I did something that I have never done before this Christmas: I read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
I enjoyed it very much and had fun reading it aloud to my children. They were especially interested that so much of the dialogue in the latest animated film (starring Jim Carey) is word-for-word from the book.
There is one short conversation, however, that occurs between Scrooge and the second spirit that I have not noticed in any of the movies. The Ghost of Christmas Present and Scrooge are observing all the activities of Christmas Day when they have this exchange:
“But soon the steeples called good people all to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the street in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores of by-streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the bakers’ shops. The sight of these poor revelers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood, with Scrooge beside him, in the baker’s doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humor was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was!In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up, and yet there was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners, and the progress of their cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each baker’s oven, where the pavement smoked as if its stones were cooking too.
‘Is there a peculiar flavor in what you sprinkle from your torch?’ asked Scrooge.
‘There is. My own.’
‘Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day?’ asked Scrooge.
‘To any kindly given. To a poor one most.’
‘Why to a poor one most?’ asked Scrooge.
‘Because it needs it most.’
‘Spirit,’ said Scrooge, after a moment’s thought, ‘I wonder you, of all the beings in the many worlds about us, should desire to cramp these people’s opportunities of innocent enjoyment.’
‘I!’ cried the Spirit.
‘You would deprive them of their means of dining every seventh day, often the only day on which they can be said to dine at all,’ said Scrooge, ‘wouldn’t you?’
“I seek!” exclaimed the Spirit.
‘Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in that of your family,’ said Scrooge.
‘There are some upon this earth of yours,’ returned the Spirit, ‘who claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill will, and hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us, and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.’
Scrooge promised that he would and they went on, invisible, as they had been before, into the suburbs of the town.”
Scrooge’s question made me think of the Pharisees’ persecuting Jesus whenever he healed on the Sabbath. Now, I know that Christians do not observe the Sabbath in the traditional Jewish sense. But Americans have adopted a five-day work-week/two-day rest/play weekend. And American Christians treat Sundays in a similar way that Jewish people treat Sabbath.
I really like this set-up. But lately I’ve been wondering if it’s godly. I started wondering why I consider Sunday my “off” day. (After all, JESUS is my Sabbath. It’s not a day of the week.) Why do I think outreach and community service are reserved for Monday through Saturday? Why do I plan my Sunday afternoons around nap time? Why such an adherence to the tradition?
My thinking about Sunday morning is changing. My church is floating an idea that will move us out of our pews and into the community on Sunday mornings. Our Sunday mornings would be filled with ______________ (there are numerous ideas for missions and ministry opportunities that (as far as I know) no other church is doing) while our Sunday afternoons and evenings will be times for worship, teaching, and a fellowship meal. Sunday mornings are WIDE OPEN for ministering in the community.
I am really beginning to like the idea.
1. Sunday mornings are already reserved for church; nothing else is scheduled. Therefore, all of the excuses for not being involved in ministry/missions are gone.
2. I like the idea that all of our members would be out-and-about on Sunday mornings and that we would come together in the evenings to share what we did in order to encourage one another. I don’t know about you, but I need more Hebrews 10:24-25 action in my life.
3. The people we meet in the morning would be more likely to come to our meeting that same evening.
4. We could serve a meal to those in need on Sunday (something that isn’t being done because most Christians are busy at church on Sundays).
5. The possibilities for college ministry are huge because most college students prefer sleeping-in on Sunday mornings but would be more likely to regularly attend in the evenings.
There a many other good reasons, but those are my top five. What do you think?