Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dickens' Traditions

  • Illuminated icicles dangle from our rooftop, but it has hardly snowed a flake.
  • Carolers who never ventured to our household fill our home with their yuletide melodies wafting over the airwaves. 
  • A tree never nourished by sunlight nor rainshower stands adorned with trinkets in our living room. 
Yet we welcome these artificial evolutions of Dickens’ holiday traditions, perhaps because of the genuine warmth of spirit this season brings.  The same joy that prompted hosts of angels to sing Hallelujah still radiates in our homes when we celebrate that first Christmas day.  Peter spoke to us when he wrote:

Jesus Christ:  Whom having not seen, ye love;
 . . . believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1: 7 – 8)

With each passing year, I gain a little deeper appreciation for the gift of the Savior’s life.  His gift is seen in His loving bestowal of faith, hope, and charity.  He joyfully gives inspiration so we can enjoy creations, which are especially sweet when they are produced by our own hands. His gift which I treasure for its peace is forgiveness and repentance.   Though each of these is manifested in the little things that help us through the struggles of daily life, they all witness His Divine Power and Love.
“Grinchy Claus”
The spirit of holiday giving is encapsulated in two Christmas classics. The Grinch and Scrooge are synonymous with generosity and laughter. 
I’m not kidding. 
Every year we tell their stories, starting at point A (their ugly era).  Their histories climax at point B (their transformations).  But point C is the beginning of the rest of their transformed lives. 
Of course, blissful giving is not good story-making material.  Conflict is what drives a plot so that is why their stories promptly end with barely a mention of the fruits of their transformation. 
Allow me to pick up where Dickens leaves off.  He finished A Christmas Carol with these closing paragraphs:
“A merry Christmas, Bob!'' said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. ``A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, . . . ''
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!

Dickens makes it pretty clear that Scrooge became a new man and the change in him stuck.  Dr. Seuss, however, leaves a little more to our imagination. (How like him.)  What we DO know, quoting the final lines of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!:
Well . . . in Who-ville they say
That the Grinch’s small heart
Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
And he . . .
. . . HE HIMSELF . . . !
The Grinch carved the roast beast!

The assumption is that with his expanded heart, he is changed for good.  Maybe he treats his faithful dog, Max, better.  Maybe he moves closer to town.  Maybe he becomes chief of police with a push for better home security.  Or better yet, maybe he becomes Who-ville’s saintly Santa who is only seen at Christmastime, but whose existence prompts the children’s good behavior all year long.  I’m thinking it would be easier for him to maintain his transformed heart in the latter version.  (My dad once observed something to the effect, “I’m a really nice person when I’m by myself.”)
We have enough life experience to know that the perfected point “C” is hard to maintain.  It is far too easy to slide back into ugly point A.  But this is the beauty of the Cycle of Life I posted about on August 28, 2011 (CreationàFallàRestoration—which equates to points CàAà B) .  Christ’s role in righting our position is so vital to our happiness and why we celebrate His life.
Here’s wishing you joy at whichever point (A, B, or C) you may be.