Encounter: Matthew 20:1-16 and Luke 1:46-47, 52-55 in two different Bible versions. Begin to think about how these passages reveal a vision of God’s new creation. What does it say about God’s kingdom and how is this different from the values of the world.
This past week, Jack and I drove up to Petoskey, Michigan for a few days of rest. We arrived late on Sunday night so we decided to get some dinner in the hotel restaurant. We couldn’t help but enjoy the setting with the fireplace blazing and the sound of the waves on the lakeshore. But we also couldn’t help but overhear the man at the table beside ours complain incessantly to the server about how inadequate his food was. The tone he was using was not only rude but carried with his words was a sense of arrogance that devalued the one serving him. We were both feeling sorry for the woman who was serving that night as she attempted to patiently address his complaints.
Soon after the man left, we told her how sorry we were that someone would treat her so rudely. She shared with us that to make matters worse, he added only a $1 tip to his bill. Later we learned a gentleman at the bar had witnessed what the man put her through and surprised the server with a $500 tip.
As I compared these two different men, it reminded me of our new Advent Series, The Redemption of Scrooge that begins this Sunday. It was like looking at Scrooge in a before and after photo. Just as Christ brings light to a world in darkness, the events that transpire in the life of Mr. Scrooge of A Christmas Carol reveal the ignorance that comes about through pride, arrogance and power and by the end of the story leads him to embrace the peace, hope, love and joy we celebrate during the Christmas season.
Like the generosity of the gentleman, God’s economy doesn’t follow the same rules as our culture where power, arrogance and pride devalue people based on their job, gender, race, economic status, differences and appearance. Instead God’s grace is extravagant, abundant and doesn’t play by the rules we expect.
During Advent, we remember Mary’s vision described in Luke chapter one and the parable of Jesus in Matthew 20 telling us of God’s redemption and power to bring about a new creation through Christ and then through His church that is moving us toward a time and place where there is peace on earth and good will to all people.
As Matt Rawle, author of The Redemption of Scrooge writes, “The Advent season plays with our notion of time. The church gathers in the present to ponder the past for a future hope…
If we didn’t know the end of the story, most of us would doubt that there was any hope for Scrooge to be different. Our own life experiences teach us to be cynical of such changes. But Jesus came to save us from viewing our past as our only reality and our time in this series will remind us that…”it is a graceful world in which the proud are scattered, the hungry are filled, the lowly are lifted, and the hopeless are offered a new life.
So how do we go from Bah Humbug to finding the Peace God gives? We travel through our past, reflect on our present and look with hope and anticipation to the future which can change as we learn to accept and share the free gift of grace and begin to understand that Christ is living with us, and that we are here on earth to serve our Father and share that grace with one another.
When we understand this, we see there is even hope for the arrogant man in the restaurant as I pray he, like Scrooge, will receive a visitation that will so shake him from his slumber, he wakes up Christmas morning surprised by his own generosity and love for others.
We all need a visitation of God to help us see people differently, so differently that it shakes us from our slumber. Together we can all go from Bah Humbug to peace be with you when we allow God to break the chains that hold us back from effecting the world around us for the good. So we can truly say “Peace on earth, Good will towards all!”
Peace to you this Advent,
Reflect: Watch a movie version of The Christmas Carol - If Marley’s ghost were to visit you, what do you think he might say to you? This Sunday you will receive a string of paper chains to think about what “chains” you need to let go off to live fully into God’s best life for you.
Encourage: In this season, we often think of gifts that we purchase will make those we love happy. What would it look like for you to share the free gift of God’s grace through Jesus? Is there someone you could invite to this series who may find encouragement during the holiday season? What would happen if they could see life from God’s point of view?
Gather: Discuss in your small group how you feel called to respond to God’s grace? What are some ways you can show God’s generosity to those in your daily life? Where are you feeling a sense of Bah Humbug. Pray for one another to be open to God transforming your hearts as you realize the true BLESSings God has given you in your life.
FOLLOW ALONG THIS JOURNEY BY READING THE BOOK, THE REDEMPTION OF SCROOGE, AVAILABLE THROUGH YOUR FAVORITE BOOKSELLER.