Few characters in Christmas literature personify the antithesis of the season like Ebenezer Scrooge. Penned in 1843, Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol” has been told and retold. It has become a fixture of the season. So ingrained in our culture, is this story, that everyone knows the name “Scrooge” and the negative connotation that accompanies it. But what if, instead of just a cranky old miser, Ol’ Ebenezer Scrooge was more of a rather observant social commentator? In order to defend my rather peculiar thesis, let me set forth the particular meaning of Scrooge’s famous catch-phrase as exhibit number one. At the beginning of the tale, the infamous old miser, when told, “Merry Christmas” vehemently replies, “Bah! Humbug!” Now, I am quite sure that even though this phrase has found its way, perhaps permanently, into our cultural vocabulary, many of us are not actually aware of its meaning. The word humbug is “deceptive, false, or insincere behavior.” Scrooge’s main problem with Christmas then is the lack of sincerity. This then provides a key insight to Scrooge’s hatred of Christmas. He earnestly believes that the so called, “Christmas Spirit” is just a hoax. It is no more than an attempt to deceive and receive, if you will. Scrooge places his life and faith, therefore, in the fortune that he has amassed because he knows that money has no ulterior motive. Scrooge believes that he is the only one honest enough to admit that good will toward one another during this time is simply a charade done once a year.
Where Ebenezer Got it Right:
Now before three intrusive Spirits visit me in my sleep tonight, let me explain. I believe this is an astute social observation of secular Christmas. Call me negative or call me pessimistic, but I believe that Christmas stripped of its Christian significance can be nothing more than a hollow charade. Christmas without its roots in Christ can only be a humbug. The problem in our world today is that many Christians are buying into this secularized Christmas. The same mouths that cry, “Keep Christ in Christmas” only want him to be a small portion of their holiday. In his book, “God With Us” John MacArthur reveals to us the problem the world has with Christmas. He writes, “The world is happy to let Jesus Christ be a baby in a manger, but not willing to let Him be the sovereign King and Lord that he is.” As believers, we have made the disastrous mistake of allowing our culture to borrow Christ for a season. Much like Scrooge feared, the culture’s reason for adopting Christmas carried with it, it’s own impure motive. This is seen in the marketing and the materialistic emphasis that now seems to go hand and hand with our holiday. The opening of the Christmas season is now marked by folks trampling and fighting one another for slightly discounted vacuums at Walmart. Brothers, this should not be. We cannot pimp the story of Christmas out to our materialistic culture and expect them to treat her like a lady. But yet, I still believe there is a better way.
Where Ebenezer Got it Wrong:
What am I suggesting then? Should Christians stop celebrating this holiday because of the many perversions of it? Certainly, I would not recommend the Ebenezer Scrooge approach. We know Christmas to be a celebration of the birth of the Christ; “the fullness of God in helpless babe” We know that Christmas celebrates the freedom that Immanuel has brought his people. We are filled with joy and hope because God has not left us fatherless. In spite of our great rebellion, God continues to pursue us in the most unbelievable way! This perfect, sinless babe would one day become a man. This man would be no ordinary man, but instead would be God incarnate. He would “for the joy that was set before him” endure the cross as our substitute, accomplishing our salvation. This must be celebrated! Worship springs forth from the fountain of this great knowledge. MacArthur helps us again here, “What is the right response to Christmas? What should characterize the way we observe the holiday? An emphasis on peace toward men? The spirit of giving? Joy and gladness? Kindness to our fellow man? All those things are good, but they are inadequate responses to the birth of Christ – unless they are the products of a worshipful heart.” Christians must show the world that we are the exception to Scrooge’s aforementioned thesis. Though the world may only offer a hollow picture of the truth, we Christians must set forth the sincere picture of joy that Christ has wrought in our hearts. We have been changed! We must show, therefore, that Christ is all in all, not just at Christmas time. There are many disillusioned Scrooges in our world today that need to see an authentic presentation of the gospel at work in our lives.
What a haunting idea.
This might be the underlying idea in Charles Dickens’ work. He writes in the preface, “I have endeavored in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea…May it haunt their house pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”
May a clear presentation of the gospel in the words and deeds of believers in our world today be the Ghost in the life of our culture. A Ghost that leads to a change in heart. May our miser of a society see and embrace the riches of the gospel of grace that we proclaim.