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Not that it is in the Bible but a story familiar around this time of the year is Ebenezer Scrooge. Ebenezer is a man incapable of joy. Scrooge is rich, but he lives alone in squalor. He takes pleasure in nothing and is indifferent to human suffering. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by a series of ghosts who take him on a journey of insight into his own character. They show him his sin. The ghost of Christmas future is the most shocking vision of them all. In a desolate graveyard, the spirit’s bony finger points Scrooge toward a headstone. Scrooge is commanded to wipe the snow off and read the name carved on it. The name is his own. Weeping and shaking, Scrooge pleads with this spirit: “Are these the shadows of things that will be... or are they the shadows of things that may be only? Why would you show me this if I was past all hope? Tell me that I may sponge out the writing on this stone.” Can the past be removed? Humanly speaking, it’s impossible. This is the human predicament. We are chained to our pasts, to things done and undone that cannot be changed. “What is twisted cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.” Ecclesiastes 1:15, NIV. The misdeeds of the past are like chains. Our sin is carved in stone- or so it seems. Scrooge awakens from his vision and discovers he is not dead. He still has time, the end may change. Without Jesus, what kind of hope is offered? “Many see only a hopeless end, but the Christian rejoices in an endless hope.” At the end we see that Ebenezer Scrooge had joy. Nobody knew how to celebrate Christmas like Ebenezer Scrooge. Dickens titled this tale, “A Christmas Carol.” A carol is a song of joy. May we see ourselves as Scrooge saw himself and then see what God has done for us in Christ and then respond to the gospel. Then and only then there will be joy.

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