archbishop may sometimes have a bad time! And, on the occasion of which I write, the poor Prelate must have had a very bad time indeed. For—tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon!—none of his hearers knew what he had been talking about! They could make neither head nor tail of it! ‘I have not been able to find one man yet who could discover what it was about’, wrote one of his auditors to a friend. It is certainly most humiliating when our congregations go home and pen such letters for posterity to chuckle over.

And yet the ability of the preacher at this particular service, and the intelligence of his hearers, are alike beyond question. Continue reading

How Christmas Came to Roaring Camp

F. W. Boreham, My Christmas Book, Part I, ch. IV

It may or may not have happened in December; Bret Harte does not say, and it certainly does not matter; for whether it happened in April or September or December, it was Christmas-time in Roaring Camp. It is always Christmas-time when a little child is born; the angels sing their song in somebody’s sky, and heaven fills the atmosphere of somebody’s home with its Gloria in Excelsis—its message of peace on earth and goodwill among men. Continue reading

4 1/2 Book Recommendations for Christmas

A few seasonal reading ideas, focusing on what’s freely (or cheaply) available online

As Western culture shifts, Protestants and Pentecostals have become more and more concerned with the liturgical year. Partially assisted by the advent of social media, America is getting whiplash as we return from individualistic culture to a more communal culture. The liturgical year is a way of remembering the Bible’s great stories together as a community, and in that way it has always had value for the church.

How can we remember the birth of Christ best? There are many Christmas “devotionals” out there, but I recommend first that we return to the great hymns of Christmas past. If you have not sat down and read a hymnbook as part of your worship, I would say you are missing out on some of the inexpressible truths entrusted to the church. Poetry (and hymns!) have a way of expressing what prose can’t.

A Book of Christmas Verse – ed. H. C. Beeching

This book is just what I had been looking for: a mix of classic Christmas hymns that I had heard almost every year, and other traditional hymns and poems that are lost to modern times. Of course the classics like Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley are there, but there are older English hymnwriters that you may not have read, like John Donne and George Herbert. Most of the poetry here explores the deepest truths of Christmas: the Incarnation, the humility of the Son of God, and the cross and resurrection that awaited him at the end of his life. (If you don’t read Latin you will have to skip a few, but don’t let it put you off—it is a great collection.)

A Book of Christmas Verse (Kindle edition)

My Christmas Book – F. W. Boreham

Boreham’s books are not “devotional,” strictly speaking. His Christmas book is more of a ramble through the park with an old friend. He mixes storytelling with preaching in a way that cannot be imitated. This book is newly available in a digital edition, and if you can get a hands on a copy you will be glad you did. If you can’t get your hands on a copy, you can read a sample at the following link:

A Clouded Christmas (sample chapter)

How Christmas Came to Roaring Camp (sample chapter)

My Christmas Book (Kindle edition)

All About God in Christ (or The Christ of Christmas) – Herbert Lockyer

Herbert Lockyer is one of the most prolific writers of Bible studies of modern times, but he is best known for the All series. In the 1930s, Lockyer was involved with Zondervan made the smart choice of publishing dozens his topical sermons:Sorrows and Stars, Roses in December, The Fairest of All, The Mystery of Godliness and several others. He published _The Christ of Christmas _in 1942. Later, when they were creating the _All _series, much of this older material was cleaned up and put into the 1995 volume All About God in Christ, so that book is primarily a study of the Incarnation, as was The Christ of Christmas.

The Christ of Christmas (Kindle edition)

All About God in Christ

The Glory of the Manger – Samuel Zwemer

Zwemer has many books, and even the most mundane titles that I have come across have been exhilarating and convicting. Like the others, this book is a mix of doctrinal and devotional, with a focus on Christ’s divinity. If my timeline is correct, Zwemer was teaching comparative religion courses at Princeton when he wrote this, and it shows in his wide variety of sources, stories, and poetry about the Christmas story. This book has been out of print for many decades, and was recently published for Kindle by Pioneer Library.

The Glory of the Manger (Kindle edition)

Conclusion

Leonard Ravenhill used to be invited to Christian book fairs, but he would decry the shallowness of the writings he found there. Biblical Christian truth is glorious, convicting, and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, and we dull the edge when we obsess over the earthly aspects of Jesus’ advent: who were the wise men, what is a manger, what was the star, etc. My final suggestion is that we look for books dealing especially with the glorious truth of the Incarnation of Christ, what Paul called “the mystery of godliness”—and if we meditate on that, we will not feel that we have missed the spirit of Christmas or the purpose of the season.