Advent Reflections: Day 2 The Freedom of Christmas

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
Isaiah 11.3-4

If any one particular author outside of the Bible is associated with Christmas, it must be Charles Dickens. If you haven’t read A Christmas Carol, you’ve problem seen one or more of its expressions in film. Notables such as Alastair Sim, George C. Scott and Michael Caine, have all starred as Scrooge at one time or other. Dickens, through his novels, and through A Christmas Carol in particular, helped to shape our more sentimental ideas about Christmas into what they have become today.

One of Dickens lesser know Christmas works is called The Chimes. The Chimes is the tale of a man who is trapped in the oppressive social order of his day. He is intimidated by those who present themselves as, and whom he believes to be, socially superior. So imprisoned is he by his own insecurity and by his concern to fit into the social order, that he almost wrecks his family’s future. Fortunately, a visionary experience brought about by the pealing of the church bells, results in a complete change of outlook.

Dickens wasn’t just telling a tale, he was making a point about the society of his day.

Thankfully, we don’t live in Victorian Britain. It never was as good as those nineteenth century snow scenes made it look. However, quickly read the headlines in any newspaper and you will find that we still have social pressures, albeit of a different kind today. For example, a report in one of today’s papers reckons we will spend ten thousand pounds per second online today. Yes, per second. It’s estimated that we will spend five billion pounds online alone over the course of this month, all in the name of Christmas.

We might not have the same kind of rigid class structure that prevailed one hundred and fifty years ago, but insecurity, low self-esteem, inferiority complexes and bad old fashioned fear and anxiety are still alive and well. And don’t tell me we aren’t at least occasionally envious of or intimidated by the apparently perfect lives of apparently perfect people who seem to be all around us.

If Christmas is about anything, it’s at least partly about shattering those man made structures and human opinions that are pedalled in the media and popular culture and produce so much sadness and anxiety.

In one of his prophecies about the promised Messiah, Isaiah says:

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
(Isaiah 11.3-5)

Jesus cuts right through appearance and veneer. He gets to the heart of things. He is not captive to social pressure nor concerned about vested interests. Popular opinion counts for nothing. Righteousness counts for everything.

As we enter the Christmas season, it’s worth reminding ourselves that Jesus came to establish a whole new value system, a whole new set of standards to live by. And Jesus gives us the right and the ability to stand up to the social pressures and peer pressure of our day – and to shake off the side effects of low self worth and anxiety, or perhaps even bitterness and resentment.

As we reconnect with the Christmas story, may we discover once again the freedom found in worshipping the one who gives us real life and who values us as His children. You are not what you spend. Your worth is established by the One who spent everything on you.

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