Well many of you who know me, know that my husband is a runner and I should be such a runner, but my husband is a runner and he goes out every other morning and he runs for about 30 minutes. And one morning, Jim had no sooner left to go on his run. I had just come out of the shower, was wrapped in my robe, my wet hair all up in a towel and I decided to go out and get the newspaper. And as I went out and the door slammed behind me, and I picked up the newspaper and I went back to get back inside, I realized I had no key. I was locked out. And I had nothing I could do but wait for Jim to come back from his 30 minute run. So there I sat on my front porch in my robe, my wet hair and waved to my neighbors as they were all getting up and doing their business and coming out and getting their newspapers, feeling very, very silly because I had locked myself out of the house. Without keys, we get locked out, right?
And I know that many of you have been to Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean. I love that, that’s one of my favorite rides. And one of my favorite parts is when you come around that corner and you see those prisoners and they’re all there in that prison jail cell, right, and there’s a dog just out of reach, and he’s got those keys dangling in his mouth and they’re trying, they’re going here boy, here boy. They’re trying to get him to come because they’re locked in. Without keys, we’re locked out or we’re locked in. Keys are important to our life.
And today, today we live in a world where people are feeling like they are out of control; they do not have the keys in their hands. They feel imprisoned and they don’t have the key to get out. Or they feel locked out of opportunities and they don’t have the key to open the door to get in to where they want to go and where they need to go. We feel like our locus of control is out there and we have no control over what we are doing with our life. And I feel that that’s a lot of the challenges today with our people, with this economy and the challenges that have come with it, is the fact that we do not feel like we have the keys in our hand to do, to get out or to get in, whichever one it is we need to do.
Well we heard a little bit about C.S. Lewis, a remarkable classic; in my opinion, one of the best if not the best English writers ever. Writers, regardless of nationality. Well there’s another wonderful English writer and most of us love to see and watch his story this time of year and that is Charles Dickens. And most of you are familiar with The Christmas Carol, of course. But he also wrote a story, it was a series of novels that appeared and were published bit by bit between 1855 and 1857 and that story was called Little Dorrit. And I don’t know that many people are that familiar with the story of Little Dorrit. But I find it a fascinating story because Little Dorrit is set in the Marshalsea Prison in London. The Marshalsea Prison was a debtor’s prison, and when people couldn’t pay their debts, they were thrown into the Marshalsea Prison. In fact, Charles Dickens own father was in the Marshalsea Prison when he was 12 years old, and that’s what inspired him to write this book, and to set the novel there.
Well the story opens up with a child being born in Marshalsea Prison and that child was a little baby girl named Amy Dorrit. She was born to William Dorrit, her father. Now William Dorrit was the prisoner, he was not allowed to leave the prison. Amy Dorrit, being born there, it wasn’t her debt. She was allowed to come and go. She lived in the prison, she slept there at night, but she was allowed to come and go as she wanted to and wander the streets of London and get a job sewing and bring the money back home. But in order for Amy Dorrit to get out of the prison, she had to pass through the big heavy iron prison doors. Standing at those prison doors was Master John Chivery, the senior and Master John Chivery the junior. They were the turnkey of the prison. They had the keys to the prison. And they would let her out when she wanted to go out. She had to be back before the bell rang at night so she could get back in because otherwise she would have to sleep on the streets of London.
And it was a very interesting scene where William Dorrit, the father, who’s been in this prison for years and years and years, 21 years. We know he was there at least 21 years. And at one point, the turnkey says to him, ‘come and take a peek outside. Look outside the prison walls.’ And he hesitantly looks outside the door. The turnkey opens the door and he looks and he hears the clapping of hoof beats. He hears the voices of people and he becomes afraid and he pulls back and he says ‘oh I think I’ve seen enough.’ He felt safer there in his prison. He wasn’t quite so sure he wanted to be un-imprisoned. Well then wonder of wonders, they find out that William Dorrit has been an heir of an immense fortune. He’s able to pay off all his debts, he’s able to leave Marshalsea Prison and they have a big parade and a big send off as he and Amy Dorrit leave Marshalsea Prison.
The story continues and shows us and takes us through the Dorrit family life as they live with more money than they know what to do with. Surrounded by their fine trappings, as I will call them, because William Dorrit, even though he had been physically released from his prison, he was still psychologically imprisoned because he continues to be haunted by the social stigma that he had been in prison. He was continually haunted by the feeling that he was a failure. And he worries that even though he has all this money, and now he’s rubbing shoulders with the socially elite in London, that they will discover he’s an imposter. And he died a very unhappy and full filled man because he never, ever got free. He was never set free from his prison.
I dare say that many of us today, even though this was written back in 1855 through 1857, many of us today can relate to the story because many of us feel locked in, or shut out. We feel locked in through our feelings of failure. We feel locked in by our worries, by our feelings we haven’t measured up, shame. Some of us are locked in or locked out because of bitterness that we hold against somebody who has hurt us and wounded us. And we actually put up those prison walls to protect our hearts and our souls from being hurt even further. Much like William Dorrit, we say, you know, go ahead and open that door, but I’m going to just stay back here because I’m going to guard myself from being hurt again.
Many of us are feeling imprisoned. And so we need to be set free, yes! Now, some of you may not be ready to be set free, but most of you are saying to me today yes, Sheila, I want to be set free. Yes, I don’t want to be under this domination of depression anymore, or fear, or shame. I want to be set free. Some of you are saying I want to be set free from my financial debts. And yes, we do, we want to be set free. So, we need a key to get us out. And I brought my little keys from home. I live in a little old Victorian house and I told my husband, I said Jim what do you think? Can the people see these in the Cathedral? And he said oh Sheila; let me get you another key. This is Jim’s key. Jim always does things in much bigger scale than I do. And he made this key for me yesterday. And it’s a turnkey because just like Master John Chivery was the turnkey of Marshalsea Prison, he let the people in or out. He let them in or out. He turned that key and let them in or out. People, we all need a turnkey, do we not, to let us in and let us out.
Have any of you heard of Corrie ten Boom? I love the story of Corrie ten Boom and you know, and I’m looking at Jan van den Bosch, from our Netherlands office. He of course knows the story of Corrie ten Boom. Corrie, when she was just a little girl, she was getting ready to go on the train with her dad and they were on their way to Amsterdam, probably from Haarlem, because that was their home town, and she said ‘daddy, you know I don’t think I have the faith to be a martyr.’ And her dad said to her, ‘Corrie, did I give you the money for this train ticket yesterday or even a week ago? No. I wait until we’re just about ready to get on the train and then I give you the money because you didn’t need it last week, you didn’t need it yesterday. You need it now that we’re getting on the train. So here’s the money for your train ticket.’ He said ‘God is the same way with our faith. When we need it, that’s when He’ll give it to us.’ I have to say, I felt the very same way as Corrie, I wondered God, do I have the faith to be a martyr for You? Do I have the faith to live sacrificially for You? Do I? I always wondered and I drew strength from that story of Corrie and I’m learning that today God is giving me the faith that I need, when I needed it.
Well that first train trip for Corrie as a little girl foreshadowed a more ominous train trip for her later down the road. When she was imprisoned in a jail in Haarlem because she and her family had harbored Jews during World War II, she was put on trial by a German guard there in that Haarlem jail, her turnkey, so to speak. He called to her and he started asking her questions. He was trying to trick her into disclosing the whereabouts of the Jews that they had hidden away. And Corrie was very, very astute in her answers. And in the process, she began to witness to her German guard. He became intrigued and wanted to know more and he would ask her questions about her God because he was beginning to be afraid for his family back in Germany. And Corrie ministered, ministered during her trial to her guard, to her turnkey. Then, she was shipped from that jail to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. She was put on another train and that train is when God gave her that faith that her daddy had promised her God would give her when she needed it because she and her sister Betsy, off they went to Ravensbruck.
And that’s when her trials really began. She saw and heard of her father losing his life. She saw and heard her sister Betsy losing her life. And yet, Corrie continued to praise God in her prison. And then one day she was called by the prison guard at Ravensbruck, her turnkey. She didn’t know what to expect when he called her to his office. But she was given this note, a card that was stamped in German, entlassen. Means released! She was set free. Set free miraculously. Think of it. Can you even imagine? Being in a concentration camp like that where you saw your family losing their life and getting a card that says free! Free! You’ve been set free. Wow. One week later, all of the women her age were exterminated. Turns out it was a clerical error. God divinely set Corrie free because you see God was the ultimate turnkey. He was the one who set her free with His miraculous power.
The Apostle Paul, likewise, found himself in prison in Philippi. He had been beaten before he was put in prison. And then he and Silas were put in chains while they were there in prison. And what was their response? What was their response to their trial? What was their response to their imprisonment? Well it says this in Acts 16: At midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. That was their response. And suddenly there was a great earthquake and the foundations of the prison were shaken. And the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosened. They were praising God in the midst of their prison and God released them. In fact, their guard, their turnkey, he was so afraid for his life because he thought all of them have gone, they’ve all escaped and now my life is on the line, that he had a sword, was ready to fall on it when Paul and Silas said stop, stop. We’re here. We haven’t gone anywhere. So impressed with them was this guard that he said to them, what do I have to do to be saved? They said believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.
Later he wrote to the church at Philippi in Philippians 4: “Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, in every trial, pray with thanksgiving and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The Greek word for guard in there is “phroureo” which is a military term and it means to guard, to protect, to keep. In this case, we want that peace to protect our hearts and minds. We want Jesus’ peace to protect us. Praising God, praying with a praising attitude, praying with a believing attitude, that is a turnkey, that is a turnkey that can help us discover God’s liberation freedom, as well as His protection and He can guard your hearts and minds and souls through Him.
So we are celebrating the birth of a child. We are celebrating the coming of Jesus Christ, God’s son who was born to set you free. To set you free. To set you free. Free from your fears, free from your shame, free from your feelings of lack of success, of failure. Jesus was born to set us free. This baby was put on trial. This baby ended up being crucified but demonstrating resurrection power so you and I can be free.
Jesus is the turnkey, can be the turnkey of your life and I want you to see what my husband put in this key. He put a cross because that is why Jesus came. That is what sets us free. It is the cross of Jesus Christ. And people, if you can turn the keys of your life over to Jesus, the turnkey in your life, you can be set free. Do you want to be? Do you want to have true freedom? Do you want to go out there? Do you want to be no longer locked in or locked out? Then let Jesus save your life. All you have to do, like the jailer in Paul’s prison, is believe. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be set free.
Lord Jesus Christ, heavenly Father, almighty God, Holy Spirit, we ask You today to set us free. We take the keys of our life and we turn them over to You. We turn the keys over to You and ask You to be the turnkey, to open doors and protect us and guard us, oh Lord. It is for You we live. We want to believe in You and live for You, and You alone, oh Jesus. Be born in us today, Amen.