Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
By Luke C. Nelson, Pastor, Kimball and Zion United Methodist Churches
Next to scripture itself, Charles Dickens a Christmas Carol is the best story told during this time of year. There is so much to love about it. The quotable lines from Scrooge, the wonder-inspiring ghosts that visit the old, rich man and the final act can grow a smile like a weed. The characters and the words make it fun to watch. The prickly Ebenezer barks at his employees, family and those who ask for charity. Dickens etched into my brain Scrooge's estimation that if the poor are going to die, "They better do it and decrease the world's surplus population." Humbug indeed!
The world presented in the story is hopeful. More than ever, it's a story we need to hear. Generosity, kindness and mercy are not shadows of the past. They just don't get as much publicity. Scrooge had the warmth of family, the comfort of community and the strength to share, but it was the ghosts that helped him receive these blessings.
Ebenezer's cold exterior is a reflection of his withering spirit. When our hope is placed in the security of our bank accounts, our own strength or our own limited vision, we grow more like Ebenezer. Our hearts become filled with indifference to the world around us. Our independence becomes a thing of worship. Charity, both given and received, is a taboo to be avoided. We become strangers who share a common location rather than a community sharing a common purpose.
In that world, Ebenezer is hero of the story, showing a practical and profitable way to live. And the Spirits should be dismissed for their scare tactics and propaganda. The people who are inspired by the Christmas season to do good and make merry are to be ridiculed or pitied.
While that world seems familiar, it has not been the world I see around me. There are people in your midst who are inspired to share the miracle of Christmas. These folks are not visited by a series of apparitions but rather the Holy Spirit. Profit and practicality are distant values to grace, mercy and generosity. They are motivated not by an English fable but the truth that the Creator of all things loves them. They truly believe they are loved by Jesus. These are the people who volunteer at Kimball United Methodist Church.
They wish to go unnamed because fame and credit are cousins of arrogance and self righteousness. Their names may be secret, but their actions are worth preaching. We have served more than 4,000 plates of spaghetti in the last three years. When people ask, we charge $2 a plate, but people and families are more than welcome to have a plate on the house. Every penny brought in is used to feed physical and spiritual needs, not the regular church coffers. The same volunteers operate our local clothing and needs bank out of the church and open it to the community. They named it "Many Gifts One Spirit." Clothing, toiletries, diapers and all the other things that kill a family budget are absolutely free. When this got started, I warned these volunteers that somebody might abuse this program. Their response was, "It's not about them, this ministry is about us responding to the love of Jesus." Ebenezer Scrooge wouldn't have the slightest idea of what to do with these folks!
I want to offer an invitation. If you feel that Christmas is nothing more than bags, boxes and business; come and see something different. If you are hungry and poor; come, taste and see the goodness of the Lord. If you think that Christmas is only one day a year; come and see that the Spirit is just getting started. If you're looking to belong; come and see you will fit right in. Humbugs are welcome; you'll come around ... eventually.