Go Tell It on the Mountain

By Laura Tracy

December 2018
Pentecostal Life 

Download the December 2018 Facilitator/study guide to accompany this article.

Objective: To celebrate and experience the Spirit of Christmas in our past, present, and future

There I was again being serenaded by alien creatures singing about a man whom Charles Dickens described as “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” (A Christmas Carol, Dickens, 1843). It seemed Christmas at the Tracy’s was not complete without the Muppets screeching out “Scrooge.” The hero of a best-selling novel, Mr. Scrooge’s greedy lust for money and wealth was so outlandish that his character soon became a world-wide legend and household name. The story goes on to tell how, after being visited by his ghosts from the past, present, and future, Scrooge’s worldview was profoundly changed from one of selfishness to one of benevolence. Most would agree that the message of the book (which has never gone out of print) embodies the spirit of Christmas.

We’re a little hard on Scrooge. We chuckle as the Muppets sing about him. But if we were honest, we would admit that an animated viewing of certain scenes from our lives might prompt a few different life choices. We might vow to “do better,” especially as the New Year approaches. But here’s a Bible truth: “In me (that is, my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Romans 7:18, NKJV). “Can the leopard change its spots?” asked the prophet Jeremiah (13:23).

Our past, present, and future were tainted by the sin into which we were born—or so it seemed until Hope was born.

Jesus’ birth changed everything. Unlike the ghosts of Ebenezer Scrooge, Jesus embodied the Holy Ghost sent from Heaven who not only shows us the need for change, but supernaturally empowers the change. Incredibly, He made possible the actual indwelling of the Holy Ghost. “For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). And the apostle Paul stated that because the Spirit of Christ dwells in us, we are alive to righteousness (Romans 8:9–10).

Furthermore, because the Spirit of Christ is not confined to time, He is able to work in our past, present, and future. While the world sees their past mistakes and current consequences through a hopeless lens, believers in Christ joyfully celebrate a God that turns our mistakes into blessings and transforms us from glory to glory (II Corinthians 3:18). Now that’s Good News!

Today, because of the Christ child, we celebrate:

Peace with the Past.
On that holy night, the host of angels proclaimed peace on earth! Did this mean an end to war and violence? No, as we have seen from world events. The peace Jesus brought was the peace between God and man. God’s wrath toward our sins is now placed upon Jesus Christ, and there is no longer a chasm between us. We are at peace with God for the first time since the fall of Adam, and the consequences of our past failures are now filtered through the blood of Jesus Christ. Now God can work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). For this reason, it is called the gospel of peace.

Are you anxious and troubled about something in your past? You are not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the U.S.” and “depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.” Many of these statistics are linked to past traumatic events in the lives of these individuals, and these trends are on the rise.

Jesus came to set us free from the burden of our past. His words to us are “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me . . . to heal the brokenhearted . . . to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18, NKJV). This same “Spirit of the Lord” is the Spirit of Christmas.

Joy in the Present.
Jesus came to the outcasts first. Shepherds were considered so unimportant that their testimonies were not even heard in a courtroom. But God visited them right where they were—in their dirty, smelly pastures, and in their personal culture of prejudice. Into this setting He brought joy. “Fear not,” the angel said, “for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10).

Notice that the messenger addressed their fear. Jesus knows right where we are in our present situations, and His first desire is that we not be afraid. His next desire is that we accept His unconditional joy. Yes, we can have “great joy” in the middle of our mess!

Last, He wants us to obey Him. To enter the joy, the shepherds had to leave the pastures and go to where Jesus was. We must always move out of our present state to draw near to God. We are “partners” with Him, and we must do our “part” to receive the fullness of His blessings.

Hope for the Future.
It is customary to end the year anticipating what the new one will bring. Many face it with trepidation because the unknown has a way of prompting fear. But the unknown is scary only because it’s a symbol of darkness, and as Zacharias said regarding Jesus: He will “give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79). Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

What a promise! While God doesn’t reveal the future to us, He has revealed Himself as Jesus, the light of our lives, and where He leads there will be peace. As Jesus’ earthly body prepared to leave this world, He said to His disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled . . . I go to prepare a place for you . . . I will come again, and receive you unto myself” (John 14:1–3). Regardless of what happens to us in this life, we can know that our ultimate future is paradise with Jesus our Savior.

While the ghosts in A Christmas Carol are imaginary, we have the powerful, infinite, life-changing Spirit of Christ available to us. This Spirit of Christmas, made possible through the virgin birth of Jesus, is the greatest reason to celebrate this year and every year. As Elizabeth once told Mary, “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord (Luke 1:45, NKJV).” May we all believe that God has come to our present to redeem our past and to secure our future.