Was Scrooge right?
It’s Christmas Eve, but Ebenezer Scrooge is not going to let his clerk knock off a minute early. He already begrudges the fact that he is going to have to pay Bob Cratchit a day’s pay for no work on Christmas Day.
While Bob waits shivering in the cold warehouse office, Scrooge’s nephew calls in to wish him a merry Christmas; to which the old miser famously replies, ‘Bah! Humbug!’
Well, you know how the story goes. That night Scrooge encounters the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future. As a result, Scrooge is a changed man and Bob Cratchit receives a giant turkey, a pay rise and a hearty ‘Merry Christmas’, from his employer.
The question is: Was Scrooge right the first time?
Is there not a fair amount of humbug about at this time of year? Retailers vie with one another to enthuse us with a Christmas spirit. Their goodwill to potential customers abounds, matched only by their desire to separate us from our money.
Peace breaks out in the workplace. Colleagues develop friendly feelings towards one another. Family feuds lie forgotten and relatives, not seen for months, are warmly welcomed.
The spirit of Christmas settles quietly over the land like a gentle mist of peace and goodwill. Kindness, gentleness and generosity lighten our sprits and it all makes us feel good. Within a week, however, it has all melted away and hostilities are resumed.
It’s a bit like the famous World War One story. On Christmas Day, the troops on each side stopped firing, came out of the trenches and enjoyed a game of football and cigarettes together. The next day the guns were blazing again.
If Christmas is not just humbug, why don’t we simply maintain the truce? If we find that being kind and friendly and generous is so pleasing, why stop?
If we can feel goodwill to our fellows at Christmas, why can’t we do it all year? Surely it makes sense; and what a wonderful world it would be.
Sadly, there is something in human beings that seems to make it impossible to do what they know is best for them. The One who came into the world to be born in a stable and die on a cross identified the problem: ‘Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies’, Jesus said. The problem lies in our hearts.
New Year resolutions won’t help. Observing religious traditions won’t help. What we all need is a new heart, a radical transformation within – a new birth. Jesus Christ taught that heaven is impossible without it.
What our broken society needs is not new laws, nor a new political system, nor even supremely a new economy, but men and women with new hearts.
Jesus did not come from heaven to reform society but to bring personal spiritual renewal, forgiveness and peace with God to individual men and women.
This is his promise to all who come to him. ‘Ask’, he said, ‘and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened’.