On my way out the door to the airport last week I realized I needed a book to read on my plane ride to New York. I quickly glanced on my shelf and Charles Dicken's classic A Christmas Carol caught my eye. I must have bought it several years ago when I was on a classics kick at Barnes & Noble – I purchased one almost every time I went in the store. Since it's Christmastime and my mom and I were headed to New York to enjoy all of the holiday festivities, I thought this was the perfect time to read it.
Prior to opening the book, my knowledge of the classic Christmas story was mainly what I learned from a Muppet Christmas Carol growing up and the myriad of made-for-TV movies, which air during the holidays, all giving a slightly different slant to the age-old story. I knew Scrooge, Marley, Tiny Tim and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future would all make an appearance. I knew it was about finding a deeper meaning to Christmas. I thought I knew the story well...
I learned quite a bit actually read the story firsthand. Dickens was writing the story not only as a commentary on the political climate of the Victorian era, but also on Christianity.
In the beginning of the novel, two portly gentlemen come to visit Scrooge and ask for a donation to buy food for the less fortunate in their city. Scrooge already contributed to several workhouses in the city for the poor through a corporate sponsorship of sorts and felt like his "good deeds" had been accomplished. Why did he need to give above and beyond what he already budgeted for charity gifts for the year? Why did he need to be inconvenienced with the thought of those less fortunate at a certain time of year?
I realized many times we have the same thoughts running through our head today. At what point does generosity and caring for the needs of others become a ritual where we aren't able to reach into our pockets when a need meets us right in the face because we've already done our good deed for the season? While I think it's wonderful to give intentionally to ministries throughout the year, I believe we also need to be open to specific opportunities that during this time of year when we celebrate our Savior's birth.
Now back to Scrooge: When the Ghost of Christmas Past visits him, Scrooge is soon transported back to an old schoolhouse where he sits as a young boy. Suddenly emotions come rushing back to Scrooge of loneliness, isolation and pain. He had to be brought back to place of remembering those human emotions to be transformed in the present day. He had become so hard-hearted and calloused he couldn't see the pain and hurt around him any more.
The Ghost of Christmas Present then continues with Scrooge on the path of self-discovery as he looks around at the people in his life and sees them where they really are. He sees Bob Cratchit and his family gather around their meager family dinner and celebrate with joyful hearts. Bob gives thanks for his boss. Bob was able to provide for his family because of his job, although it was difficult and did not pay well. In our culture of affluence and abundance, sometimes we forget to be thankful for the food on the table. It's important for us to be grateful for provisions in our lives. God meets our needs. He provides. And for that, we should be grateful.
At the end of the story, Scrooge experiences a transformation in the way he sees those around him. He realizes life is to be treasured and lived today. He had become so consumed with the daily grind of work and surviving he had missed out on the opportunity to love and bless those around him. He sends the largest turkey in the shop to the Cratchit family and goes to enjoy the day with his nephew and family.
As Christians, we are called to be changed by the love of Christ. We should seek to live every day to the fullest and be a blessing to those around us. My prayer this Christmas is that I will have a thankful heart and will seek to bless those around me as I reflect on the ultimate gift I received through my Savior coming down to earth to change the world forever.