May the God of hope fill you with all joy (Romans 15:13).
As a younger man, Charles Dickens had known poverty. Therefore, he understood the degrading, hopeless conditions so many in Victorian England endured. He set about to do something, to make a difference, to draw attention to the deplorable conditions of the working poor.
In 1843, Dickens considered writing a pamphlet that would educate the public. Instead, he became increasingly convinced that a fictional novella could be more powerful and reach more people than the non-fiction of a pamphlet. During six weeks in the fall of 1843, Dickens created that novella. He named it A Christmas Carol. Some say his words in that work did more to change the hearts and minds of nineteenth century England than any other influence.
First, he describes what the season could look like. Doing so, Dickens unintentionally unites Christmas feasts, gift giving and generosity with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s revival of English Christmas traditions.
Puritan religious authorities in England had long scorned decorations, gifts and feasting. But with Dickens’ work, along with the Queen and Prince of England’s advocacy, almost overnight the warmth, color and joy of Christmas festivities returned with gusto. And there was more …
Ebenezer Scrooge focused his energy on smallish things. The central character in Dickens’ story, he was desensitized to the world around him. He had centered his life on wealth, himself and pride. But pride comes before a fall. And focus upon the unimportant results in a life where little is meaningful and much is wasted.
How sad to gain the whole world but lose your soul.
Scrooge is fortunate, however. He discovers how his life actually is. He realizes how little he has accomplished and how insignificant money can be if not connected to something larger and deeper. Meaningful relationships, heartfelt compassion and authentic generosity suddenly motivate new perspectives and exciting possibilities. He discovers, too, an emotion he no longer thought possible. Ebenezer Scrooge stumbles upon Joy.
May the same be true for you this Christmas. Moving toward the New Year, allow generosity to guide your actions. Let compassion soften your heart. Enjoy the smiles and fellowship of others. And on this day before Christmas Eve, may you rediscover the power of Joy. For in the words of Isaac Watts: Joy to the world, the Lord is come.