In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we have an annual tradition in our household of reading the classic novella, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Aside from Dickens’ brilliant writing, A Christmas Carol’s story has wide appeal because it strikes at something deep within the human soul. You see, whether we like to admit it or not, we all have a little Ebenezer Scrooge in us. We believe that contentment is found in looking out for ourselves, in making sure that I get mine. In the words of Scrooge’s cast-off fiancé, we, like Scrooge, tend to “weigh everything by Gain.” What’s in it for me? We recoil at the Founder of Christmas’ own words when he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Sure, that makes for a nice Hallmark Christmas card, but…really???
A Christmas Carol is insightful because it so perceptibly demonstrates where Scrooge’s line of selfish thinking ultimately ends. In the words of Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, “Who suffers by his ill whims! Himself, always.” Whatever misery our selfishness causes to those around us it offers no more guaranteed unhappiness than to ourselves. We have all walked down the path of Ebenezer to some degree or another and have found it unsatisfying. So, why are we still constantly tempted to pursue this selfish path seeking to get rather than to give? To cling to our time, our talent, and our possessions in pursuit of self?
Selfishness’ subtle appeal is found in the lies it champions promising joy, pleasure, comfort, security, and “Gain.” To prioritize giving of self over getting for self means to forfeit any hope for attaining these ends…or so we are told. Buying the lie we miserly hoard that which we believe will make us happy, and when happiness is not achieved, we move onto the next selfish pursuit hoping this time it will deliver on its promises. It never does. However, that doesn’t stop the thief of true joy from duping his next victim with the same false promises.
Like Scrooge, we are all trapped in our own heads and in our own selfish hearts. Yet, A Christmas Carol does not end with Scrooge trapped in his own self-made lonely grave. He is sent spirits on Christmas Eve who call him out of himself to see his life and the world from a new divine perspective. A perspective in which it is truly more blessed to give than to receive. Ebenezer Scrooge is raised from the dead and born again on Christmas! In Scrooge’s redemption and transformation, we see our own hope for salvation coming from outside of ourselves on Christmas.
We need a new divine perspective to truly believe Jesus’ words. We need salvation from the all-consuming self. This salvation requires faith in better promises that are not always as tangible as gold you can hold in your hands. However, it is even more durable and infinitely more satisfying. Our world and our hearts lay dead in cold darkness, but hope came at Christmas. Our Father in heaven revealed his heart of love and gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus left his throne of glory coming in human form humble and lying in a manger! The Son of Man came in this way not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). The Holy Spirit gives himself to dwell with us and in us manifesting the very life-giving presence of God in our hearts (John 14:17). The very heart of our God is revealed in Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” He has given us the infinitely satisfying gift of himself. This is what Christmas is all about! We will find no greater joy, pleasure, comfort, security, or gain than we already have in Christ Jesus. When we are blessed to find fullness of joy and satisfaction in him our lives will overflow with the same giving heart that our Lord himself has. We will never muster up this heart within ourselves. We are miserable misers. We must look to Christ and our joy in him will overflow and ever increase as we unselfishly seek the joy of others!
“It is more blessed to give than to receive” …really??? Yes! Really! “And so, as Tiny Tim observed, ‘God bless Us, Every One!’”
“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”” - Luke 2:10–12