As it was in Noah’s day, so will it be when the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 24:37)
As I get older I become more sympathetic to Scrooge. Its not just because I’m becoming a grumpy old man - though that is perfectly possible - but it’s because, perhaps, in just a little way, his take on Christmas is a bit more realistic than those around him.
In Dicken’s wonderful story, Scrooge is a bitter and disappointed man, indeed, who has little sympathy with the people around him. But he is more complicated than that. He dislikes, really dislikes the jollity, the false jollity - the “humbug” as he calls it - of the Christmas carollers and partiers. Life, he knows, is harder, more disappointing, than this temporary festivity can imagine.
Of course, things change and he comes to see things very differently, but I wonder whether his first bitterness is not so unreasonable, nor indeed, unusual.
The jollity of the season - and here to the modern mind, perhaps, Scrooge makes his biggest mistake - is often about forcing an empty indulgence upon people in order to make money (something which Scrooge approved of!) And the greetings, the music and the festivities can often mask pain and anxiety and unhappiness which is only under the surface. On the other hand Scrooge’s sense of loss and bitterness is plain for all to see.
This season, this month, can be for many a dark time. The lights and the music stand in contrast against short, cold and damp days when without them our moods might match. It is a terribly hard time for those in financial difficulties. A sad time for those feeling the pain of loss and bereavement of family breakdown. Christmas, as many experience it, is short lived and superficial, that’s exactly what is meant by Scrooges’s word “Humbug”.
So thank God for Advent! It is not a time for celebration - yet. It is not a time for jollity which thinly papers over the cracks of hardship or stress. It is about waiting. And Hope. In the darkness. Our readings make it very clear that this is a time which is not ignorant of calamity, or disaster, or pain or loss - but in Advent we stand, as it were, gazing into a dark tunnel with a pinprick of light guiding us to its end.
Advent is hard to keep. It is much easier to feign jollity than to wait in hope. But remember what changed Scrooge. He was not in fact changed by the carol singers, or the party goers, or the merriment of all around him - but by the fearful vision of a future without hope, the consequences of his lack of human concern. He changes not just for the one day, or for the season, but for the rest of his life.