FENTON, MI – As the “official Christmas season” begins there comes with it a crescendoing cacophony of cultural Christmas clutter that for the most part obscures the heart and soul of true Christmas. As I have said on many occasions, I love the Christmas season and the trappings that surround it, but it is the joy and happiness that accompanies this time and celebration that helps me to appreciate the Gift this is all about.
One of the first things we notice that comes with the season is there is a preponderance of Christmas themed movies on almost every television broadcasting system. One that I watch and for that matter read every year is ‘A Christmas Carol’, by Charles Dickens. My favorite rendition of the story is the one where George C. Scott portrays Mr. Scrooge. Each year, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, a great number of people find delight in the marvelous message that is brought into our homes via print and electronic media. There is something in the story that lures us back to it year after year; we never seem to grow tired of hearing its message.
The main character in the story is a surly old man named Scrooge, who lives a miserly existence. He sees no benefit in being generous with the poor, or even providing a fair living wage to his dedicated worker. He clutches onto his money and despises the thought of parting with any of it. It is not only his money that Scrooge withholds from others, it is his entire being. He withholds love, kindness, warmth and even friendship. To say the least, he is a miserable, lonely old soul that recoils at even the mention of Christmas much less having to endure the celebration itself. Mr. Scrooge would rather Christmas be removed from public life altogether and that a totally secular celebration take its place. He just didn’t want to be bothered by any of this “peace and goodwill to men stuff” and his opinion was, it should be relegated to the realms of “bah! Humbug!”
Then, one night, Scrooge undergoes a profound crisis. He sees himself through the eyes of others. He has a vivid vision of his past and then his present. But what is most frightful to him - what shakes him to the core of his being - is when he is granted the opportunity of a lifetime. He is allowed to witness his future. His future proves to be so dark and frightening, that it prompts within him a dramatic change. He undergoes a radical transformation and becomes an entirely new person. Rather than being cold and indifferent to people, he becomes generous and compassionate. A smile breaks out across his face.
How can a person who is so crusty and calloused to the core become so soft and pliable? How can a person change so radically and completely in a matter of moments? Did he just turn over a new leaf, as some would say, or was it just sheer tenacity and determination that transformed this miserable miser? The answer is found in Christmas itself. That is the message and theme that keeps drawing us back to this story. It is a message of hope that can only come from the gift of a transformed life. It is the message of our Transcendent God coming to earth as a baby in a manger and providing for us the opportunity of being changed from the inside out. Each of us can identify with Mr. Scrooge in some way or form. Each of us knows full well how crusty our souls have become and that despite all of our good efforts we can never really change our hearts.
This Christmas season as you have opportunity to watch or read The Christmas Carol, ask God to give you a glimpse of your future and then ask Him if you are ready for it. If you are not prepared then ask Him to give to you the Gift of Christmas. Ask Him for the gift of a new heart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.