“Marley was dead: to begin with. Old Marley was as dead as a door nail. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”
From A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Ebenezer Scrooge is about to begin his experience in the process of grace.
Grace is all about God taking us as we are and changing us into all He wants us to be. God never leaves us as He found us. When one enters this incredible process, change will happen. Change is guaranteed by God when we accept His plans for our lives, His authority in our lives, and His desire to make us all He created us to be. Until we draw our last breath Grace reveals nothing is impossible for God. No matter how far you think you are from God, Grace shows us God is right next to us offering us an incredible life in Him.
This is the focus of Scrooges encounter with Marley, that once the Breath of Life has returned to God, “It is finished!” Marley is used to offer redemption before it is too late. Although I do not believe in ghosts, it is Dickens chosen story line. And the time period when this story was written should be considered along with the prevailing beliefs of the era.
Scrooge leaves his office and has a meal on his way home, still irritated by the afternoons confrontations. Dickens begins to paint the picture of Scrooge’s reclamation and redemption. As Scrooge approaches his home, Marley’s face appears in the door knocker scaring Ebenezer. He responds, as is his habit, with a “Bah Humbug!” However, he scurries quickly up the stairs to the rooms he lives in, making sure everything is closed and bolted. Then, just to be sure he is alone, Scrooge checks out all his rooms. Once satisfied nothing is amiss, he prepares for bed and sits down to enjoy his gruel.
Now Scrooge’s life is about to be turned inside out and upside down, for things happen which are impossible! Disconnected bells ring creating an overwhelming noise! There is the sound of footsteps on the stairs and the sound of a dragging chain. As Scrooge cowers in his chair the bolted door bursts open. There stands Marley, his former partner! Marley was bound by a chain “…that wound about like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel.” From A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Marley engages Scrooge in conversation and as incredulous as he is, Ebenezer enters into an exchange with Marley’s ghost. Marley challenges Scrooge to believe in his presence. Scrooge declares Marley is nothing more than, “… an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There is more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”
As Scrooge does his best to prove Marley can’t and doesn’t exist, he pushes a little too far and Marley lets out a wail knocking Scrooge to the floor. At this point Scrooge acknowledges Marley’s existence! Now, Scrooge asks what Marley wants with him. He seeks to understand why Marley is fettered with the chains, why he walks abroad when he should be resting in his grave.
“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world -oh, woe is me!- and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness.”
The message Dickens is communicating addresses our attitudes to others, especially those who have less or even those we believe are getting what they deserve because of their poor choices in life. A part of God’s grace is to save us from ourselves and the attitudes which prevent us from being compassionate. It stops us from helping those who are hurting more than we are and attitudes which push us to level accusations about things we know little.
Only God really knows who they are that need us. However, if we will let Him, God will direct us to those He is helping, to those who need us to be generous in willing to make a difference! They are also those we need to be generous to make a difference in us.
It is in this exchange we are exposed to God’s desire to draw Scrooge into His process of grace, showing him there is so much more to this life than our own selfish desires. God wants us to recognize that what we often call love is really lust, the meeting of our own desires at the expense of others.
God tells us in Isaiah 55:6-9:
“Seek the Lord while He may be found;
call on Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for He will freely pardon.
For My thoughts are not are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Let the reality of God’s incredible Grace overwhelm you. Allow the truth of His Grace to have its way with you. In doing this you may have the most amazing Christmas ever!
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