The Redemption of Scrooge
Psalm 146: 5-10 & Luke 1: 46b-55
You may have noticed last week in my sermon that I kept mixing up the words Advent and Lent. At Christmas time I tend to think a lot about Easter. And I find that at Easter I think a lot about Christmas. Which seems about right. Endings invite us to reflect upon beginnings. And beginnings upon endings.
So this week I embraced this pull towards Easter and I read John’s account of Easter morning, when Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb of Jesus to find the stone rolled away from the entrance. And I found myself wondering why Jesus bothered with the stone. Just a few days after Easter, Jesus would appear to the disciples who were shivering in fear behind locked doors. Jesus didn’t bother then with the door. So clearly the stone being rolled away didn’t serve a practical purpose. The stone being rolled away must have been for Mary/ for us. There must be something to this invitation to see the emptiness. To acknowledge that there is nothing there. To see and believe, perhaps.
Like Mary looking upon an empty tomb, Scrooge looks upon an empty life.
Both saw something that terrified them. And for both their fears were met with hope.
Scrooge must journey with the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come into the darkness, not so that he might be scared into changing his ways, but so that he can see the emptiness of where his love of money and his indifference to the suffering of other will lead him.
In the Easter story, Mary is asked by an angle, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
Scrooge’s life was void of compassion, and kindness, and love- it was empty, dead. There was no life to find there. And seeing it, the emptiness, it brings Scrooge to his knees.
“Spirit, hear me. I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been. Assure me spirit, that I yet may change the shadows you have shown me by an altered life. I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.”
That is repentance. A cry for forgiveness and grace.
Scrooge says, “I know who I used to be and I don’t want to be that person anymore.”
This realization finally happened for Scrooge as he glimpses death, both his own and that of Tiny Tim’s.
I have found that when I meet with families who recently had a loved one die that their minds are flooded with the big existential questions of life. “What does my life mean? Am I making a difference through my life? Will anybody even be sorry that I’m gone? What happens, really, when we die? Am I ready for that?” When we encounter death for ourselves, we are pushed into a reflective place.
Scrooge finally takes into account his legacy. Which is so very broken, so far from loving. So empty.
One of the marvelous things about A Christmas Carol, is that Dickens chose to feature a character who was at the end of his natural life. Scrooge was an old man, he had wasted nearly every moment of his time on earth… and yet he is still offered a new beginning, a fresh start. Dickens’ reminds us of the surprising truth in grace, that we are never beyond God’s reach. We are never beyond a second chance.
That is the spark of life in all this emptiness.
Listen to Mary’s words in her Magnificat:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me.”
This is what it means to live with Christmas in our hearts. Joy in being called worthy by God even in lowliness. Filled with thanksgiving because we are now aware of what God has done for us in grace.
It’s a big jump to go from emptiness to fullness.
Yet with Christ it is possible. Christmas is really a harrowing story, death and life collide. Light exposes the darkness. Even the broken places that exist deep in the recesses of our hearts/ and in our world are dragged kicking and screaming into redemption.
Scrooge’s repentance finally lets Christmas in.
Dickens wrote a very abrupt ending to this scene of Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. We are left suspended between the intensity of Scrooge’s raw repentance in the Churchyard and the relief of knowing that this hasn’t happened yet. At the end of this chapter, like Scrooge, we are frozen- not quite knowing if we even dare to hope.
It has a rather remarkable hang time.
I pray that in this place of suspense we find an invitation to reflect upon our own legacy. That we see the hope/ the possibility of letting Christ prevail over each of our life’s testimony.
Children of God, I encourage you as we make our final approach to Christmas Day, to consider what it is to have Christmas in your heart.
None of you, I am certain are as empty or as lost as Scrooge. But still… ask yourself: Does my story/ my legacy speak to mercy? Are my actions those of love? Is my grace a precious and costly thing?
Those places that are empty or hurting or wayward, do not have to remain so… because in Christ, there is our redemption.
In Christmas, our emptiness is made full.