One of my favourite Christmas stories is that of a Christmas Carol, where the hero (if that is the right word) Ebenezer Scrooge is confronted with himself, what he is really like, how his behaviour has hurt other people and the emptiness and shallowness of his idolatrous God, and he is changed, his life is permanently transformed, saved from himself.
Although I hope none of us are visited by Dickensian Ghosts on Christmas Eve(!) yet I would like us all this Advent, Christmas and New Year to be a time of reflection, insight and of changed and transformed lives.
Scrooge is a great picture of repentance, not just mumbling a half-hearted ‘sorry’ to God but actually turning his life around 180 degrees, a complete turn-around going in the opposite direction (did you know the Romans would shout “Repent” to mean “about Turn”). More-over Scrooge’s transformation is not a few good intentions before returning to his old ways –like a Dog returning to its vomit or a sow going back to wallow again in the mud! (to use a great image from Jesus!).
No, The Story of Scrooge is a story of a leopard changing its spots.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ tells us we are leopards who through Christ can change our spots. The cross, the resurrection and Pentecost proclaims that “how we were, how we have been, does not dictate our future of how we shall remain”.
As we approach the penitential season of Advent, a time to prayerfully look at ourselves and seek -with the Holy Spirits discerning but loving gaze- how we can become more Christ-like? What does it look like in our everyday lives to ‘pick up our cross and follow him?”
Traditionally Advent has been a season that gives us a chance to put ourselves right with God.
Traditionally Advent has been a season that gives us a chance to put ourselves right with one another.
Advent for the Christian can and should be a little like Christmas Eve for Ebenezer Scrooge, a time of looking at our lives and seeking transformation and change in the person we want to be.
A colleague of mine once talked about the “irresistible pull of a transformed life” which underpins the gospel message, the message of Christmas, a message made personal, a message worked out in the daily realities of our lives.