Summary: I have adapted a recent J. John’s sermon, using Scripture to compare Herod and our own sinful tendencies with the Dickens’ character Ebenezer Scrooge.
The Scrooge in All of Us
Christmas is one of those times that almost demands that we be creative with the familiar- the story of Bethlehem, and the baby Jesus in a manger. The angels we have heard on high. You might feel that you are familiar with the story that you know it and that you don’t need to take another look. But we can all get so used to things that we ignore the detail. We think we know what it’s all about, but do we really?
Another example is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Published in 1843, it’s one of the best-loved stories to be set at this time of year. Its frankly one of my favorites. We probably think we know the story back to front. After all, it’s been adapted into over 200 films, and is such a powerful tale that it’s credited with helping to define our contemporary understanding of Christmas. But a fresh look at this all-time classic, reminds us that it’s far more than just a feel-good festive tale featuring a miserly old humbug with one of the oldest catchphrases in the world. The book’s main character, of course, is the mean and intimidating Ebenezer Scrooge, who lives to make money and very little else. He certainly has no use for religion or sentimentality.
Scrooge parallels many biblical characters, but perhaps no one more than Herod. Herod is the original Ebenezer if ever there was one, and represents to you and I the character of everyone and everything who tries to remove the Spirit of Christmas, and more importantly the Spirit of Christ from all of us, and all around us. Herod commands the wise men to return to him and report to him where the Christ was to be born, so that he could go and worship him also. The wise men were not called wise men for nothing. They were wise enough to see through this nonsense. They knew Herod’s reputation as one who killed his wife and two of his sons because they threatened his power. They knew he didn’t want to worship Him. They knew Herod would kill Him, and then probably kill the wise men for their effrontery to worship someone else, instead of Herod. These kinds of Scrooges are not isolated in history. Their spirit lives on even today. He is the spirit of the one who tries to remove Christ from nativity scenes at the courthouse, at the park, and other public places. He’s the one who tries to get Christ banned from our public schools. He’s the one who goes around saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. I was proud of our Christmas parade in Elizabeth City this year. Just about every float- even the secular ones, boldly proclaimed Merry Christmas.
You may remember from the story how one Christmas Eve, Scrooge receives a terrifying wake-up call. The spirit of his business partner, Jacob Marley, who died seven Christmas Eves previous and was a miser like Scrooge, comes to visit, bound and wrapped in terrible chains. Marley has been condemned to roam the face of the earth, tormented in death by the things he neglected to value in life. He reminds me of Jesus Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.in Luke 16. Look there beginning at v.28In the torment of hell the rich man cries out: Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ To which father Abraham replies They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’" ’No, father Abraham,’ he said, ’but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ "He said to him, ’If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ "
Marley is desperate to give his old colleague a final chance to avoid the same fate. ‘My spirit never walked beyond our counting house,’ he warns Scrooge. A great length of chain traps Jacob Marley’s spirit and weighs it down. Marley tells Scrooge that he alone forged it in life: ‘I made it, link by link and yard by yard.’ Chains that were forged with regrets and sins of his own making which he could not release, and hurts he would not forgive. And as he stands before Scrooge, he can see the even greater chains that bind his old colleague: ‘Would you know the weight and length of the coil you bear yourself?’ asks Marley. ‘It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it since. It is a ponderous chain.’
This, he makes clear, is Scrooge’s last opportunity to turn from selfish ways. Marley’s spirit instructs him to wait for three more spirits ¬of Christmas past, present and future. Reluctantly, Scrooge understands that this is for real, as he sees Marley float away to join a crowd of tormented souls who are wailing and moaning in the night sky. Yet even after contemplating Marley’s fate, the thought really does nothing to cause Scrooge to repent at that moment. He thinks “Well I still have time but not right now.” Perhaps the words of James 4:13-15 ring resoundingly true in the Scrooges’ ears: 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. The spirit of Scrooge is alive and well- for he does not heed that warning. For all we know, that spirit of Scrooge may be in this very room right now. Ignoring the plea of Peter who calls us in Acts 3:19 "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that you sins may be blotted out.”