Sermon - Christmas 2020
In the Name...
And may we all join in the prayer of Tiny Tim, "God bless us, every one."
Now, Tiny Tim is not to be found in the Bible, but, Charles Dickens' "Christmas Carol" has become an indelible part of our seasonal observance. The story of Scrooge, muttering his infamous "Bah, humbug" has been retold countless times on stage, film, and television. Great actors have adapted it. Great comedians have spoofed it. Can we, indeed, imagine Christmas without Scrooge?
And yet, what does that fictional story have to do with the historical event we celebrate today - the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Word made Flesh, the Saviour and Redeemer of the World? Why must this heaven and earth shattering event share the glory with the tale of an old miser and three ghosts?
Perhaps because the event and the story have more in common than we may realize. Charles Dickens was a devout Christian and while his story doesn't once mention stables, or shepherds, or stars, or wise men, or even Jesus by name, it is nonetheless a parable about the true and deepest meaning of the Christmas event.
Scrooge is a bitter and cynical man, but, he is merely the product of a bitter and cynical age. When the charity committee calls on him he retorts, "Are there no prisons, are there no workhouses?" For indeed, there are. And when he snarls that the deaths of the poor would best serve to "decrease the surplus population", he merely reflects the harsh realities of life in Victorian England. Poverty, child abuse, addiction, and injustice were rife. Scrooge is, in fact, so hurt and overwhelmed by the evils around him that he chooses to retreat into his counting house and despise the rest of humanity as if he were some sort of superior being. He hates people because he hates the evil people do.
Our world is much like the world of Scrooge. We know the face of evil. Terrorism and war are part of our experience. Drugs, broken homes, personal tragedy. We, too, can feel hurt and overwhelmed.
But, that's why Christmas came. That's why Christ came. The tidings of comfort and joy of which we sing are that God entered the world to save us all from Satan's power when we are gone astray. The reason for Christmas is that we were in serious trouble and so God got down here, lived our life and died our death, and in doing so conquered both life and death and made it possible for us to do the same.
There's so much about the way we celebrate Christmas which is so unreal - lights and trees and inflatable snowmen in the front yard - but, Christmas is not about sentimental escapism, or winter wonderland fantasy. It's about reality being redeemed. It's about the power of God let loose in the world to change the world.
So, what has Christmas changed? We still see the harsh realities of life, which so embittered Scrooge, yet, like Dickens, we also see a world beyond this one. We see the daily miracles, we see the hope, we see what the power of God can do in and through us to improve ourselves, our friends and families, and people who don't even know us by name. The child of Bethlehem is born again every time one of us speaks his words or does his deeds. We are Christmas. We are Christmas, every day, year round. And the story of Scrooge is, at its heart, the story of what Christmas is all about because it is the story of salvation. One soul at a time.
Join, then, with the angels and sing Glory to God in the Highest. Join with the shepherds and make haste to see this thing that has happened. Join with the wise men and bring all you have and are.
For God does more than bless us. He saves us - every one.
In the Name...