Everybody knows the story of Ebenezer Scrooge – the “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” of Charles Dickens’ immortal novel, A Christmas Carol. The very mention of the name “Scrooge” conjures up the image of a stingy, spiteful old man, and his most famous catchword, “Bah, humbug,” has become a staple of anti-Christmas sentiment.
But ultimately A Christmas Carol is not the tale of a hateful curmudgeon, but of a changed man. After all, the world is full of bitter people. Their stories are a dime-a-dozen and most of us would rather not be a part of their poisonous lives. Ah, but a transformed person — an individual who makes a 180° change for the better — that’s the rare story that grips our hearts and electrifies us with hope. If they can change, perhaps we could, too!
Hope is the theme of the first week of Advent, that pre-Christmas season of anticipation. The biblical word for “hope” can signify a couple of things. Like the English word, it can mean to eagerly anticipate. In the original Greek language of the New Testament, the word can mean to expect something, whether good or bad. Some biblical translations render “hope” as “wait.” Hoping definitely involves waiting. However, Christian hope is not like waiting in line at the grocery store, trapped, while the woman in front of you fidgets with coupons. Waiting with Christian hope is more vigorous. Saints look ahead with confidence; pray with boldness; minister with gladness, seeing Christ on the faces of those who are served; and search the Scriptures with enthusiasm, expecting God to speak.
Scrooge, too, finally laid hold of this hope. When the Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come appeared, the old miser was horrified, but he managed to utter, ”…as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart.”
Some people hope to hit the lottery jackpot. Others hope to find the “perfect job.” Still others hope to grasp power or prestige. But those who hope in God will not be disappointed, for with God comes everything our souls yearn for: joy, peace, salvation, unconditional love, comfort, heart-fulfillment, the power to transform into His image.
Under the tutelage of the three Christmas spirits, Old Scrooge became “New Scrooge.” He hoped for the right thing – and received it. Dickens wrote of him, “It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”