Monday, 7 December 2015

Hope is on the way 9: Don't be a Scrooge

Tia picked up Rebekah, and they knocked for Lawrence. Once again, they walked to the chapel and discussed what happened yesterday when Elizabeth did the sermon.

Elizabeth said to Tia, Rebekah and Lawrence “Think back to the last time you saw a homeless guy on the side of the street asking for money.”

“I don’t know about you, but my first thought is usually pretty negative. It’s not that I really need the money, and I know that, but I still try to conjure up a reason in my head for why I shouldn’t give: “He’s just going to buy alcohol,” “The guys looks fine… he could work if he wanted to,” “He’s smoking a cigarette… why should I give him cash for more?” Most times, I come up with excuses and just drive on by without a second thought. Recently, I came across a verse in Matthew 25 that hit me like a ton of bricks and changed my prospective. In verses 31 to 46.” Jesus talks about taking care of the poor and needy and how when we take care of them, we are taking care of Him.

“What does that mean?” said Rebekah.

Elizabeth replied back to Rebekah “That means, when we feed or clothe the homeless guy on the street, we are feeding and clothing Jesus."

Rebekah, Tia and Lawrence said “Wow! What an opportunity. What a responsibility!

Elizabeth said back “Now, I always try to make it a point to keep food, toothbrushes, and other essential items in my car so when I pass a person in need, I can bless them and maybe make their day a little better than it was before.”

Tia said “The Christmas season is a time of year when people tend to be more generous than usual. Folk have what they call “Christmas Spirit” and they want to make sure that the less fortunate will have a Merry Christmas as well. People get the names of children and families from “Angel Trees” and purchase the gifts indicated. There are more volunteers at soup kitchens and homeless shelters. People go caroling to nursing homes, hospitals and prisons. “

Elizabeth went on saying “This concept is certainly not something new as it has been done for centuries upon centuries.”

Rebekah was so eager to put her favourite book in play. “For example, In Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol, there are two gentlemen who pay a visit to Scrooge at his office in hopes of collecting money to help the poor and needy. One of the men says to Scrooge, “At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge… it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.” The true character of Ebenezer Scrooge is revealed in his response to the men, “I do not make myself merry at Christmas; nor can I afford to make those who are idle merry.” Dickens draws a sharp contrast between those people who care about the needs of others, and those who care for no one other than self. For his purposes, the driving force behind the charity and concern for others is “Christmas Spirit.” The problem with “Christmas Spirit” is that, despite the numerous cards you receive wishing that it be with you through the coming year, it is not. The feeling known as “Christmas Spirit” generally leaves us by the close of December the 25th. And even for the diehard traditionalist, it will leave by the close of January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany. Of course for people like Ebenezer Scrooge, there is no change or let down after the holidays. It is simply business as usual.”

Elizabeth said “In the Matthew passage I referenced earlier, Jesus draws a sharp distinction between people as they are divided for judgment. The determining factor is how they cared for the “least of these my brothers and sisters.” Whether or not they fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, cared for the sick and visited the prisoners determines whether they stand on the right or on the left. Those on the right did so. Those on the left did not. One of the most interesting things about this story that Jesus shares with us is the response of the two groups. Those on the right are commended by Jesus for doing all these things for him. Those on the left are condemned by Jesus for not doing all these things for him. Their response to Jesus is exactly the same, “When did we see you hungry or naked etc… Those who had been charitable toward the seemingly insignificant people of the world had done so out of a true love and concern for others. They expected nothing in return, and indeed were not aware of the presence of Jesus in those whom they helped.”

Rebekah was being Tigger again, jumping up and down as she had a provocative question. “Is it possible that this thing we call Christmas spirit is actually an awakening of the love of God within each of our hearts? Could it be that the people on the right hand of Jesus in this story lived their lives filled with the Christmas spirit?”

Elizabeth took along breath and replied back saying “If we can equate the two, then it is indeed possible to live up to what our Christmas cards wish: “That we be filled with the magic of the Christmas Spirit throughout the New Year.” If we carry the love of God in Christ Jesus for others into the New Year, there will be a sense of Christmas in our charitable actions toward the “least of these.” Not just during Christmas, but each and every day.

Elizabeth ended the book club with a challenge. “So my challenge to you as we approach this Christmas season is to think about how you respond when someone comes to you in need? Will you be a Scrooge or will you faithfully give with all your heart as if you were giving to Jesus? P-2 said it best when he asked himself, “What good of a Christian am I if when I see you at your worst, I just walk away?” I hope you wrestle with that same question not just for Christmas, but each and every day you live. Remember, you can change the world, one person at a time.”

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