Jesus said, “A certain man had two sons. The younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’ Then the father divided his estate between them. Soon afterward, the younger son gathered everything together and took a trip to a land far away. There, he wasted his wealth through extravagant living.
“When he had used up his resources, a severe food shortage arose in that country and he began to be in need. He hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He longed to eat his fill from what the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, but I’m starving to death! I will get up and go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands.” ’ So he got up and went to his father.
“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him. Then his son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly, bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Fetch the fattened calf and slaughter it. We must celebrate with feastingbecause this son of mine was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field. Coming in from the field, he approached the house and heard music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what was going on.The servant replied, ‘Your brother has arrived, and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he received his son back safe and sound.’ Then the older son was furious and didn’t want to enter in, but his father came out and begged him. He answered his father, ‘Look, I’ve served you all these years, and I never disobeyed your instruction. Yet you’ve never given me as much as a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours returned, after gobbling up your estate on prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’ Then his father said, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.’”
“Scrooge became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world . . . and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”
On Christmas Eve, another Christmas classic will help shed light on our understanding of the real meaning of the Christmas story as we explore the idea of grace. As watch Ebeneezer Scrooge rail against all things that speak of love and generosity — friends, family, and community sharing during the Christmas season — only to be shaken to his core through the visitations of three ghosts, we see him “hit bottom,” as they say. When he awakes, what he experiences is grace: he has been given the gift of another day, another chance to live again, this time with a different spirit of giving as he recognizes the grace that has been given to him. In much the same way as the Prodigal Son of Jesus’ parable discovers the life-giving grace of his father, Scrooge experiences new life through the witness of the kindness and integrity of the small and frail Tiny Tim. Because no one has ever seen God, Jesus describes what God looks like the father longing and looking for his son to return; then running to meet him.
Our gracious and loving God, for you to dwell among us is all about Grace. As we explore the idea of what You look like as You live and move in this world, please help us to see Your image reflected in those who offer a life-giving grace to others — and in those who receive life-giving graces from You. Amen.