“The Dickens You Say!”
Dad said that he was the only man in our church who could pull off wearing a red blazer on Sunday morning. This was many years ago, when the women wore hats and white gloves to church, and the men all showed up in dark suits. Now-a-days he would be considered overdressed by most people—he also wore a cravat—but he would still pull it off. He had a big personality, and I think that he worked in marketing for one of the big companies in town.
One day near Christmas he was speaking in church and I remember him saying that A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was the greatest work of secular holiday literature ever written. That got me curious. Up until then, the only version of A Christmas Carol of which I knew was Disney’s cartoon version featuring Scrooge McDuck. When I finally got around to reading it, I decided the Man in the Red Blazer was right. The book is better than any cartoon, TV, Movie or stage production I have ever seen. (Which isn’t to deny that some are very good—I especially love the one starring Patrick Stewart.)
This year A Christmas Carol will also be our Advent Carol. The short book has five chapters (or staves as Dickens calls them). On each of the four Sundays of Advent and on Sunday, December 25, the sermon and elements of the service will be structured around a chapter in the book. On November 27, we will be with Ebenezer Scrooge when the ghost of his partner Marley comes to warn him that he is about to be visited by three spirits of Christmas. On December 4, we will accompany Scrooge on his travels with the Spirit of Christmas Past. On December 11, the Sunday School children will join the Spirit of Christmas Present to explain what Christmas means around the world. On December 18 we will look to the future with the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come. And on Christmas morning we will join Tiny Tim in his Christmas wish: “God bless us, everyone!”
You may be surprised at how directly Dickens speaks to our present day concerns about sickness and health, poverty and prosperity, solitude and family, and the tension between the individual and the community. Above all, in spite of being a work of “secular” literature, A Christmas Carol is a powerful statement about what it means for the heart to hear and embrace the message of the birth of the Christ Child in Bethlehem.
You may wish to “prep” for Advent at First Pres by watching again Scrooge McDuck, or your favorite version of the story; or, better yet, by reading the original for yourself. Just be ready to be filled with more love for your fellow creatures, and for the God who made us all, before we have done singing this and all the carols of the season.