Bible Text: 2 Timothy 1:6-7; Lamentations 1:1-6 | Preacher: Rev.M. | Series: A Christmas Carol | Well this morning we are continuing our Advent sermon series titled, “A Christmas Carol”. Through this series we have used the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the lessons he learns about Christmas and about humanity and himself. Using the lens of Scripture, we have examined these lessons in light of the stories and gospels of our faith. We have also looked at how these same lessons that Scrooge learns might still apply to us today in our immediate community and the world-at-large.
Last week we looked at Christmas Present and Mary’s encounter with Elizabeth. We talked about not only giving of ourselves for others, but also about finding joy and happiness in our lives and not in things. The week before that we looked at Christmas Present and the promise of a coming Messiah. In addition to talking about how God fulfills God’s promises to humanity according to God’s time and plan, we also talked about honoring the past but not refusing to participate in the present and missing out on the future. This week we are looking at Christmas Future, or “Christmas Yet to Come” as it is sometimes referred to.
When we enter the part of our story with Scrooge where he encounters the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, the story takes a very dark turn. You see the first Ghost showed Scrooge what had been, both happy and sad memories, but it was all just memories and could not be changed. The Ghost of Christmas Present showed Scrooge reality in what was happening in the lives of people he knew. And while Scrooge’s feelings may have gotten hurt in witnessing certain things, there was nothing really threatening in what he saw. Except of course the likely death of Tiny Tim.
But this last ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come…well this was a different encounter all together. This ghost is described in a way more in line with the ghosts that we tend to meet in conventional ghost stories. This ghost is explained as a hooded phantom, one’s who face cannot be seen, and while it points at things it never actually speaks. Now I don’t know about you but to me that is something of a scary picture. Does the ghost not show a face or speak because the future is not known to us? That’s one possibility, but either way this image kind of spooks me.
Now while with the ghost, Scrooge encounters a group of wealthy men talking about someone who died, someone who is seems was rather unpopular. Scrooge then encounters a less savory group who is talking about selling some things that were taken from this dead man including the curtains from his bed and even the shirt off his back. The dead man is mocked by both groups of people, but in different ways and it presents a rather gloomy picture.
Scrooge then begs to be taken to the house of his clerk, Bob Cratchit, where he hopes to find a happier scene like the one, he first saw on his visit there with the Ghost of Christmas Present. But when they arrive, Scrooge finds that the Cratchit family is also talking about death and preparing for a funeral. As they try to comfort one another it becomes clear that they are mourning and grieving Tiny Tim. In a truly tragic moment, Bob comes home from work and goes to sit with his son, only to remember that he has only just died.
Between this scene and the earlier ones, Scrooge has become horrified and extremely upset. He knows though that he has to learn the name and identity of this mysterious dead man that the others had been discussing and mocking. The ghost takes him to an old and decrepit churchyard, or a graveyard adjacent to the local church. The space has been overrun by grass and weeds and seems rather unkempt. As they walk through the graveyard, they approach a gravestone that shows Scrooge’s name and it all becomes clear that he was the one that the other people had been discussing and mocking without any care or respect.
As this new realization sets in, Scrooge turns to the ghost and begs to know whether all that he has just witnessed is what will definitely happen or if it is what could happen if something doesn’t not change in the present time. Scrooge begs for mercy from the ghost and in the end believes that the ghost is showing him pity by opening his eyes to what the future may hold. Scrooge promises to change and begs for the opportunity to do so. The chapter here and the reader is left to wonder what will happen next…until they start reading the next chapter of course.
So, you can probably see why I said this was a much darker part of the story. Scrooge is led around by a rather scary ghost and then shown a worse-case scenario of what the future could become. Not exactly the images that I think most of us have in our minds when we think about future Christmas’. But of course, just like with the other two ghosts’, this ghost teaches Scrooge some important lessons about life and how we treat one another.
Scrooge gets to see what kind of legacy he is leaving based on his current actions and character. He is not the revered or respected man of wealth that I think he was expecting to be, but instead a despised and mocked man who still loses everything in the end, including the shirt off his back. Then he sees exactly what the Ghost of Christmas Present warned about in the death of Tiny Tim. Scrooge sees firsthand the death of an innocent, and one that from what he is told at least, could have been saved.
Through his encounter with each of these ghosts, but especially with this last one, Scrooge is reminded of the value of life and the value of love. In our Scripture reading for this morning we too are reminded of something. It reads, “Because of this, I’m reminding you to revive God’s gift that is in you through the laying on of my hands. God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled.”
God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid. I have to admit that when you look at how Scrooge was living and treating others, I think his spirit was acting very timid. But God has given us a spirit that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled. And I think Scrooge gets reminded of this very reality during his travels with this last ghost. Scrooge realizes when he claims that he will change that his spirit is powerful and can lead him to become a better person. He realizes that his spirit is loving and can lead him to treat his fellow man with love and compassion. And he realizes that his spirit is self-controlled and can lead him to not be greedy, but instead generous toward others.
Now as I look at these lessons and this story in regard to our world today, I had to pause for a moment. Do we still need to be reminded about trying to live lives inspired by Christ? Do we still need to be reminded to love one another and lead our lives with love like Christ? Do we still need to be reminded that we must fight against the temptation of sin and be generous with our blessings? And then I turned on the news and realized that the answer to all of those questions is still a resounding yes.
Now I am not saying that every single person in this room is failing at all of these things the way that Scrooge did. But we are human and therefore imperfect, and I think we can always use a reminder about living like Christ and leading with love. Those are never bad things to be reminded about on a regular basis, especially because we are surrounded by others who do not hold these truths and do not know the good news that we know.
I really love this passage, especially verse 7. “God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled.” How awesome is that? I read that I get kind of pumped up. The adrenaline starts to flow and I kind of feel like I could take on the whole world. I have a spirit that is powerful! I have a spirit that is loving! I have a spirit that is self-controlled! And so, do each of you! Every single one of you has a spirit that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled. So, what do we do with this knowledge? What do we do with these awesome spirits that we possess?
Well I think first and foremost we have to start with using our spirits in our answering the call of God and our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. That’s always our first step. But I want you to take a minute here and think about how you could use a powerful spirit, a loving spirit, a self-controlled spirit to help in that mission and in spreading God’s love to the world.
Maybe for some of you that powerful spirit will give you the courage to talk about your faith with others. Maybe for some of the rest of you it will give you the strength to do something new in your faith, to take a chance, to change something in your faith for the better, for the world to be better.
Maybe for some of you that loving spirit will give you the strength to embrace someone that you never have before. Maybe for others it will inspire you to find ways to lovingly support those in need like the refugees or another group that maybe you haven’t been open to in the past.
Maybe for some of you that self-controlled spirit will help you to show compassion for someone who in the past has pushed you too far. Maybe for others it will help you to put away something that has been holding you back in your life and in your faith.
But it doesn’t matter exactly how your spirit drives you, but it does matter that you hear it and follow it. We are all different so we can all be moved and empowered in different ways with our spirit. The key here is to remember that he had that spirit from God, and it is one that carries some important characteristics that can help us to live lives like Christ and to work towards our mission.
I’d like to try something here if you will indulge me. I want everyone to stand up right now, as you are able. I want you to lift your hands above your head like you are praising God. And I want you all to repeat after me. And I want to hear each and every one of you. Shout it out if you want. But say it with truth and strength. Okay, here we go.
I HAVE A POWERFUL SPIRIT!
I HAVE A LOVING SPIRIT!
I HAVE A SELF-CONTROLLED SPIRIT!
And just think how amazing our world can become if we all embrace that truth and reality and live into it. Scrooge begged for a second chance and promised to change. Jesus gave us a second chance through his suffering death and resurrection. It’s now our turn to work to change and embrace our spirit. Amen.