My favourite Christmas movie has to be The Muppet Christmas Carol. The Muppets have been a firm favourite since childhood and their usual combination of mayhem, magic and mirth runs through their depiction of this Dickens classic. The final scenes show the real transformation that has taken place in Scrooge, and though looking outwardly sinister he was now able to show warm-hearted generosity to Tiny Tim and his family.
Over the course of one night, Scrooge’s life was completely changed. Seeing the truth of Christmas past, present and future brought home to him what was really important and what things were actually robbing himself and others of joy. It took a dramatic visitation for Scrooge to stop and take stock of his life. It is so easy for what is right in front of us to completely pass us by.
You may have heard the story of Joshua Bell, one January morning he emerged from a subway train and positioned himself against a wall of the busy station. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swivelled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play. It was the middle of the morning rush hour and in the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work in Washington.
What the passers-by didn’t realise was that this was a onetime child prodigy, who now at 39 Joshua Bell has arrived as an internationally acclaimed virtuoso. Three days before he appeared at the Metro station, Bell had filled the house at Boston's stately Symphony Hall, where merely pretty good seats went for $100. He played the same violin at both events, a Stradivarius estimated to be worth $3.5 million. But on that Friday in January, Joshua Bell was just another busker, competing for the attention of busy people on their way to work. In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run - for a total of just over $32. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.
These two stories help us to engage with the Christmas message. The story of The Muppet Christmas Carol shows us that we need to allow our hearts to make the right response. We can be distracted by the busyness, by money, by getting caught up in much activity, but lose sight of what is most important. The story of Joshua Bell helps us to see that we shouldn’t miss what is hidden in plain sight. In the run up to Christmas we are surrounded by imagery – angels on cards, stars on the tree, lights on houses & gifts being given. All of these things point to incredible parts of the Christmas story, but we can so easily miss or forget the truth that they are pointing to. A saviour is born, the light of the world is here, the greatest gift anyone could receive is given.
We would love to see you at one of our Gateway Christmas events this year. Our Family Carol Service is on Sunday 18 December at 5pm (129 Alder Rd), our Carols By Candlelight is on Christmas Eve at 9pm (502 Ashley Rd) and our Christmas Day Service is at 10am (129 Alder Rd). More info on our events page.