One of my favorite Christmas movies is the 1970 adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, titled Scrooge. In no other movie is it made clearer just why Ebenezer Scrooge went from a grotesque, twisted figure of a man who declared with untempered conscience, “Every idiot who goes about with Merry Christmas on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart,” to one who “Became as good a friend and as good a man, as the good old city knew.”
Such a transformation doesn’t come as a result of self-improvement, better education or personal achievements. It doesn’t come as a result of religious good works or even Bible knowledge (I Cor. 8:1). Instead, it comes from a heart absolutely stunned at the grace of God. That He in His unmerited mercy would take sinners deserving of judgment and “transfer them from the domain of darkness (hell) to the Kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). And nothing stunned Ebenezer more than just such a clemency. When he suddenly found himself in a churchyard where the “spirit of things to come” pointed him toward a freshly dug grave, he approached it and read the inscription on the headstone: EBENEZER SCROOGE. He fell into the gaping hole and into hell where he was weighted down in death with the chains he forged in life – no hope, no light, no love, nothing but the everlasting and constant sensation of his solitary self.
Terrified, Scrooge clutched at the spirit and begged him to undo the events of his nightmarish vision promising to honor Christmas from deep within his heart all the days of his life. The spirit’s hand began to tremble, and, as Scrooge continued to cry out for mercy, the phantom’s robe shrank and collapsed. Scrooge found himself returned to the safety and warmth of his bed. He was delivered. He was secure. He was saved. And he is so overtaken with gratitude that instead of the chains of guilt and sin whose weight in hell never relents, his heart is now “light as a feather and happy as an angel.” Scrooge saw “in a vision” what he deserved. And when he awoke to the reality of just how close he came to a lightless eternity in the nether regions of endless torment, he was a man stunned, joyfully stammering with the newfound language of gratitude. Grotesque to godly. Transformed.
Like Scrooge, we can honor Christmas deep within our hearts every day no matter how difficult our path, no matter how painful our circumstances, no matter the wounds of the past, no matter how scant a bank account, no matter the illness or how arduous is aging, no matter the wounds of rejection or the stabs of betrayal, no matter a virus! Why? Because no myriad of maladies is worse than eternal separation from God, which is hell. And Christian, we aren’t going there. WE AREN’T GOING THERE! We should start every day at the bottom, humbly grateful for our salvation which will lift us above all the trials and tribulations of a fallen world until we are forever with the Lord.
This Christmas of 2020, let us all be stunned. And grateful. As happy as angels.
I am very aware that I should have gone to hell. I should have been separated from a Holy God because of an unholy life. But the dark specter of sin and death “shrinks and collapses” in the light and love of my Savior Whose shed blood availed for me.
I am still stunned.
And, as grateful to all of you who pray, who encourage, who give both to The Springs of Elim and to me personally, who send a gift card, who have me over for meals, who give me rides to the airport – who support me in so many ways. You allow me to be available through speaking, writing and many face-to-face visits so that I might tell others of God’s rich mercy and abundant grace.
Now on to 2021!
Yours in Christ our Savior,
“That the angel-blinding light should shrink
His blaze to shine in a poor shepherd’s eye,
That the unmeasured God so low should sink
As prisoner in a few poor rags to lie,
That a vile manger His low bed should prove
Who in a throne of stars thunders above;
That He whom the sun serves should faintly peep
Through clouds of infant flesh! That He, the old
Eternal word should be a child and weep;
That He who made the fire should fear the cold,
That Heaven’s high majesty His court should keep
In a clay cottage, by each blast controlled;
That Glory’s self should serve our griefs and fears,
And free Eternity submit to years,
Let our overwhelming wonder be.”