Growing up, my dad took myself and my brother to the Library over in Dolphin’s Barn. I borrowed books there by Enid Blyton (the Famous Five) and I read some of Charles Dickens books. My mother was and still is an avid reader and she has always a novel or two on the go. I enjoyed some of Dickens books as a kid but now that I’m a bit older, I see the genius he was and how well he described the times he lived in. In many of his books for example like David Copperfield, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, and Hard Times, Dickens describes a bleak, dark, and harsh world of the mid-Victorian era. His more famous book Oliver Twist is very descriptive of the huge deprivation and the difference between the rich and the poor.
At this time of year, we become familiar with one of Charles Dickens best known characters; Ebenezer Scrooge. Everyone knows who Scrooge is and his name is synonymous with meanness and grumpiness. He is the original grinch.
Scrooge is the main character in Dicken’s book; A Christmas Carol. We meet him on a cold and miserable Christmas eve in London, seven years after the death of Scrooge’s business partner Jacob Marley. Scrooge, an aging miser hates Christmas and doesn’t see any point in it. He refuses an invitation to dinner by his nephew Fred, who seems to succeed in seeing the good in everyone. His clerk, Bob Cratchit manages to get the day off from Scrooge to celebrate Christmas with his family. Scrooge thinks its all ‘Humbug.’
That night, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley who in his misery entwined in heavy chains and money boxes, who tells him to expect a visit from three other spirits.
The first ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge on a visit to his lonely boyhood at boarding school where we also see how much he missed his beloved sister, Fan. Later we see how he walks away from his relationship with his fiancée Belle because he loves money more than her. He sees her happy with her new family which upsets him
The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to encounters with happy people buying the makings of Christmas dinner at the market. He also sees his nephew Fred’s happy family Christmas party where he is absent. He then sees Bob Cratchit and his family eating their frugal Christmas dinner and we are introduced to Tiny Tim, Cratchit’s youngest son, who is happy even though he is dangerously ill. The Ghost informs Scrooge that Tim will die unless the course of events changes.
The third Ghost, the Ghost of Christmas yet to come shows Scrooge a Christmas Day in the future. It describes the death of a disliked business man whose funeral is attended by people so long as dinner is laid on. His charwoman, the laundress, and the local undertaker, steal his possessions to sell to a fence, a robber. It seems no one likes him except a couple who are grateful he is dead so as to put their finances in order. Is there any tenderness connected with death? The spirit then shows Scrooge the Cratchit family mourning the death of Tiny Tim. The ghost then allows Scrooge to see a neglected grave, and the tombstone bearing Scrooge’s name. Scrooge promises to change his ways.
Eventually, we see Scrooge wake up on Christmas morning a new man. He makes a large cash donation to a charity he snubbed the day before. He sends the biggest turkey in the butcher’s shop to the Cratchit family and goes to dinner and ends up dancing with his nephew Fred’s family. He gives Bob Cratchit an increase in pay and becomes a father figure to Tiny Tim. In the end Tim utters the immortal words; “God bless us, everyone!”
At the end of Dicken’s novel; A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge embodies the spirit of Christmas and as a changed man, he enjoys the freedom that kindness and charity brings and it is the beginning of a new and happy life. He was locked into misery with every pound and shilling he counted and thus locked out everyone in the process. He was in a prison of his own making.
Christmas time is all about generosity and reaching out and most people make great efforts to make a difference to the lives of their friends and families. It begins earlier each year and perhaps that means that earlier people think of what they might begin to get for a loved one. Can we not but be constantly inspired by the goodness of others all year round but especially at this time of year when we hear of the amount of people, especially people wanting to help others? The local conference of the SVP were delighted with the response to their church collections in December. I the Capuchin Day Centre have been once again inundated with generous gifts and support there means the life line can continue on. Pope Francis referred to this when he made his historic visit there in August.
Jesus is born in Bethlehem. With no place available to stay, he comes into the world in a shed at the back of an Inn with animals and swaddling clothes to keep him warm. He is laid in manger where Shepherds are the first to come and worship. Christmas is meant for all but especially for those who feel there is no room for them. The beauty of the Christmas spirit is how people try to make room for others so that there is a place at the table, and where no one will be left out.
The place at the front of the crib is meant for me and you. Everyone can be confident of a welcome at there and the baby Jesus waits for us with no agenda except to open his arms to us all. Jesus counts on us to open our arms to one another, even when this may seem difficult and even if it takes us a few attempts. Pope Francis invites us to be ‘infected with the joy of Christ’s birth’ This true joy of Christmas which spills over into the whole year and for our whole lives is a spirit of kindness and that which asks us to see what we have in common first. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi; Let us begin again…