Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has been a favorite of mine for years. I remember reading the book for the first time as a kid, and then having Scrooge come to life on screen when I saw George C. Scott play the role in the 1984 adaptation. Each December, I watch The Muppet Christmas Carol and delight in Michael Caine’s performance as the self-centered and miserly protagonist who, by the end of the movie, has donned a bright red scarf and is singing in the streets as he freely gives to those around him.
As an adult I appreciate Scrooge’s experiences more: his desire to accumulate wealth separates him from the woman he loves, his family, and eventually all of humankind. He doesn’t see that he should have any part in helping those less fortunate, telling the gentlemen who visit him that the poor can go to the workhouses and that the men can leave him alone.
I imagine most of us have an inner Scrooge, a voice that responds, “Humbug!” at times, and an inclination to hoard what God has entrusted to us. If you were visited by the Ghosts of Christmases Past and Present, what would you see? Are there any Scrooge-ish qualities you’d like to change?
For me, it’s how I give of time, talent, and treasure in ways that are comfortable, safe, and nonthreatening. So while I can rationalize and think, “I’m not like Scrooge; I am giving,”, I hear my inner “Humbug!” coming out when I have opportunities to serve in different ways, especially in ways that put me in proximity to people who are very different from me or who have different beliefs.
In 2 Corinthians Chapter 9, Paul writes, “Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others.” We’re called to give to everyone; we shouldn’t decide who we help or attach strings to a gift.
In our recent Steward Sparks bible study, Rev. Beth Rohn-Habhegger spoke of the tension we sometimes experience when we consider making a gift, as we know people could take advantage of our generosity. Beth invited us to consider whether it would be better to err on the side of grace and possibly be taken advantage of, than to not give.
Through his time with the spirits, Scrooge sees that his focus on himself and his wealth is unfulfilling and harmful, not only to him, but to those around him. He realizes how his years of underpaying and treating Bob Cratchit poorly impacts Bob’s family, especially his son. And Scrooge begins to realize what we all know as God’s stewards: that we were created to give generously and faithfully, and to enrich the lives of others, not ourselves.
At the end of A Christmas Carol, Dickens tells us that ever after, it was said of Scrooge “that he knew how to keep Christmas well.” This doesn’t just mean giving every December; it means LIVING differently. It means having our eyes, ears, and hearts open to those around us and how we can use all God has entrusted to us to make a difference.
Tiny Tim says, “God bless us, every one.” We know we are blessed. The question is, how will we keep Christmas well and be a blessing to all others?
MMFA would love to hear how you keep Christmas well. What are some of the small (or large!) ways you are using what God has provided you to be a positive force in the world? Email Laura Watson (email@example.com) to share!