Most everyone has seen or knows the story portrayed by Charles Dickens in his 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol. Dickens describes Scrooge as “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint…secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.”
Despite having considerable personal wealth, he underpays his clerk Bob Cratchit and hounds his debtors relentlessly while living cheaply and joylessly in the chambers of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. Most of all, he detests Christmas which he associates with reckless spending.
When two men approach him on Christmas Eve for a donation to charity, he sneers that the poor should avail themselves of the treadmill or the workhouses or else die to reduce the surplus population. He also refuses his nephew Fred’s invitation to Christmas dinner and denounces him as a fool for celebrating Christmas.
That night, Scrooge is visited by Marley’s ghost who is condemned to walk the world forever bound in chains as punishment for his greed and inhumanity in life. Marley tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits hoping that he will mend his ways; if he does not, Marley warns, Scrooge will wear even heavier chains than his in the afterlife.
The tale of his redemption by three spirits―the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come―has become known as the embodiment of the Christmas spirit.
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Christmas is all about miracles. The story of Scrooge is one of the many miracles at this time of year.
In Search of a Miracle
Anna Karenina is a brilliant study of humanity. It’s also the story of a miracle.
Many writers consider Anna Karenina the greatest work of literature ever. Aside from being a novel about betrayal, faith, family, and marriage, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is also a story about one man’s search for meaning in a complicated world.
Konstantin Levin, the story’s second main character, spends a large portion of the novel trying to figure out how his wife Kitty could believe in a higher power he’s never seen any signs of.
One day, he is listening to a peasant talk about two landowners—a stingy one and a generous one—and asked the peasant, Fyodor, how it could be that these two men are so different from each other. Fyodor replied that the generous landowner “lives for his soul” and “does not forget God,” leading Levin to realize the miracle that he’s been looking for this whole time—goodness.
Levin reasons that it’s rational for a person to live for his needs like food and shelter but not for goodness. Yet, humanity knows about this concept called “goodness” and many people even give up their personal interests to be good. So, he reasons, where could this idea have come from if it wasn’t bestowed upon humanity by some higher force?
Levin, the educated noble, likely never expected that an offhand comment by a simple peasant would be what gave him the epiphany he’d been hoping for.
Perhaps that’s also part of the miracle that Tolstoy points out—just like every person who still strives for goodness against the odds. Each righteous person is a manifestation of the goodness gifted to humanity and a testament to the strength of this miraculous gift. And perhaps, just like the generous landowner in Fyodor’s story, they can also awaken others to the miracle of goodness in unexpected and powerful ways during the Christmas season.
The Miracle of Christmas
For many of us, Christmas is one of the best times of the year. But for others, it can be one of the hardest. The holiday season has a way of bringing up emotions in a way that nothing else can. We can feel joy, love, peace, and contentment or we can feel great sadness, loneliness, stress, and unrest. The term Christmas miracle is often used this time of year. It’s a phrase used to define a miraculous event that is so amazingly spectacular it could have only happened at Christmas.
There is something about this holiday that brings out mainly the best in people. There seem to be more kindnesses extended, more courtesy expressed and many people find this time a good one to generously give so that those less fortunate also can experience the joy of the season.
Christmas reminds me again of the story of God’s love made incarnate in the miracle of a baby in a faraway spot in the Holy Land called Bethlehem.
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It’s a story of hope for all who embrace its majesty and miracle.
And, of course, the past 22 months have taught us all the need for the miracle of that presence which brings out the best in all of us.
Covered by masks, separated by 6 feet, and afraid to make contact, many have suffered from a feeling of disconnectedness. Many have experienced depression, anxiety, and sometimes anger comes out because of this scourge.
Yet, the miracle is, I believe, still around us.
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For many people, the holidays are a joyous time of year. Adults are eager to take off a few days to celebrate the Christmas Holiday and the New Year. Children are adding presents to their lists and anxiously watching the night sky for signs of Santa.
These are the hopeful days that the world should cling to. These are the times we need to remember when bad news clouds our memory. These are the moments that we can’t let pass us by.
I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.