So yes, it has been eons since we last blogged, and I owe you plenty of updates on our Prozac Puppy, our beautiful vacation to Nova Scotia and Maine, and Thanksgiving splendor to say the least. However, I wrote this earlier for my church's December newsletter, as a follow-up to our beautiful Charles Dickens Christmas party last weekend and thought you might enjoy.
In the 1600’s, Christmas was antiquated, controversial, and unpopular. Believed by the Pagans to be a Christian holiday, the Puritans, a Catholic holiday, and to the Catholics, a Pagan holiday, Christmas was poorly and parochially celebrated, if honored at all. In 1647, England’s Puritan leaders banned Christmas, and the Church of Scotland, Puritans of New England, and the entire city of Boston followed suit. Following the American Revolution, Americans as a whole disapproved of the celebration believing it an English custom, and the pattern continued.
By the time the early 19th century rolled around, Christmas was dead, as dead as a door-nail; there is no doubt whatever about that. Writers in the 1820’s began acknowledging that though the religious battles had waned, and sectarian tension nearly evaporated, the controversies had left a scar on the holiday, and they took it upon themselves to revive the spirit of Christmas - what they believed was a heartfelt and beautiful tradition of their ancestors - and a young author, Charles Dickens eagerly accepted the challenge.
Charles Dickens could only imagine what Christmas was like before the 17th century, which allowed him to shape the holiday, emphasizing goodwill, family and compassion. In 1843, he wrote A Christmas Carol, in an attempt to revitalize the holiday; and as it was accepted with instant popularity, Christmas as we know it was born. The novel is credited with associating Christmas with the following: family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, festive merriment, generosity, Christmas caroling, and the phrase ‘Merry Christmas.’
Since the time of Dickens, Christmas has amplified in popularity, and it has truly become a time to celebrate and give to our loved ones as well as those in need. It is a time for compassion, and a time to remember the many beautiful things in life, especially He “who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.” As Dickens’ story demonstrates, it is a time for reflection, repentance and recognition that our lives can touch and impact others both for good and for bad and it is up to us to make the correct choice.
The tale of Scrooge, an old miser, and a stranger to the spirit of Christmas can be seen to represent society as a whole. Reluctant for various reasons to embrace the season, and blinded by his own Ignorance and Want, Scrooge condemns the holiday, a clear metaphor for society in the 17thand 18th centuries. Yet, when Scrooge’s eyes are opened by the spirits of Christmas he welcomes the season with a softened heart, impacting the lives of so many around him, and for over a century, society too has welcomed Christmas with joy. Unfortunately, though still associated with generosity, family gatherings and merriment, Christmas is changing, and the patterns that lead to the rise of “Scrooge” are repeating.
Somehow, Christmas is once again falling prey to sectarian controversies. Schools are banning carols; parties are now labeled celebrations of the solstice; the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ has been replaced by the politically correct ‘Happy Holidays;’ and equally as many people believe the holiday is too religious to be celebrated as those who believe it is abhorrently not-religious enough. The awkward battle over Christmas has resulted in a ghastly exploitation of the holiday by various commercial industries, who view the season with Scrooge-like tendencies of economic gain, and neighbors tip-toeing around with pursed lips, wondering if a plate of seasonal cookies, a beautiful carol or well-wishing card, or a compassioned phrase of goodwill and Christmas cheer will offend those they wish it upon.
This is a sad cycle that only we as individuals have the power to prevent. As Ebenezer Scrooge learned, the choice is up to us to embrace the true spirit of Christmas. Be generous with your fellow men. Love one another and celebrate with joy. Reflect on the blessings that God has bestowed upon you and share them with merriment and warmth. Consider the good in the world, play and delight in the littlest things as a child on Christmas morning - wide-eyed and overflowing with the spirit of giving, eager to gift away their most treasured items. Believe that miracles do happen, and follow the example of children all over the world, filled with unwavering faith, and unbridled joy, and do not be afraid to emulate it.
Be as Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, who fearlessly invited his cold-hearted uncle every year to Christmas dinner, and bestowed upon him heartfelt wishes of compassion and merriment. Be as young Tiny Tim, who despite his infirmity and poverty, aimed to remind others of Christ’s miracles through example, and brought joy to all those around him with his uplifting and selflessness and eternal words, “God bless us, everyone.” Be as Bob Cratchit, who in gratitude, asks for a blessing on his dictatorial and inimical employer, and though destitute, brings the optimistic spirit of Christmas to his family. Finally, be as Ebenezer Scrooge, and recognize that you can change overnight and that at any time it is up to you, and only you, to love your fellow brethren, to forgive and seek forgiveness, to generously share with those in need, to be a better version of you, and to cherish the spirit of Christmas.
Merry Christmas, and may God bless us, everyone.