If Christmas begins with the John Lewis ad which generates so much hype, it might be easy to forget that Advent has also started.
Just last Sunday, the first candle was lit and Isaiah’s call to ‘cease doing evil and learn to do good’ was heard in churches the world over.
Christmas still has that magic. Take Scrooge, for example:
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.
Solitary as an oyster? What a piece of work was Scrooge! Regardless of whether you read Dickens (1843) or watch Alistair Sim (1951) on the television again this Christmas, it is impossible not to be struck by the miraculous transformation of this man.
The visitations change him. Christmas changes him.
I don’t know what to do! I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!
The line about his laugh marks his reentry into the world as one who is ready to do good.
Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs
The laugh announces Scrooge reborn. Then, off he goes to order that prize turkey and send it by cab to Bob Cratchit’s house in Camden.
Scrooge has been described as a reformed old monster. There are many unreformed old monsters’ of course. King Herod will feature in our services at Great Witley tomorrow and St Mary’s on Friday. And there are new ones, too. We need only to look at the lands to the east of Bethlehem and Judea to observe that current monstrosities are driving Christians and others from their homes. Whilst remaining optimistic about the ultimate victory of good over evil, which history suggests will usually (if not always) happen, we do reflect and pray for those people who for so long have been suffering persecution.
Both Isaiah and Dickens were aware of contemporaneous and perhaps more impersonal evils of the age. Dickens references the reborn Scrooge ‘living upon the Total Abstinence Principle’ at the end of his story for a very good reason. Isaiah, in a different commentary, tells us that ‘light will rise in the darkness’ if we ‘spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed’.
For that reason, the charitable work of this community continues after our end of term service next week when we will be collecting donations for the local foodbank. Perhaps we, too, can bring some light at Advent.