Every Christmas, we enjoy two or three versions of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Whether it’s Albert Finney, Patrick Stewart, Bill Murray, Jim Carrey, or the local community theater actor who performs it every year, it doesn’t seem to matter. It’s always an inspiring story of transformation wrought by visitations of the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future—a transformation I think we all desire in some form in our lives. At one point Scrooge wants to know why all three ghosts can’t visit him all at once and get it over with. I would gladly take them one at a time if I could experience as thorough of a transformation as Ebenezer makes in one night. I wish it were that easy.
Realistically, our transformations are much more gradual. We need to learn to be more patient with the process.
The hardest part of change for me is the fact that I have to do it. I would much rather have it happen to me — to wake up, as Scrooge did, and find myself changed.
If you don’t mind my sticking with the story, I think I might be able to solve my own problem. In the story, Scrooge gained a new vision of himself—a new idea of who he could be, and, indeed, wanted to be, and it was this that moved him to action. Giving to the poor, buying his clerk a goose and raising his salary, attending his nephew’s Christmas feast, and seeing to it that Tiny Tim got the treatment he needed — Scrooge did all this and more, but these new behaviors sprang from a changed heart and a new idea about himself that compelled him to make them happen. He had a second chance at life – a chance to do it right this time – to make amends for his stingy, miserly, selfish self. He had a new vision for himself as a generous, happy, engaging contributor to the life around him.
You and I need to find out what, in the name of Christ, is big enough to move us forward and overcome our own barriers to change. It may be our spiritual gift; it may be forgiveness; it may be our new identity in Christ, it may be a missionary call… whatever it is, real transformation isn’t going to happen until we are in its grip. For Christ, it was “the joy set before him” that compelled him to endure the cross and its shame (Hebrews 12:2).
The New Year waits before us as a blank page – our own tabula rasa. What will you set before you that will compel you to change and act on that change?