This past Sunday was the Thirds Sunday of Advent – it is the Sunday of JOY!
So this is an appropriate day to write about ‘Joy!"
The only review I had of Robert Zemeckis’ "Walt Disney’s – "A Christmas Carol" came from my great niece and philosopher Joy who exclaimed upon leaving the theatre from seeing the film – "That’s not very jolly for Christmas!" We had opportunity to see the 3D film the other night…Joy was right on the mark – the film is certainly NOT Jolly! That being said, it is a great film and the animation is tremendous. The film kisses jolly in the last 10 minutes. The book and all renderings of "A Christmas Carol" on film are much the same – the story really paints a miserable picture until the very end when Ebenezer Scrooge redeems himself. That redemption comes after a lot of horror in his sleep. If we can endure the suffering images of the ghosts of past, present, and future we find ourselves getting introduced to a jolly Scrooge.
This is the message of this 3rd Sunday of Advent and this third week of Advent. We are reminded in the reading from Zephaniah for Advent 3 that we need to take make a joyful sound of rejoicing. It is promise that all the darkness will be dispelled and that God will deliver,
Zephaniah 3:14-15 reads:
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away the judgments against you,
he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.
We all remember that in Dickens’s great tale, many people implore Ebenezer Scrooge to celebrate and make happy during the Christmas Season. He cannot. His heart is locked up in a place of fear and self loathing that has been fed with the grief of many sad days and hardships from the past. It takes extraordinary measures for Scrooge to see that he has been slave to the darkness and a prisoner to his own anger. He is a slave to his own guilt. Scrooge is locked up in a land that is indeed, ‘not very jolly.’ But when he awakes from his dark night, his mood is changed to embrace the spirit of the prophet Zephaniah. He is able to accept that the Lord has taken away all judgements against him. Fear of disaster leaves his being and he literally ‘rejoices with all his heart.’
The story of Ebenezer Scrooge is powerful because it personifies all of us in some way. While none of us would like to admit that we have anything in common with good old Eben, the truth remains that we are all slaves to our guilt, shame, fear and anger from time to time. The inescapable truth that accompanies that revelation, is that when we are trapped in that place we have turned away from God who is Love, who is Forgiveness, who is Embrace and who is Rejoicing. It is when we are there that it becomes most important that we reach past the pain that we feel to embrace the holy hope that God is with us – even when it is dark. We ‘need not fear disaster [or darkness] no more’ not because there will be no disaster or pain – on the contrary. Life is not without pain and pitfalls. No – we need not fear those dark places because as we enter into the dark corners the shadows are dispelled by the Light that travels with us – God with us Emmanuel.
Coming out of our dark nights then we might embrace rejoices and we may embrace jolly – we should take JOY seriously, both the little girl and the notion of a spirit of happiness in all things. It will allow us to respond to the world around is in a positive and life affirming way. When the people ask John the Baptizer what they should do now I preparation for the coming of the messiah, his answer is clear. If you own more than one coat – share it, more food than one needs, share it. Do not take advantage of others, in other words live with a sense of respect for the sacredness of all of those around us. Christmas is almost here. Our Advent journey is one which dares us to prepare by turning away from what makes us insecure to embrace the security of a Little Child. We are being dared to be jolly! Let’s see how we do with that!