The Christmas Present

   Written by on December 14, 2017 at 12:37 pm

logo-smith-gregLast week we talked about Charles Dickens’ book, A Christmas Carol, how the ghosts of Christmases past still haunt us today, and how God wants us to break free from imprisonment to our past.  Today we continue to Dickens’ story, to the Ghost of Christmas present.  One article describes him thus:

According to Dickens’ novel, the Ghost of Christmas Present appears to Scrooge as “a jolly giant” with dark brown curls. He wears a fur-lined green robe and on his head a holly wreath set with shining icicles. He carries a large torch, made to resemble a cornucopia, and appears accompanied by a great feast.  He states that he has had “more than eighteen hundred” brothers and later reveals the ability to change his size to fit into any space. He also bears a scabbard with no sword in it, a representation of peace on Earth and good will toward men.

The spirit transports Scrooge around the city, showing him scenes of festivity and also deprivation that are happening as they watch, sprinkling a little warmth from his torch as he travels. Amongst the visits are Scrooge’s nephew, and the family of his impoverished clerk, Bob Cratchit. Scrooge takes an interest in Cratchit’s desperately ill son, Tiny Tim, and asks the Ghost if Tim will live. The Ghost first states that “If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die,” and then – quick to use Scrooge’s past heartless comments to two charitable solicitors against him – states, “What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

The spirit finally reveals to Scrooge two emaciated children, subhuman in appearance and loathsome to behold, clinging to his robes, and names the boy as Ignorance and the girl as Want. The spirit warns Scrooge, “Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom unless the writing be erased.” The spirit once again quotes Scrooge, who asks if the grotesque children have “no refuge, no resource,” and the spirit retorts with more of Scrooge’s own words: “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”

The Ghost of Christmas Present, having already aged, reveals that he will only exist on Earth for a single year’s Christmas holiday as the Present only takes place on the one day of the year. He finally disappears at the stroke of midnight on Twelfth Night, and leaves Scrooge to face the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, as it approaches “like a mist along the ground.”

We tend to despise Ebenezer Scrooge for his heartless attitude toward the poor, but many of us have grown callous to the needs of the underprivileged in our own community.  On our way to the shopping mall to buy Christmas presents, we ignore the plight of the waifs and ghosts of Christmas present.  The need lies right before us, yet we avert our gaze lest we make eye contact and feel a sense of social responsibility.  Perhaps we even suppress our feelings of guilt by saying or thinking, “Get a job!”  But as the ghost of Christmas sought to change Scrooge’s heart, so the Spirit of God wants to change our own.  Isaiah 1:11-15 (NLT) says:

“The multitude of your sacrifices—     what are they to me?” says the Lord.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.

Your hands are full of blood!

As we gather in our churches to sing Silent Night, many in the silence can hear the sound of their teeth chattering and stomach rumbling.  We like to enjoy our Christmas presents, but this present Christmas, Ignorance and Want stand before us, waiting for a hand.  Will we, like Ebenezer Scrooge, say it’s better that they should die, and decrease the surplus population?  Will we ask, “Are there prisons, no workhouses, or welfare lines?”  Or will we allow our hearts to be broken for the sake of the needy.

In Isaiah’s day, God said He despised the smell of animals burned for sacrifice when that same meat might feed the hungry.  In the Christmas present, God would have us know that He loves our prayers, pageantry, and gift giving, only as much as we’re giving to the poor and needy as well.  If we’re not doing that, then our celebration is sin and our festivity is a farce.  Our hands are stained with blood—but just like there’s hope for Scrooge, there’s hope for us.  Isaiah 1:16-18 (NLT) says:

Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;  stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”  says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

As Scrooge had a choice to make, so we must decide as well.  The Ghost of Christmas Present presented Scrooge with an opportunity to change.  So this present Christmas, we have the chance to repent and respond to those in need.  Instead of relying on welfare programs to do our charity for us, God calls believers to treat others with a charitable heart and a giving hand.  Otherwise, Christians and Christmas are indeed humbugs.  Just as the ghost lasted for only one day and disappeared in mist, so too is our opportunity to give.  “So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts’… But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:7-8a, 13 NIV).”  As a Christmas present, God gives each of us the present moment, to spread peace on earth and good will toward men, or to hoard our gold like miserly Scrooge.  What will you do with your Christmas present?

©2017 by Gregory T. Smith.
Reprinted with permission.

About Greg Smith

Greg Smith is a Baptist minister who has served churches in Central and Southside Virginia. He lives in Halifax County, VA with his wife and children. To read more of Greg’s writings check out his blog at revgregsmith.blogspot.com.

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