“Of course it is trouble, it wouldn’t be Christmas if it were not a lot of trouble.” Garrison Keillor
“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” Ebenezer Scrooge
I love Christmas. It is by far my favorite holiday. So, since I was in London before Christmas last year I made a point of visiting the Charles Dickens museum. It is housed in one of his family homes in London. It was nicely decorated for Christmas. And I could almost conjure the spirit of the man who had given us so many wonderful books and A Christmas Carol. It may be surprising but A Christmas Carol was written in rather challenging and troubling times for Charles Dickens. Dickens had published many books by 1843 but at the time his popularity seemed to be waning. If he couldn’t sell his books he could never maintain his family of four, soon to be five, in the way they had enjoyed. Also, by mid-19th century England was in the midst of a social transformation because of the Industrial Revolution. The difference between rich and poor was ever growing. And yet it seemed to Dickens that there was very little concern for the plight of the poor. This troubled Dickens very much. He was particularly aware of the suffering of the children. Poor and orphaned children were often put to work at an early age because they did not have to be paid much. Dickens was so distraught about it that he visited the mines in Cornwall where many children worked. He also visited poorer parts of London where children were put to work in factories. So incensed was he that he put to writing a protest pamphlet about the conditions of the poor in London. But in the midst of writing it he had a different idea. What was needed was a change of heart among those taking advantage. He decided to write a story about the careless greed he saw all around him. He used his favorite holiday for the setting.
That is the essence of Christmas for me. Many people bemoan the business of the season and all the burdens that go with it. However, it seems to me that on some level this is what we are called to. It does not take much reading of this world to realize that these are troubled times. It is hard to not be persuaded by the many voices that proclaim the end. The truth is that the world is always been so troubled. In the face of all this God gives us a sweet little story about the perseverance of faith, the eternal nature of love, and unending hope. And God says it is enough if we respond in love, hope and faith. It may not seem like much and it is not unless we respond. Christmas can be a gaudy overproduction or it can be the sweetest of commitments to make this life worth living. So I go to great trouble to make and celebrate Christmas but it can’t end there. As Scrooge says in the end it is a matter of living up to the message of Christmas all the year long. Dickens knew that our very lives can be transformed by love and hope and faith and so we must be so changed and so transform this troubled world around us. Merry Christmas!
Tim Ives is a therapist who has a special interest in teens and families. His office is in Bedford Hills. He is also a Presbyterian Minister at Scarborough Presbyterian Church. He is married and has two young adult children.