Are You Ready?
Start with Bah Humbug! Do you remember those words? Charles Dickens wrote those words in December of 1843 and put them in the mouth of Ebenezer Scrooge in the little book “A Christmas Carol.” I have never read the book. I have seen the play done in theater, in a made for Television movie, in cartoon form and even as a musical, but I have not read this little book. So, in honor of this great classic and to prepare for Advent and the season of Christmas, I have cracked open the ebook.
This is what captured my imagination and for me is the thesis and state of Scrooges life:
“External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, nor wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he,”
Scrooge was a man whose name exemplifies cold hearted. We say of people who have no warmth or compassion or charity that they are a Scrooge. The character has become a sad state of being. When Scrooge’s nephew, Fred wishes him Merry Christmas, Ebenezer and Fred have this exchange on the matter of Christmas:
“If I could work my will,” said Scrooge, indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas,’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”
“Uncle!” pleaded the nephew.
“Nephew!” returned the uncle, sternly, “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.”
“Keep it!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “But you don’t keep it.”
“Let me leave it alone, then,” said Scrooge. “Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!”
Suffice it to say, Scrooge is not ready for Christmas. The purpose of Advent is to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ. For followers of Jesus this is our New Year preparation for our New Year Celebration. We begin this time of readiness with a single vision and thought – HOPE!
What is the state of scrooges heart here, what do these words tell you about the man? Is he optimistic and hopeful, or pessimistic and hopeless? In a thought he is cold hearted. In the telling of a Christmas Carol we hear what may have made him that way. May have hardened and froze his temper and made him a calculated machine of a man, who counts and tallies and coldly measures the sum of all humanity. For Scrooge people are an asset or a liability, nothing more, nothing less. But something happens as this Ghost Story unfolds, a cold heart thaws, and pain is revealed, regret and later transformation.
But why call this a ghost story? Well, because Dicken’s did. In his preface he wrote these words:
“I have endeavored in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humor with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”
I have often wondered why Dickens named Scrooge, Ebenezer. It is a Hebrew name and it means: rock or stone of help. As we enter into this season of Immanuel, my mind and heart is pulled towards the hope found in the “Stone that the builders rejected” because He is our advent, our time of getting ready.
Author and Pastor Matt Rawle in his book “The Redemption of Scrooge” tells us, “Advent is different for us. Christians profess that Christ was born, died and rose again. The big reveal has been made. The church doesn’t wait in expectation to what God is going to do; rather we live into the tension of where the divine meets the world, knowing that God has reconciled all things through Christ.”
But for us who know the story of Jesus, that little baby found in a manger some 2,000 years ago in the town of Bethlehem, surrounded by animals, Kings, shepherds and his parents – that nativity scene is not the whole story – because the story is still being woven and spun into a wonderful happening. Jesus born in a manger and all the other things of his life, death and resurrection is something we know, but that work begun so many years ago is not finished, it is begun in us.
Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in hymn form. It came in a few stanzas of writing. He wanted it remembered like Christmas carols that he interspersed through his little book. I love Christmas Carols because they are familiar, I remember them, they comfort me and they speak to my heart and spark a hope there. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel and ransomed captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.”
That song of Advent left there sounds more like a funeral song. It has a somber tone that speaks of despair, but then we hear the refrain: Re – joice, re – joice! Em – man – u – el shall come to thee . . .
This season of Advent is our time to regroup, refocus and to invest ourselves in this work of Jesus, our Hope, because this story is still being written.
The closing stanza of A Christmas Carol is Ebenezer joyfully entering into his nephew’s home, hugging Fred’s wife and rejoicing. In that we see the hope of this Advent, this season of renewal.
Hear the words of Psalm 25:
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
do not let me be put to shame;
do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
As we wait, we hope. May we be a rock of help to someone in this season of story writing.
Please pray with me.