You know, just recently, I saw a man driving a white pick-up truck in my neighborhood and on top of the car was a gigantic unexpected pink pig, all dressed up in a Santa suit with sparkling lights throughout! I was so amused, it was so funny; I had to yell at the driver, “Merry Christmas to you and your very funny pink pig!” It was a glorious, beautiful display of good cheer. I came home and found this story in my research about goodwill and cheer and the real meaning of what we grew up with Christmas and Faith in God…
‘A Christmas Carol,’ by Charles Dickens, has at least a few lessons for us today:
Christmas has a real meaning.
Christmas is not just a time for gorging ourselves on a Christmas goose or dare I say pig, and enjoying Christmas music. And even the exchanging of presents only indicates an even deeper exchange: a spiritual exchange, and exchange between hearts and minds. Everything you see at Christmas time, everything you hear, smell, taste or touch, are ultimately a symbol of a deeper spiritual reality of self-sacrifice, love and courageous service to others.
Scrooge withdrew from the formal customs of Christmas: those that suggest generosity of spirit to us all, such as helping his employee Bob Cratchit to have a bit of leeway at this difficult time. (Although at one point, he lets slip to one of the Christmas spooks that he has gorged himself quite nicely on food, and so now, he must be dreaming! So, perhaps he is a little selective, like we all are).
Anyway, in turning away from the formalities of Christmas, Scrooge turned away from the deeper meaning too. So, Let us not be contemptuous of the old rituals and etiquette that can often seem stale, hackneyed and tiresome. When we finally open our hearts to the true spirit of Christmas generosity, then the dry bones of Ezekiel can truly become flesh for us once again!
Even though Christmas is over, it still has a meaning for all of us.
A Christmas Carol reminds us that not everyone is having a celebrated and festive season. Some of us have recently lost a loved one, or have suffered a serious loss of a job, home, or a tragic life event. Others have older wounds that still exacerbate our life and cause each pain. Some are traumatized veterans, homeless, and some are ill. Scrooge’s comfortable office is like a paradise of milk and honey, where no earthly pleasure is denied him; while meanwhile, those who are in despair and without hope, who the Bible (however paradoxically) affirms as ‘blessed,’ stagger about in the snow and the howling winds, or shiver in a garret, or sit despairingly around the deathbed of their beloved ones.
Dickens is well known for being a great critic of Christian hypocrisy, and in his will, he warned his children to hew closely to the spirit of the New Testament, but to avoid placing superstitious trust in any one potentially misguided cleric. But in his warnings against superstition and hypocrisy, Dickens is most certainly going any further than the humble carpenter of Galilee, who also railed against those whose concern was too selective, and who often forgot these solemn words: ‘The one who mocks the poor insults their maker.’ Scrooge’s attitude towards the most disadvantaged and underprivileged in our society may seem extravagant and flamboyant: perhaps, then, we put him at a distance… do we not?
However, I am firmly convinced we ought not to. This year, let us all be sure to examine our hearts.
Christmas has a meaning that is not hostile to the whims of fashion, nor the tides of history.
God could have given up on Scrooge, just as so many of us would be tempted to do, if we knew such a person in our lives. Nevertheless, like the disobedient son who told his father ‘I will not labor in the vineyard,’ so also the final end of Scrooge was better than the beginning. This is true of our individual lives, but it is also true of our country. Many people criticize the faults of our country, including the old legacy of slavery, or the previous disenfranchisement of women. It is perfectly possible to make constructive and legitimate criticisms, and many indeed have done so: there is a whole gallery of great figures who have fulfilled the prophetic vocation of denouncing those who say ‘Peace, when there is no peace.’ Therefore, another fundamental message from a Christmas Carol is the beauty of repentance and renewal, which comes around every Christmas time again, as God reminds us that he has not give up on us as individuals, nor as a country.
On the other hand, as Dickens himself says: Scrooge finally was in a position to “know to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”
May that be truly said of us, and all of us? And so, as Tiny Tim observed, “God bless Us, Every One.’”