Our worship series for Advent and Christmas is titled God Bless Us Everyone. Our series is based on the classic story by Charles Dickens about a character named Ebenezer Scrooge. A lot of our ideas come from Marcia McFey of WorshipDesignStudio.com who based the ideas for this series on a recent book titled The Redemption of Scrooge.¹ The setting for A Christmas Carol is 19th Century England and the story accentuates the great divide between the few with wealth and privilege and the masses scraping to get by. The divide is more than economic.
In Luke Mary sings a song that makes the claim that the poor are blessed and the rich go away empty in the kingdom ushered in by her the Son that she carried in her womb (Luke 1:53). This theme is persistent throughout scripture. So when the angels announce to the nearby shepherds that peace will come to those God favors, what are we to make of this (Luke 2:14)? Who does God favor? God came to the rescue of the Hebrew slaves when they were being oppressed by the wealthier and more powerful Egyptians. God speaking through the prophet Isaiah had a lot to say about the relationship between the haves and the have-nots. Is there a pattern emerging here?
A story that haunted me as I pursued wealth in my younger years is found in Matthew. The story of the well-off young man who pushed Jesus enough to get the bottomline that he did not want to hear. “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” the young man asked Jesus. But unsatisfied that Jesus had told him straight and suspicious that Jesus was not taking his question serious (my interpretation) the young man responded that he had kept the commandments that Jesus recited but wanted to know if this made it a done deal. So Jesus gave him the bad news. “You must rid yourself of all the distractions in your life that keep you from worshiping me alone, which in your case is wealth.” Ouch! Jesus’ statement puts our culture’s infatuation with getting ahead, pursuing the “good life” through better economics in a most uncomfortable place. Not a place that scripture suggests would be “favored” by God.
James Cone in his classic book, God of the Oppressed, writes that “the poor have little to lose and everything to gain in Jesus Christ’s presence in history. In contrast the rich have little to gain and everything to lose if gain and loss are measured values of this earthly sphere” (p. 87).² Alas, Ebenezer Scrooge, in the classic, A Christmas Carol, seems to exemplify this paradox. Miserable in his wealth, Ebenezer seems beyond redemption, yet there is something about the spirit and joy of Christmas which leaves no one beyond redemption. And as the story of our historical symbol of greed unfolds we discover that Scrooge is redeemed. This offers great hope for the rest of us and for the world in which we live.
May this Christmas bring redeeming change for each of us that whatever hinders us from receiving the joy that is found only in the One who came to save us. God bless us, everyone.
¹ Rawle, Matt. The Redemption of Scrooge. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2016.
² Cone, James. God of the Oppressed. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2003.