Humbug or Hallelujah?

merry-christmasFew classic works better capture the spirit of the Advent season than A Christmas Carol.  I was reminded of the timelessness of Charles Dickens’ 19th century work as it has been presented in a most creative and inspiring way at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. Each time Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge character comes alive on stage, I shudder at the emptiness of a life lived in the soul-suffocating black hole of self. Yet I see in Ebenezer Scrooge disconcerting echoes of my own self-absorption, my busy blindness to the needs of others and the inevitable melancholy humbug that stalks my soul—especially during the Christmas season. Facing a busier than normal schedule, added holiday tasks and family stresses, there seems to be just too little time to wrap it all up in a neat bow of closure and completion.

In a season when the first thing I want on the tip of my tongue is a joyful hallelujah I must confess more often than not, it is a melancholy humbug. How about you? Are you facing this Advent season with a heart overflowing with a joyful hallelujah or a heart mired in a grumpy humbug? If you are feeling a bit humbuggy this Christmas season, how about carving out some time and reading slowly and reflectively through the Christmas story? You may be delightfully surprised by joy. 

As I have spent time reading the Christmas story during this Advent season, I have been struck how much joyful praise is embedded in the historical accounts surrounding the birth of Jesus. The Gospel writer Matthew describes the moment when the wise men following the star to Bethlehem “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” The Gospel writer Luke captures the heavenly visitation to a group of scruffy shepherds by the Angel of the Lord saying, “Behold I will bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all people.”  

Hearts bursting with joy is one of the most prominent hallmarks of the first Christmas, but will that be true for you this Christmas? Regardless of your present life circumstances, the lingering hurts, the aching loneliness, the stifling fear, the disappointing heartaches, or the distracting doubts, Advent is a time to experience a renewed joy in your life. True Christmas joy comes when we get our eyes off our self, put them back on Jesus and seek to serve others. If you are feeling a bit like Ebenezer Scrooge this Christmas season, take your eyes of your to do lists and bring Jesus back into the picture. My hunch is that there will be many more joyful hallelujah’s than grumpy humbugs on your tongue this Christmas.