Ah yes, the Christmas Season is upon us once again! The isles are stocked with decorations to buy, fliers fill our newspapers with ‘unbeatable deals’, tents have sprout about our neighborhoods to sell this year’s Christmas trees. Ready or not- here it comes!
We all ‘know the drill’. The Grinch will try to ‘steal’ it once again; Charley Brown will be ridiculed for that ‘old’ scrawny Christmas tree; George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) will run wild down Main Street after being ‘saved’ by his Guardian Angel, Clarence (It’s a Wonderful Life). And of course, the Piece de Resistance --- to hear the timeless exploits of the three ghosts who visit that old curmudgeon - Ebenezer Scrooge, in Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol”.
While Scrooge is the main character, the one character that always stands out is the frail, helpless and sickly boy, Tiny Tim. His innocence and gentle kindness encompass all that we think of as Good in this very special season. I’ve always felt the two most powerful children in the story are also the most haunting characters. They have absolutely no lines to speak; they appear only briefly. We are introduced to them by the Ghost of Christmas Present, the spirit that shows Scrooge the true meaning of the joy, happiness and love that is experienced by others regardless of their circumstances. Upon ending his visit with Ebenezer, we find that the once larger than life spirit, with a boisterous voice and the heartiest of laughs, is now mysteriously aged and weakened. Ebenezer asks, “Ghost, will you die so soon? Is this the end?” To which he replies, “Yes. My life is very short- lived here with you. There is one last thing that I must show you”. It is now he introduces these haunting figures to Scrooge. He opens his robe and upon viewing them Scrooge is immediately taken back and sickened. Stunned by how emaciated and frail they are; their skin an ashen grey. Their clothes are soiled and torn.
Ashamed Scrooge asks, “Spirit, are these your children?” To which he coldly responds, “These are humanity’s children. They cling to me, appealing for their fathers. The boy is ‘Ignorance’ the girl is ‘Want’. Beware them both and all their degree. But most of all, beware the boy, because on his brow I see that written is ‘Doom’, unless the writing be erased.” Scrooge asks if these grotesque children have “no refuge, no resource” and the Spirit retorts with utter contempt Ebenezer’s own words, “Are there no prisons, no workhouses?”
We always want to remember the happy ending, with Scrooge now a changed man. In his heart he carries the spirit of Christmas all the year through. And young Tiny Tim has grown to be big and healthy. But the ending for those two haunting children is not so simply written off by Dickens. I believe he purposely left that ‘open’ for us to revisit over and over again. It has been nearly 170 years since Dickens endeared us with this heartwarming tale, and still the warning the Ghost of Christmas Present gave to us persists.
Almost forgotten amongst all the chaos of this time of year is the very reason we celebrate this season. It can’t be purchased in any department store, or found in any written works or movie shows. This Blessed Season is because of the birth of a baby boy, born not to aristocracy or power, but in the most humble circumstances. Two thousand years ago a child name Jesus, was born to a young impoverished peasant girl, married to a young carpenter boy. When it came time for the child to be born, no rooms were available to give them shelter so the birth took place in a stable where animals were kept. He came to empower us with the gifts of HOPE and LOVE. A pair of millennium later we obviously still haven’t mastered the use of those gifts. We continue the struggle to perfect them, to even understand them.
Back in the 13th Century St. Francis of Assisi gave us this prayer to help with these struggles:
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
Let us remember in these tough and troubled times that there are others who are worse off than we are. The gift of love of family and friends is the greatest and most enduring of all. Never give up on these. A child born into obscurity over 2000 years ago, still plants the seed of FAITH in all of us to this very day.
A Very Merry and Blessed Christmas Season to all!!