Perhaps my favorite book of all time would have to be A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The theological connections that can be drawn from its many themes could be a class: conversion of heart, forgiveness, healing, and unconditional love to name a few. Here both the protagonist and antagonist are the same: TIME. In addition to all the wonderful traditions you have at home, I invite you this Christmas to explore a radical conversion of heart.
A Christmas Carol begins with Scrooge being whisked to memories of his past: Sights of kindled romance, financial gains, and general merriment are replaced by painful memories of relationships severed in a quest for money and prestige. He seemed pained by sights of how his happiness had dwindled. Then the Spirit of Christmas Present comes and removes the scales from his eyes. Scrooge sees Bob Cratchit’s family. Although they have hardly two pennies to rub together, they appear joyful and fulfilled to be enjoying each other’s company. They don’t have money, but they have each other’s presence, the very best gift. Tiny Tim joyfully reminds them to concentrate on all their blessings, but both parents worry about Tim’s health prognosis: If he doesn’t get the money to help with his health condition, the spirit of Christmas future bodes there will be an empty chair in his place come the next Christmas.
It is here that Ebeneezer experiences an awakening to his own blessings and ability to help. He is moved to gratitude when he realizes that the Spirits have given him this gift in remarkable time - TIME. Though Scrooge has pilfered away much of the past, he wastes no time and shows his new conversion of heart by a magnanimous gesture of generosity to the Cratchit’s. First, he bought a prize turkey for the family which weighed about 40 lbs. (I recently realized just what a big deal this was this year at Thanksgiving when a family member gifted us a 29 lb. turkey. I needed help just lifting it to the table!) Scrooge didn’t stop there. He then made sure Tiny Tim’s healthcare was funded and proceeded to freely give his money to those collecting it for the less fortunate. Lastly, he finally accepted his nephew’s yearly invite to Christmas dinner.
I recently gave my grade-school language arts students an assignment to write about their greatest (non-material) blessing. There were many great answers but the one that stopped me in my tracks and made me tear up was written by a boy who I know has many doctors’ appointments. What was this great gift? He wrote that the greatest gift that he had ever received was his broken hip because it was through that pain and suffering that he learned to rely on God the most. That really made me think about what I labeled as a blessing. Was I a person who counted my struggles as “gifts”?
A few weeks ago, one of my sons was feeling a bit low. The next day he told me he was going to go to his grandma’s house to bring her flowers. I asked him later if that made him feel better and he said that it had. He had learned the secret to beating the blues: Go out and do something for someone else. This is exactly what Scrooge began to see. It wasn’t power, prestige or money that brought him fulfillment. It was his conversion of heart in doing for others.
What is your 40 lb. turkey? What is your magnanimous gift that you can give away this Christmas to bring you closer to Christ not just at Christmas but throughout the whole year? Maybe it’s blessing someone you know who is going through a particularly difficult time financially. Or offering forgiveness to someone you had kept it from. Perhaps it’s speaking to a family member who is difficult to communicate with. By expanding what we consider blessings we allow God to work within our struggles to bring an increase in faith, hope, and charity.
What is your magnanimous gift? A Christmas Carol is a wonderful story, but in truth, we were already given the best example of magnanimous love and HE came wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Let us be thankful for this great gift and not waste TIME. For Scrooge, “it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well.” Let us do the same. And (you knew this was coming) - “God bless us, everyone!”
Maria Stewart — SFA Theologians Guild Member