The Revd Margaret Legg
Glory is one of those golden threads in our faith, running through the Christmas story, through scripture and through our service. Remember the angels’ song of joy to the shepherds, ‘Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth’? It is picked up in the Gloria which we sang earlier, after the Confession and Absolution: a joyful response to God’s forgiveness; our next carol ‘Angels from the realms of glory’ majors in it (watch out for the refrain) and we heard in today’s Gospel that in Jesus ‘we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son’, but, ‘the world knew him not.’ Certainly Scrooge knew him not!
Encouraged by the Administrator, I watched the film A Christmas Carol over Christmas. The 1951 black and white version starring Alistair Simms and a more recent musical version. There is not a shred of Christmas glory in his way of life, which is dreary, ugly, closed in on himself and his own narrow concerns.
Bah Humbug! is Scrooge’s response to Christmas greetings; those in want should go to the workhouse; if they would rather die than do that – well, they had better die and decrease the surplus population! The world, personified by Herod and Scrooge, tends to understand glory in a skewed and limited way. In Possessions –indeed its first appearance in scripture is as the Hebrew word Kabod – weight – and hence a man’s riches. Ps 49 v16-17 refers to one’s riches as one’s glory.
Scrooge was very rich. Indeed he was obsessed with possessing money. The Ghost ofChristmas Past showed him the scene where his fiancé released him from their engagement because as she put it, he had found another lady to replace her – lady money. Of course we need money and possessions, but not to the extent that they possess us!
Kabod’s meaning developed to encompass one’s soul, Ps 16.9, the inward spirit of a man, his true weight or worth. Scrooge, whose soul gloried in its power over others, brought death and despair to his neighbourhood. Going home on Christmas Eve, he called in his debts. Among many, he threatened to confiscate the goods and stall of the 2 ladies who ran the hand knitted goods stall unless they paid up. A further week’s credit cost them 12 shillings (a week’s takings) and he relieved them of a new pair of socks into the bargain! He glories in himself, in his power over others, in his riches. His self glory is what counts.
Scrooge’s real worth is revealed when the Ghost of Christmas Future takes him to his front door. All his debtors are celebrating. Tom the hot soup man (he owes me £6 exclaims Scrooge) speaks of ‘the rare and beautiful thing Scrooge has just done for us!’). He tears up Scrooge’s debtors’ book. Scrooge looks pleased as Punch. He doesn’t see behind him as his coffin is carried out the house and laid on the hearse.
God’s glory is so much more than this. It is boundless, pouring out and infusing not only the heavenly realms but earth too – the whole of creation, in which God’s glory shines intensely. The Prophet Isaiah (Ch. 6) had a vision of this: 6 winged seraphs, in the presence of God in his temple responded with in awe saying: ‘Holy holy holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory’. We know it as the Sanctus and when we sing it during the Eucharistic Prayer we bow our heads in acknowledgement of the weight and reverence of the divine glory. So glory is a word to which we come with a degree of solemnity and reverence.
My only prize at school was a book of Gerard Manley Hopkins poetry.Pied Beauty begins ‘glory be to God for dappled things’ It ends: ‘All things praise him.’
Glory gives beauty and rhythm and life to the whole of creation.
How can we reveal glory in our lives? John in his Gospel shows us by describing 7 signs of glory which Jesus gave during his ministry. They are life giving and life changing. The first sign at the Wedding in Cana is when Jesus rescues the wedding feast from the brink of disaster when the wine runs out; he goes on to heal, to feed 5000 hungry people, to show his mastery over the wind and the waves, to raise Lazarus from the dead. He brings hope, health and help and all this culminates in what John calls Jesus’ hour of glory, when he glorifies God in his crucifixion, the Saviour who brings life to all of us.
Scrooge died too – he died to his past and found a new self in a new way of life. A way marked by practical generosity, compassion and good humour. His saviour was the Ghost of Christmas Present, who gave him copious quantities to drink of a delectable aphrodisiac called ‘the milk of human kindness’. Scrooge couldn’t get enough of it! He was transformed! He terrified his housekeeper by sliding down the banisters before giving her a pay rise! Then he dances jigs through the streets, letting the hot soup man off his £6 debt – indeed he erases all his debtors debts; and he astounds his clerk Bob Cratchet by doubling his wages and sending him out to buy a skuttle full of coal to warm up the office. This is no flash in the pan. Scrooge has discovered the peace and joy that can come from generosity, kindness and good humour. Now I’m not suggesting we dance jigs in the street but we can each do our bit to bring help and hope and health to our friends, neighbours and communities. So offer to carry someone’s shopping (my turkey), make that cup of tea and Steve, a Christmas bonus is always a good thing!!