Humbug or Joy?
Old Testament Reading- Psalm 5:8-12
New Testament Reading- Luke 2:8-15
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -December 11, 2022
Third Week of Advent
Ebenezer Scrooge couldn’t have cared less that it was Christmas time, Christmas was a humbug. “Just another holiday for employees to pick their employers pockets by taking off from work and throwing the work week into a negative account balance,” Scrooge would say. “And all this merry making and singing round the town, where do these people work? They probably just sit around all day having fun while us workers pay for them out of our own pockets.” Mr. Scrooge was the definition of a curmudgeon with greed thrown in for good measure. He was a miserable old miser and felt that he had never had a hand in life, yet he worked hard and had money, why couldn’t others do the same. “Lazy,” he would say. “The whole worlds gone off it’s rocker, Christmas, what a humbug.”
We all know this classic story from Charles Dickens and how the visitations from three Christmas spirits changes old Scrooge for the better, but what really happened? This story isn’t particularly a religious one, some would say, more about ghosts and morals than religion, but I would disagree. This story about Ebenezer Scrooge is as Christian as you can get, without really coming out and saying it.
First, we must remember that Dickens wrote his tale in 1843, when everyone knew Christmas was a Christian holiday that celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ. Dickens, being a Christian himself, also knew that the true spirit of being a Christian wasn’t always what they portrayed in churches but was evident to anyone who really read the Bible and knew about what Jesus was really like, and how he expected His followers to act. This spirit, or to act as Jesus acted, was what Christianity was really supposed to be about, every day of the year, but certainly at Christmas.
This story about Ebenezer Scrooge is as Christian as you can get, without really coming out and saying it.
The spirit of helping others less fortunate than yourself by giving to the poor or donating extra clothing and blankets was popular at Christmas. Singing Christmas carols in the streets, so that people may feel the spirit of Christmas move through the towns, remember, no radios or T.V.’s back then. Gift giving, large feasts, special desserts, holiday drinks, and parties were practiced by businesses and families alike. But there was always someone who had a stick up their …, well, I won’t say, but they walked all clinched up, so uptight that they could never have any fun. Always one or two miserable people who are never happy unless everyone is as miserable as they, and even then, they are not happy.
This is what Dickens knew about people, even in his era, but being a Christian, he also knew there was a fix for the problem, but it would need to be fixed in a deep fashion, not just a quick fix on the surface. First, you need to understand that these miserable people have a reason for why they are this way. Maybe they were unloved, maybe they lost a spouse, maybe they lost a child, or maybe they have pain or discomfort that they do not talk about. Some may have enemies that make their lives miserable, or maybe they are consumed by only seeing life from one direction, themselves, unable or unwilling to feel empathy.
Whatever their reason, people since the dawn of time have felt these same feelings and have prayed to God for a solution. Isaiah 61:1-3 tells us,
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor."
This would be help indeed, but this points to someone and something God is talking about through the prophet, the Messiah.
Again, the prophet tells us more about this Messiah in Isaiah 9:6-7,
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this."
He tells us more in Isaiah 7:14,
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."
All of these prophetic visions and messages about God’s coming help, then 700 years later, Luke records in his book,
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So, they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.” (Luke 2:4-17)
These and many more Scriptures tell of the joy that God sent into the world, the joy that is our Savior Jesus Christ. Dickens knew, that for a true believer this joy was not the kind that you have when someone gives you money or some other material thing. This is the kind of joy that goes all the way down to your very heart. Let’s hear how Jesus describes the joy that God has given us through Him to His disciples just before His crucifixion in John 16:17-24,
At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”
Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born, she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So, with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
This is the spirit of Christmas that Dickens wrote about in his story, this is the joy that Ebenezer Scrooge finally allows to change his heart and to see life through the eyes of others, as well as his own. This is the joy that melted his cold heart and changed him into a different man, a loving man, a charitable man, a good man.
POSSIBLE REASONS PEOPLE ARE MISERABLE: (click to reveal)
They are/were unloved
They have lost a spouse
They have lost a child
They are experiencing chronic pain of any kind
They have enemies
They are consumed by only seeing life from their own point of view
They are unable or unwilling to feel empathy
It’s never too late to change and find God, not till your dead, that is Dicken’s hope and help to his readers, and it is our message as Christians. Find the Lord, hear His words, feel His love and the joy that only He can offer. Accept Christ as your Lord and Savior and you will sound like this, “I’ve got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy down in my heart, down in my heart, down in my heart. I’ve got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy down in my heart, down in my heart to stay. And I’m so happy, so very happy, I’ve got the joy of Jesus in my heart. And I’m so happy, so very happy, I have the love of Jesus in my heart!
Let the Spirit of joy enter your hearts to stay this Christmas and always, for that is why Jesus came, it is the reason for the season. The joy that Christ provides us, completes us like nothing else can, and those who receive it, will never say humbug again. Thanks be to Almighty God. Amen.