November 27th, 2016 -The Redemption of Scrooge, Part 1

The Redemption of Scrooge

Part 1

Jeremiah 33: 14-16 & Luke 21: 5-19

Call to Worship

All creation holds its breath. The time is almost here!

Bah Humbug.

Bah humbug? But the heavenly choir waits for its cue to sing! Excitement is all around us!

Bah Humbug!

Prepare your hearts, people of God, the grace of God takes on human form. Good news! God comes to us!

With God’s help we will make ready our hearts for the coming of Christ, our hope.

Sermon

I think the first time I encountered A Christmas Carol, was via the Muppets when their rendition came out in 1992. Featuring Michel Caine as Scrooge, The Great Gonzo as Dickens, Kermit and Miss Piggy as Bob and Emily Cratchit, Fozzie Bear as Fozziewig…

However we were introduced to this story, it is a rare classic that is somehow able to capture the minds and imagination of all generations! Whether you have read this masterpiece from Charles Dickens or seen one of its many reinterpretations in film or TV… the story hits all of us deep in our bones, doesn’t it? A Christmas Carol is about the dark side of Christmas. If we are honest with ourselves, hearing those words “Bah Humbug!” has a sweet justice to it some days. Like, “Finally! Someone said it!”

Scrooge hates anything and everything that has to do with Christmas, with all of its reminders and pulls and invitations to rejoice in spite of himself… So he battles against it.

And yet the more he rages against the light of it all… the more poised he is to experience the redemption of it all… there is an irony (or something) in that.

To love Christmas, to embrace it, Scrooge has to change and, like all of us, Scrooge does not like change.

And yet without change there is no true Christmas. Just as there is no dawn without the night.

That being so, it is a good thing that Scrooge likes the night/ that he finds the shadows, the grief, the melancholy… so comfortable and wallow-worthy.

Scrooge’s despair has a gravity to it that we all know or have known.

And yet, we also know, that as children of God, we are not meant to live this kind of deadened existence.

As Jacob Marley’s Ghost reminded us, we are not without hope. We are never left to despair.

Grief, the heavy seasons of night in our life, the dark valleys… these are very real things that can steal our joy and blind us to God’s love. But they are just that… seasons. Meant to pass.

And so we sing this carol year after year. Knowing that it is true. Knowing that it captures something deep in us that is scared and yet hopeful/ raging yet seeking peace/ anxious yet craving joy/ unkind to ourselves yet desperate for God’s love.

We sing this carol year after year… because of its humanity. It assures us that life will conquer death and that no one (not a single one of us) is beyond redemption/ beyond grace.

It is the story of Christ’s incarnation dug deep. It is a labor for the sake of Christ’s birth. It is Advent.
What better way to Advent/ to prepare than to witness the ultimate story in a changed heart? It reminds us that there is always “a hope and a chance.”
Advent, after all, is supposed to be a season for feeling out of kilter.
It is a period of waiting in the night. It is a season in which we are caught between joyful expectation and the sometimes brutal and bruising realities we are in. It is a season of waiting for promises to be fulfilled/ waiting for God to show up.

The dissonance of it all! It sets us at odds with what our contemporary American culture has planned for us- with the bright lights and the parties and the noise and unyielding expectations. There seems little room for actually acknowledging that there is a reason God took on flesh/ came to Earth as a baby.

According to the prophets, as they speak of the coming of Christ’s birth, the nature of Advent is living in the tension of what is and what will be. The Prophet Jeremiah, in our passage today, addresses a community living in this tension.

Jerusalem had been completely ran-over by the Babylonians in 587 BCE, and the inhabitants of Israel had been scattered/ pushed out of their homeland. Or they were living as “conquered people” in Babylonian captivity. They were refugees. They no longer had their home to anchor them. Any sense of security, or the idea of being able to build a life on your own terms, vanished. They had no idea if they would ever be able to return home again. And so, the Israelite people were asking some big questions! Where is God in this? How could this happen? Has God forgotten/ abandoned us? What happens now?

In this despair, Jeremiah speaks: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel an the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely…” (Jeremiah 33: 14-16a)

Again, the dissonance of it all is amazing!
Hope in the midst of grief. This is bold!
In the face of devastation, with all evidence to the contrary, Jeremiah insists that God’s promises are certain.
Deborah Block, wrote that, Jeremiah calls the people of Israel to have a theological imagination,saying “In the creative moment of ‘near-despair’, the prophet calls us to imagine a new social context in which we live together in safety, peace, and righteousness. God will do this, as promised, and even bring new life…”

Sometimes there is a wide gap between what is and what we wish were so. And yet, the promises we are reminded of in advent, tell us that the Lord is good/ that the Lord is faithful/ that the Lord is our righteousness and our certainty and our hope.

Advent tells us that when we are lost, when we wallow, when we seem to be stuck in Bah Humbug/when we even want/choose Bah Humbug… that we are not abandoned. There is “a hope and a chance” for us yet. The dawn is assured.

As we begin to prepare for Christmas, I encourage you all to take some time for reflection. Advent is a call for us to look around and be reminded that we need Jesus.

We were meant for joy and peace, wholeness and love.
But our lives, are frequently not what they were meant for.
Reflect. Look those things that make you want to wallow in despair and give up… look them in the eye, and be reminded that God’s promises will be fulfilled! That this too can be redeemed!
Broken relationships, our own destructive behavior, the state of this nation, the stress and burdens on our shoulders that make us crazy…
For these things too… there is a “chance and a hope.”
In the coming weeks we will follow Scrooge as he faces and seeks to reconcile with his decisions in the past, present and future. And through his example, perhaps we too will discover the joy of Christmas.

Amen.

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