Monday, December 12, 2005

Don't be a Scrooge

I thought this piece on the Ligonier site was an interesting point of view. I'm undecided as to whether or not I am in complete agreement - so maybe I am a Scrooge too... but only about some things.

Marley's Message to Scrooge

"Bah! Humbug!" These two words are instantly associated with Charles Dickens' immortal fictional anti-hero, Ebenezer Scrooge. We all recognize that Ebenezer Scrooge was a mean person - stingy, insensitive, selfish, andunkind. What we often miss in our understanding of his character is that he was preeminently profane. "Bah! Humbug!" was his Victorian use of profanity. It was profane in that Scrooge demeaned what was holy. He trampled on the sanctity of Christmas. He despised the sacred. He was cynical toward the sublime.

Christmas is indeed the world's most joyous holiday. It is called a"holiday" because the day is holy. It is a day when businesses close, when families gather, when churches are filled, and when soldiers put down their guns for a 24-hour truce. It is a day that differs from every other day.

Every generation has its abundance of Scrooges. The church is full of them. We hear endless complaints of commercialism. We are constantly told to put Christ back into Christmas. We hear that the tradition of Santa Claus is a sacrilege. We listen to those acquainted with history murmur that Christmas isn't biblical, that the Church invented Christmas to compete with the ancient Roman festival honoring the bull-god Mithras. All this carping is but a modern dose of Scroogeism, our own sanctimonious profanation of the holy.

Sure, Christmas is a time of commerce. The high degree of commerce at Christmas is driven by one thing: the buying of gifts for others. To present our friends and families with gifts is not an ugly, ignoble vice. It incarnates the amorphous "spirit of Christmas." The tradition rests ultimately on the supreme gift God has given the world. God so loved the world, the Bible says, that He gave His only begotten Son. The giving of gifts is a marvelous response to the receiving of such a gift. For one day a year at least, we taste the sweetness inherent in the truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Christ is still in Christmas, and for one brief season the secular world broadcasts the message of Christ over every radio station and television channel in the land. Not only music but the visual arts are present in abundance, bearing testimony to the historic significance of the birth of Jesus.
Kris Kringle is a mythical hero, not a villain. He is pure fiction - but afiction used to illustrate a glorious truth. And the early Christians had the wisdom to flee from Mithras and direct their zeal to the celebration of the birth of Christ. Who associates Christmas today with Mithras?

We celebrate Christmas because we cannot eradicate from our consciousness our profound awareness of the difference between the sacred and the profane. Man, in the generic sense, has an incurable propensity for marking sacred space and sacred time.

When God touches earth, the place is holy. When God appears in history, the time is holy. There was never a more holy place than the city of Bethlehem, where the Word became flesh. There was never a more holy time than Christmas morning when Emmanuel was born. Christmas is a holiday. It is the holiest of holy days. We must heed the warning of Jacob Marley: "Don't be a Scrooge" at Christmas.

1 comment:

Becca said...

i think this is a good point...even though i still dislike how much commercialism and santa and gifts take away from Christ's incarnation. the reason a lot of christians get upset, i think, is because our culture is a culture of extremes. Extreme gift giving, for example, people go crazy and that's all they think about. Extreme Santa, no Christ mentioned half the time, just santa (who is most certainly not real and has no purpose in our lives what-so-ever...santa does not bring joy, happiness, good-will or even presents (Christ does)) As a Christian i am more dissatisfied by the way the world celebrates the birth of our LORD and Saviour.