This is a topic of discussion for a bible study session this coming Sunday, inspired by Matt Rawle’s book: The Redemption of Scrooge. It is a fascinating book that looks at Charles Dickens’ Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge (in A Christmas Carol) in our contemporary world. Ebenezer Scrooge finds a lot of relevance during any Christmas season today, as he did in the nineteenth century.
It is generally acknowledged that though this is a joyous season – or ought to be – sadly, for many, it is like Mr. Scrooge’s famous scoff: “Bah! Humbug!”. Nevertheless, in Charles Dickens’ novel Mr. Scrooge is ultimately redeemed. Everyone, therefore, like Ebenezer Scrooge, can find redemption in this season.
And, of course, the question is how.
I would suggest that instead of examining, “how our hopes and fears shape our future” make it personal: “how do my hopes and fears shape my future?”. For everyone of us lives in a world whose reality is, to a very large extent, the product of our individual mindset and worldview, especially when that worldview carries the values and traditions of our particular society.
Ask yourself, as we will ask ourselves in our bible study, how does your faith relate to your hopes and fears? Can you identify three hopes and three fears you have during this season? Again, Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge did find redemption in the end. What does it mean for you to be redeemed? Especially, what are you being redeemed from and how?
The connection between the present mindset and the future is a topic I would like to continue to explore even after the Christmas season. It is important that we cultivate that mindset which gives joy and peace which are the purpose of our creation and at the heart of the Christmas story.
Phillips Brooks (1835 – 1893) was a famous Episcopal clergyman who became bishop of Massachusetts and is particularly known for his sermons and the lyrics of the Christmas hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. In one of his prayers, he prays, “open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see good in all things”.
There is something very powerful here, that we often miss: We can find something good in every situation, every circumstance and every moment of life. Tragically, most of the time we are overwhelmed by what we see as wrong. We have become focused on things being bad. Some years ago, a co-worker remarked that he had trained himself to not expect anything good so that when the “bad” arrived he would not be disappointed. You probably know already that he never was disappointed because what we expect always arrives.
We don’t see the good in anything because we live focused on the five senses – we rely exclusively on the sense of sight – at least in the external world. That is why Bishop Brooks’ prayer is so powerful because it is only when we turn into the soul that we are able to see the “good in all things”.
We need that especially in this season which can often be a source of misery for many.
Imagine for a moment the three astronauts – actually two, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin – that moment – on July 20, 1969 when, for the first time in human history, they set foot on another world. It was, physically, stepping outside of their (and our) environment and looking back at the world that has “forever” been home.
It is the same with self-awareness, except that it is not physical. For self-awareness is our ability or capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, emotions, scripts, motives, history, habits and mindset. If we could do that – and we ought to do that every moment – then we would see who we really are.
Stepping outside of our self is the first step into discovering and becoming who we really are. When that happens, and as St. Catherine of Siena (1347 – 1380) said, “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire”. Is it joy and peace you cherish? Then be who God created you to be.