Summary: This sermon acts as an overview for the whole series, Christmas According to Dickens. The name Jesus is never used in the classic short story but his fingerprints are everywhere.
December 7, 2014
Christmas According to Dickens
Mankind is Our Business!
Opening words: In 1843, the world was introduced to a new Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol. The timing of the book was perfect. England was nostalgic for old Christmas traditions and longed for the introduction of new ones. Charles Dickens’s short story was an instant hit. Everyone knows the story. The bitter old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge is transformed by the visits of four ghosts. The first is his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. The last three are the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future.
From the very beginning, the critics viewed A Christmas Carol as an indictment on 19th century capitalism. Dickens had a heart for the poor. It brings to the reader images of light, joy, warmth and life, yet it also brings images of darkness, despair, coldness, sadness and death. Scrooge, himself, is the embodiment of winter, who is transformed into spring. Maybe that is why this book has spoken to the generations? We all long for transformation and hope for a better world.
This year I want to take this season of Advent and look at the Biblical themes found in A Christmas Carol. Recently, I read the classic and have to admit the name Jesus is not found in the book one time. However, that does not mean that Christ’s fingerprints are not found everywhere. Like Dickens, Jesus had a heart for the poor. This morning, we begin our study by looking at the beginning of the story. It is Christmas Eve, and the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, is visited by his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. Let me call this message Mankind is Our Business! Our Gospel reading for this morning is Luke 1:1-4.
Luke 1:1-4 1Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
You know the story. Everybody knows the story. Ebenezer Scrooge lived for one thing, money! Nothing else really mattered to him. Day in and day out, he sat at his place of business making more money. The problem was, his money wasn’t making him happier, it was making him miserable. If you don’t believe me then ask the people in his life. You could ask his clerk, Bob Cratchit. Working in the cold, he barely made enough for his family. He not only feared Scrooge but he pitied him. He knew Scrooge was miserable. You could ask his nephew, Fred. He was Scrooge’s sister’s only child. Annually, he went to his Uncle Ebenezer’s office to invite him for Christmas dinner.
Every year he was turned down. He knew his uncle was miserable. You could ask those two nameless chaps who came to his office to collect for the poor. They were shocked by his treatment, but knew the truth. Scrooge was miserable. Without the miraculous, Scrooge would have died miserable, but the miraculous came in the form of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley.
You know the story. Everybody knows the story. Scrooge is locked safety in the security of his own home when the most unusual things begin to happen. It begins innocently enough. The doorknocker is transformed. The lion’s face turns in to Jacob’s face. The wind blows without warning. The clocks strike out of time. Scrooge locks his bedroom doors for extra security, but it doesn’t matter. Without an invitation, Marley enters the room. He is visiting Scrooge for one reason, transformation. He must change his ways or face a horrible fate. Scrooge is like many in our time; he doesn’t like change. He appeals to Marley’s practical side and reminds him of their days in business. He was a good businessman. They made a great deal money together. There is only one problem. Money-making was not their business. Scrooge was blind to what Marley knows. Marley says it clearly: MANKIND IS OUR BUSINESS! It is at this point that the old Christmas classic begins to intersect the Gospel lesson.
If you were with us two weeks ago, you will remember Luke’s background. Luke was born into a Gentile family, educated in the Greek classics. When his formal education ended, he was a doctor. However, the church will always remember him as a companion of Paul during his second missionary journey. That is the reason many consider Luke to be Paul’s Gospel.
We are in the opening four verses of the book. These verses are vital because they set the stage of the entire book. In these opening verses, Luke admits his work is not original. There have been other books that have tried to summarize the life of Jesus Christ. His book is different for one reason. Luke, himself, can be trusted. His accounts have come from eyewitnesses and fellow believers. Luke has investigated those stories. The false ones have been eliminated. The true ones have been included. He does all this work for one reason. He wants this body of believers, personified in this person, Theophilus, to know the truth. This is the truth. Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the only son of God and our holy hope of salvation. Jesus came for one reason, to be the bridge between mankind and God. Marley may have said it after his death, but Jesus demonstrated it in his life; MANKIND WAS HIS BUSINESS! And all of God’s people said, “Amen!”