In the opening part of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Dickens has one of the characters say to Ebenezer Scrooge:
But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that- as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!
Is that the way you view Christmas? Should we? If I don’t see Christmas that way, what is wrong with me?
This year I bought my wife a new wedding ring. After 25 years her old one had worn out and living with me for that duration warrants a significant reward. I gave it to her when it arrived from the jeweler in early December, not waiting to Christmas. Having promised my daughter an mp3 player, and delaying that purchase for about six weeks as I shopped for the best of the Scotsman’s deals, I picked one up a week before Christmas. But I didn’t wait until Christmas day to give it to her. I gave it to her that evening. My son has been saving money to buy the new Nintendo. He finally got one this week. When we were at the bank, I pulled out the money and paid for it, letting him keep his money in his account.
Last evening, as Laurel and I lay in bed, she said, “What’s with all the giving? And why not wait until Christmas? I am intrigued.” I didn’t have an answer, except to say that I see our Western Christmas traditions as being far removed from what Dickens wrote about. Rather than opening our “shut-up hearts freely” and thinking of people below us as our “fellow-passengers to the grave,” I fear that many see Christmas as a contest whereby we prove our abilities to out-do one another.
I gave Laurel the ring, Esther the mp3 player, and Tim the Nintendo because I want them to know that they are deeply loved. Not to fulfill the Christmas mandate.
So am I an Ebenezer? I hope not. But I feel that focusing my time for being “kind, forgiving, charitable,” and “pleasant” on Christmas alone blasphemes the holiday and denies the reality of such godly virtues in the soul.