This past week in our A Christmas Carol book club, I asked the participants this question: “On a scale of one to ten, how Scrooge-like are you feeling this holiday season?” Answers ranged from “not at all!” to “probably between a 7 and an 8.” I wasn’t too surprised by these answers! As we reflected on the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, we could see how we, too, could get caught up in the stress and fear of the season, making us prone to say “Bah humbug!” instead of “Merry Christmas!” While Scrooge is a caricature of all of the greed and selfishness in the world, he is pretty relatable, too. We, like Scrooge, close down on ourselves and become unable to see the world as it truly is.
We all experience the holiday season in different ways, pastors included. Just two weeks ago, I was really “Scrooge-like” as I prepared for Thanksgiving. I thought that it would be difficult to ever turn my mood around. The stress and pressure of the season had stolen my joy amid delicious dinners, time with family, and the coming opportunity to decorate my home.
However, when I began to painstakingly decorate my house, my mood began to shift. By the end of the day on Black Friday, I felt loads better. I just needed a change in attitude, some family time, and some Christmas cheer. I had to open my heart to see things how they really were: beautiful, even if flawed, and full of promise for a wonderful season.
Our Scripture reading for this week is less-than-cheerful, but it is full of honesty. John the Baptist tells the people that they are a “brood of vipers” and that they should repent of their sin to prepare for Jesus. They needed to see the world how it really was and repent of their apathy about its pain. Scrooge, too, needed to open his heart to see how the world really is- full of pain and full of joy. At Christmas, we and Scrooge are offered the opportunity to acknowledge the world’s pain and help bring good tidings and relief to it. This was John’s message to the people of Jesus' time, too.
Here at Suntree, we try to honor all of the ways that you feel at the holiday season: joyful, honest, disconnected, or grieving. This Sunday, at 6:30pm in the Sanctuary, we’ll have an opportunity for you to increase your Christmas cheer by singing and hearing from many talented groups at our Christmas Community Concert. This blend of sacred and secular Christmas is a really wonderful opportunity for you to invite your friends and neighbors to experience a little bit of what Christmas is like here at Suntree, outside of the context of worship.
If you’re feeling down and blue, next Wednesday at 6pm in the Sanctuary is our Blue Christmas Service. For the past few years, we’ve had the sacred and wonderful opportunity to honor our grief and sadness as we approach the holidays. Especially if you’ve experienced a recent loss, this service is a good way to honor the hard feelings that we have around the holidays. This service helps us see the world and our lives as they truly are, and submit them to the Light of the World, who comes to heal and relieve all of our hurts with his presence.
As we prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ, I invite you to open your eyes to see how the world truly is. Don’t be like Scrooge, closing yourself down to the joy of this season or the pain of others. God can handle our joy and our pain, our excitement for Christmas and our Scrooge-like tendencies. Let the light of Christ shine in you, and then, take advantage of all the ways we can prepare for the joy of the coming of Emmanuel, God with us.
See you Sunday,