Did you know that A Christmas Carol, A Ghost Story for Christmas as it

was originally called by Charles Dickens and published in 1843 has never

gone out of print? And of course it has been adapted for stage, film, opera

and other media. To get into the sermon writing mood this week, I watched

the Disney animated version. But there are so many. Greats like Jim

Carey, George C Scott, Alistair Sim, Patrick Stewart, Mr. Magoo and even

Kermit the Frog have all thrown their talents behind this timeless story.

Dickens wrote this classic story about stingy old Scrooge out of a deep

regard for the poor and social injustice. Part of the genius of Dickens’s tale

is the gradual transformation that occurs over Scrooge’s interactions and

exchanges with the spirits. During this Advent season we are examining

the redemption of Scrooge that transpires each Christmas as it has done

for almost 175 years and wondering how this story might transform us in

the process.

Most of us are familiar with the story. Ebenezer Scrooge is self-hating

miser for whom Christmas is a disruption in the world he had built for

himself: an intrusion. For him poor people in need are threats to his

fortune, paid days off are an inconvenience and burden to his business

and his own loneliness is a product of refusal to engage in social

constructs. Scrooge is approached first by the ghost of his deceased

business partner Jacob Marley. Marley had spent his life hoarding his

wealth and exploiting the poor, and, as a result, is doomed to walk the

Earth for eternity bound in the chains created by his own greed. Marley

warns Scrooge that he risks meeting the same fate and but he has been

given a chance at redemption through the visits of three spirits of

Christmas: Past, Present and Yet-to-Come.

Today we welcome the ghost of Christmas present. You can probably

imagine the scene. Things are shiny and loud. The Ghost is huge and

hairy, wearing some outlandish bathrobe and holding a torch. He has a

loud bellowing voice and calls out to Scrooge and the clocks chime, Look

upon Me! or in the original book “Come in! Come in! And know me Better!”

the Ghost beckons. We will come to learn this means we will have to

consider the all of society and not just ourselves. The Ghost appears to

Scrooge, as it appears to most of us, with all the lights and tinsel and

opulence and over abundance that fills our gluttonous society. The ghost

we meet is sitting upon a mountain of food, and treasure; a hoarder’s

paradise of luxury and privilege. This is the present we want to see, the

present we want to live in. In contrast, we are called by the Ghost into a

time of examination of our present reality, to look upon the world with eyes

awakened to the needs of others that are often hidden under the surface,

in the shadows of our lives and away from the public comforts.

As Scrooge is flown around the town by the Spirit (it looks a little like OLY

– grey and rainy) he sees goodness happening around him but mostly in

isolation from him. He sees snowball fights and laughter and the Cratchit

family giving thanks even through they have little. And there we meet Tiny

Tim. And Scrooge sees pain. Pain that he has had a part in playing

because of his stinginess and refusal to be in relationship with the world.

There is a darkness that has been in the shadows of our country that has

been pulled out into the light this year and it is unnerving and frightening

and has left many in our community feeling helpless and hopeless. The

Ghost of Christmas Present asks us what our response will be.

My prayer is that Christmas will come, and right this very second as the

song goes letting the Light of Christmas break through the darkest cloud

that seems to be settling above so many of us because the intrusion of

Christmas, the bursting forth of Jesus, the cosmic outpouring of love into

the world is exactly what we need right now.

And it will take hope, peace and love to fuel our transformation as a people

and a country as clearly as they did for Scrooge. Scrooge learned that all

humans are fellow passengers together in this life, all valued and

responsible to one another.

The Scrooge narrative and our biblical story can inspire us as we enter into

our own modern Christmas present. In the scripture today, King Herod is

the corrupted presence of power. He was a tyrant and a schemer who took

advantage of Roman political unrest to claw his way to the top. He was a

brutal and uncontrollable man. Once he was king, Herod launched

ambitious building programs, both in Jerusalem and the spectacular port

city of Caesarea. He restored the magnificent Jerusalem temple, which

was later destroyed by the Romans following a rebellion in A.D. 70, the

walls of which including the West Wall still remain.

Herod considered himself the King of the Jews and when he found himself

threatened by the birth of Jesus, we see in the conclusion of our reading

today that he set into motion the murder of countless children in a failed

attempt to destroy the Christ child he could became our Messiah, adding

an interesting political overture to the Christmas story. Indeed since the

beginning, Christ was a political, counter-cultural traveling rabbi who lived

and ministered to the oppressed and marginalized.

As our author states this week the suffering of Bethlehem is caused by

Herod, who lets fear pull him into “get them before they get us” (91) show

of power. This kind of pain can be seen and felt in many places in our

country today. Like Scrooge, we are called “look upon” the reality of the

world and acknowledge our role in the suffering of others. We are called in

the present to see how our actions/inactions impact those around us. This

is lesson Scrooge learns and “it cracks him open a bit and compassion

grows. This Sunday is about our own “looking upon” the world and

knowing that love is what we are made for… not fear.”

The story of King Herod reminds us that there have always been people

and institutions and forces trying to take away Creation’s hope for peace

on earth. So where does Love come from? From God in Jesus who has

always been saving us. At Christmas, God enters the realm of humanity

anew; setting in motion a string of events that will change the world.

Jim Wallis has written, “It is theologically and spiritually significant that the

Incarnation came to our poorest streets. That Jesus was born poor, later

announces his mission at Nazareth as “bringing good news to the poor,”

and finally tells us that how we treat “the least of these” is his measure of

how we treat him and how he will judge us as the Son of God, radically

defines the social context and meaning of the Incarnation of God in Christ.

And it clearly reveals the real meaning of

Christmas.”https://notbelonging.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/wallis-the-real-
war-on-christmas/

That God would chose incarnation as God’s means of entering into our

lives in the matter in which the Gospels describe, places the entire Christ

narrative in opposition to the establishment and expected orders of power

and show’s God’s special relationship with the poor and the Church’s

mandate to fight injustice and oppression and the hoarding of wealth,

water, technology, health, industry and information from the global society.

We must in our capitalistic economy examine our needs versus our wants.

A fourth century monk Basil of Caesarea said, “The bread which you have

set aside is the bread of the hungry; the garment you have locked away is

the clothing of the naked; the shoes which you let rot are the shoes of him

who is barefoot; those riches you have hoarded are the riches of the poor.”

We are called to be like the magi and the shepherds, seeking and looking

with our minds, bodies, souls and spirits for the miracles of today, of each

day, evidence of God with us and God in us. And in this time of waiting

during Advent we are told by the prophets to keep watch, to keep alert, to

not idly sip our hot chocolates and lattes at Starbucks. But to notice the

poor, the cold, the young, the old, and the lonely and to be moved with

compassion and to act in ways that shares our joy and belief in God’s

outlandish love.

When we examine our present and our hand in the oppression of others,

then we can be redeemed like Scrooge through forgiveness, corrected

attitudes and actions and align ourselves with Love. Then we can shed the

selfishness that clings to us and the allure of material fulfillment that

pervades Christmas. Michael Hardin suggests that the commercialization

of Christmas is the symptom of the merging of an economy of exchange

with the birth of Christ. This is the most bitter irony for the One who came

to destroy economies of exchange is now identified intimately with it during

the holiday season. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christianityischanging/2014/11/christmas-is-
not-about-gifts/#

Instead let us focus this Advent on giving Love to one another.

The Ghost of Christmas Present leaves Scrooge with one finally warning

before he leaves. Remember under his robe are 2 orphan children – want

and ignorance. There is plenty even of both of these in today’s society.

The Ghost warns that ignorance is the most dangerous. How will we use

our faith to address both of these?

Christmas Present exposes Scrooge’s ignorance and he is left seeing the

world more clearly. He learns that “Humankind was my business”, as

Marley said. “The common welfare [is] my business; charity, mercy,

forbearance, and benevolence, [are] all my business. The dealings of my

trade [are] but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my

business!”

Let us be about the important business of Christmas!