Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Christmas Carol and A Christmas Homily

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Nativity of the Lord

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
December 25, 2016

First and foremost, I would like to welcome all of you here for the joyous celebration of the Lord’s Nativity. Whether you’ve come from far away or just around the corner…whether you come frequently or less so, please know how very glad we are that you are here and how very welcome you are. I send you the Christmas greetings of our pastor, Father Gregory Dube, as well as of our other parochial vicar, Father Richard McLaughlin, as we offer you our prayers that our good and gracious God will fill your hearts and homes with many blessings, good health, and much cheer both now and throughout the coming New Year.

Now since it is Christmas, I’m going to speak about one of the most famous Christmas persons of all time, not counting Jesus. No, it’s not Santa Claus. It’s not Frosty the Snowman. It’s not the Little Drummer Boy or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or Dominic the Donkey. Believe it or not, it’s Ebenezer Scrooge. Even hearing the name sends a little chill down our spines, no? He’s the literary epitome of all that’s wrong with humankind and his creator, Charles Dickens, goes to great lengths to paint such a real and vivid picture of so detestable a man that we feel as if we know him personally. His “bah humbug!” really says it all. He is, as Dickens describes him, a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” He’s a harsh, bitter, miserable old miser who is cruel to his clerk Bob Cratchit; cold to his nephew, Fred; and at best unpleasant to any poor creature who dares cross his path. His life is consumed by the accumulation of wealth for himself, and he allows not even the slightest modicum of sympathy or emotion to enter his wretched heart. And yet despite how horrible Ebenezer Scrooge is, despite how pitiable his existence had been, and despite how awful he was to everyone about everything, A Christmas Carol is not a story about sin, but sanctity…it’s not a story about a sinner, but about a saint.

Since 1843, when A Christmas Carol was first published, the ghoulish story of Ebenezer Scrooge had been one of the most popular stories ever told. People from all different ages and walks of life gather yearly to read the tale, to listen to it, or to watch it on stage or on film. It captivates us and draws us in…and not simply because it is dramatic and seasonal, but because – in all honesty – the story of Ebenezer Scrooge is a story that cuts right to the core of humanity. Of course this story has been told, in its many different forms, all throughout human history. It’s the story of St. Mary Magdalene…it’s the story of St. Paul…it’s the story of St. Augustine and of St. Francis of Assisi. It’s the story of a sinner who confronts his own wretchedness and ugliness head on, who allows his cold heart to be converted, and who experiences undeserved, but much needed mercy. Deep down, we all like A Christmas Carol, because it’s a reminder to us that God does indeed have the power to transform what is evil into something good. It’s a reminder to us that the Scrooges in our lives, or even the Scrooge that resides in our own heart, can change and be saved.

When we think about the conversion that Ebenezer Scrooge experienced, and how he came to experience this conversion, we have to remember that he didn’t do so on his own…he was prompted by three spirits: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. And although Scrooge obstinately refused their intervention, these spirits persisted and pursued the old man with vigor. They woke him from his sleep and persuaded him to confront a reality he had been blind to. They went after him relentlessly, showing him his life, his choices, and his relationships. Because they invested their time and energy in him, they helped Scrooge to encounter the truth head on…a truth he had denied for so long, and by seeing what the future would hold if he continued to live outside of this truth, he finally gave in. He changed. He converted. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.

The story of Ebenezer Scrooge is the story of us all. Like Scrooge, we have all gone astray like sheep, wandering about in our confusion and in our blindness. But like Scrooge, we are being relentlessly pursued…not by three Christmas ghosts, but by God Himself. Since the Fall, God has been running after us, trying to grab us by the shoulders, look into our eyes, and show us the way to truth and life. He sent Moses with the law. He sent the prophets with His word. And then, in the fullness of time, He sent His Son. The eternal Son of the Father, the Word made Flesh, finally caught us…He grabbed us, put on our humanity, and became what we are. With His own fleshly hands He embraced us…with His own real eyes He looked into ours. And because of this, we were given the opportunity to see reality. We saw truth. We saw life. We saw love. We saw the face of God and it changed the world for ever.

The miracle of Christmas is that, because God loves us with a love beyond all telling, because He pursues us night and day with His mercy and grace, and because He has taken on flesh and become man, we can all – every one of us! – be changed forever. Sinners can become saints, evil can become good, and man can become like God…beautiful, good, and true. Even the worst of us, even the most Scrooge-like among us, is infinitely loved by a God of infinite love. And because of this, we can – this day and all days – rejoice and be glad.

As you look upon this beautiful Christmas crib, as you gaze upon the beauty of God-made-Man, know this Christmas Day how much you are loved. Allow yourself to confront that truth this Christmas, and then, like good old Ebenezer, help to make this world a little better, a little brighter, a little more cheerful…and a little holier.

Merry Christmas and God bless us, everyone.

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