Monday, December 24, 2012

Was Scrooge Right?


Credit:  Hurtroad.com

The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen. For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace. His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: he shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.  Isaiah 9




Rockefeller Center
Christmas Holiday time in New York City is visually spectacular.  Despite the normally lousy weather this time of year, we get tons of tourists who come to see the City and all the lights and decorations.  We have the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center (believe it or not, it is actually still called a Christmas tree) and the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.  Almost all of the office buildings in the city put up their own decorations both inside and out.  I avoid Times Square as much as possible, but I think they even decorate this most pagan of all places.  People walk around "oohing" and "aahing", and saying, wow, ain't Christmas holiday time grand.

Then of course there is the music.  What would Christmas the holidays be without Andy Williams (God rest his soul) singing "Most Wonderful Time of the Year":

It's the most wonderful time of the year 
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you "Be of good cheer" 
It's the most wonderful time of the year 
It's the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings 
When friends come to call 
It's the hap- happiest season of all

 
More modern songs are ones like Mariah  Carey singing "All I Want for Christmas Is You" (stop, stop, I'll talk!)  There are the perennial movies like "White Christmas" and "It's A Wonderful Life" ("look, Daddy, an angel got his wings!"), and all the countless renditions of "A Christmas Carol" (my favorite is the first one I ever saw, "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.")  

There are the endless parties we are invited to, and the Christmas Holiday cards that we send out, the shopping and gift wrapping, and egg nog.  

There is one big problem with all of this:  none of this has anything to do with actually celebrating Christmas.  I'm sort of glad so many have switched to calling this time a "holiday" instead of Christmas, because it ain't Christmas!  The story of Christmas is about a married couple who are away from home when the wife is about to give birth.  There is no room for them in any of the inns, and they are forced to go to a dark, dirty manger where the baby is born, and in which there is only a feeding trough to use as a crib, and torn rags in which to wrap the baby.  The amazing thing about this story is this little baby is the great Creator God of the Universe who has come to earth to rescue His creation from damnation.   The world at large is completely ignorant of this momentous event save for a few despised shepherds and oriental Kings.  There were no Christmas trees, no tinsel and lights, no Rockettes dancing, not even any angels receiving their wings.  Yet the reality is much bigger and more spectacular than anything we now call "Christmas."  

Since Christmas has been emptied of all its real meaning, which has to do directly with the eternal salvation of our souls, many are trying to fill it up with something else.   They talk about all the "good feelings", the "good will among men" (a misquote from the original which says "peace among men of good will"), the "sweet, childlike innocence of Christmas."  One phrase that really grates on me is "Christmas is for children."



It all sounds good, but it is actually a deception that diverts us from the true meaning of Christ coming to earth.   

Alistair Sims as Ebenezer Scrooge
An agnostic, of all people, Jamie Lutton, wrote an article for The Capitol Hill Times regarding what she and many others see as the "true meaning of Christmas.  She entitled her article "Why Dickens’ ‘Carol’ is the most important Christmas tale".  Does that kind of take you by surprise?  Bet you thought it was the little baby in Bethlehem who was the "most important Christmas tale."  Nope, it's the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited not by the Christ Child, but by three ghosts who show him his evil ways.  Now it's interesting to note that "A Christmas Carol" is a story of redemption, and it absolutely does involve a child.  The Christ Child is replaced with Tiny Tim.  Scrooge is redeemed not through saving grace but by learning to become compassionate and caring.  Scrooge then actually saves Tiny Tim, in direct opposition to the story of the Child who comes to earth to save us.  The Christ Child is, at best, only a tangential part of Dickens' story of salvation.  

The author of the article starts out by telling us that we have an American, Washington Irving (who was a Freemason) to thank for "saving" Christmas, which was basically dying out in England:
When Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” in 1842, the holiday was nearly dead in modern England. Christmas was celebrated by the rural and poor, but frowned upon by employers. It took an American, Washington Irving, to praise Christmas to the highest, mourning the loss of the great traditions in this new modern age.
Dickens admired Irving. In earlier writings, such as “Sketches by Boz,” Dickens made much of the “strain of goodwill and cheerfulness,” that this holiday did more to spread good will among neighbors than any preaching or homilies.
Note she calls Christmas a "holiday"  and says this "holiday did more to spread good will among neighbors than preaching or homilies."  That should be our first clue that something is not right here.  Christmas is a holy day, which is an enormous difference.  The purpose of a "holiday" is fun and relaxation, not spiritual growth.  We should ask why Washington Irving, a Freemason who by nature is opposed to anything Christian, would mourn the loss of "Christmas traditions"?  Could it be that these "great traditions" actually obscure the meaning of Christmas and that is why he mourned their loss?

The author of the article then gives us the background and reason why Dickens wrote this story, which is actually kind of interesting:
Dickens came to write “Carol” while at a low ebb. His previous book had not been popular and he was struggling. He was working on nonfiction pamphlets about the horrendous working conditions of children in Manchester. But the visions of Ignorance and Want that he saw on the faces of the starved, overworked and ragged children inspired him, and he worked backwards from the scene in which the Spirit of Christmas Present shows Scrooge those children to compose the whole tale.
He “laughed and wept and laughed again” as he walked 15 to 20 miles a day in the streets of London, composing the story in his head, then locking himself away from friends and his family for weeks.
Now comes one of the punchlines of the article.  Charles Dickens is "Father Christmas":
It was an immediate hit. Instantly plagiarized onstage and sold in bootleg editions, the story made Dickens little money in its fancy first printing. But it made him famous. When he died decades later a little girl was heard to say, “Mr. Dickens is dead? Is Father Christmas dead as well?”
The author then basically says that the reason "Christmas" has lost its "soul" is because it has gotten too "elaborate."  Being an agnostic, I would not expect her to be aware of the fact that the real meaning of Christmas is not Tiny Tim but the Christ Child.  The soul of Christmas had already been  lost when Dickens gave us the false redemption story of Ebenezer Scrooge.  I believe the reason we have become "elaborate" is because we are trying so hard to replace the real meaning of Christmas with lots of glitter and glamour, instead of looking in a lowly manger in a small, practically unknown part of the world.
Christmas is more elaborate today than it was even 75 years ago. We have all noticed mention of the holiday creep up on TV and in stores as early as Nov. 1. Its commercial appeal is a chance for retailers to persuade us to buy presents for each other, cook elaborate meals, travel, etc. So the soul of Christmas is often forgotten in the haste of spending money. There are social pressures to conform to, even if gift giving has become an onerous duty.
The author now tells us how we can recapture the "true meaning" of Christmas.  She feels it is not about turning to the Christ Child, but to do basically what Scrooge did:
Stop and think about your life. Live in a thoughtful fashion, filled with compassion. Have hope and love your fellow man.
Then comes the kicker:
Christmas Day is just the focus of this spirit.
Christmas is "just the focus of this spirit?"   This is the deception that occurs when we separate ourselves from God.   Everything becomes all about good feelings and little else.  We completely forget what we were told by the prophet Isaiah, as recorded in Isaiah 9:
Credit:  fb-designz.blogspot.com
The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen. For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace. His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: he shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Christmas is not about Tiny Tim saying "God Bless us everyone."  Christmas is about the birth of a King who has come to destroy sin and death and establish peace upon the earth.  Charles Dickens completely obscured this message with his little tale of Scrooge and Tiny Tim.

But the author of our article feels that the story of Scrooge is the real reason why we are still observing Christmas at all:
Some historians believe that this story, and this story alone, is responsible for our continued observance of Christmas. It revived very old customs that had been on the verge of dying out. But there is an urgent subtext that drives this tale, and it is in the mouth of Scrooge when he says to a group of businessmen who came to him for a donation to the poor, “If they had rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
Hmm.  I wonder if this author, who declares herself an agnostic, supports birth control, abortion and euthanasia.  Most likely she does, and there is certainly no better way to "decrease the surplus population" than these methods.  At least Scrooge allowed people to die on their own.  We in our society have no problem with hastening the death of the unwanted by  doing the actual killing, in the same manner as the author now describes the English doing to the Irish:
This was a popular contention spurred by the influence of Thomas Malthus, a pernicious science essayist of the late 18th century, who argued that poor people were a social burden to all and should die. This is partly why so many Irish died in the Irish Potato Famine a few years after “A Carole” was written. The English government, which had controlled and occupied Ireland for centuries, took the position that these poor and starving people were surplus and a burden. Millions of Irish died by inches of starvation, even as their country was exporting food. The English government stopped charitable organizations from helping the Irish.
This story was Charles Dickens’ rebuke of this kind of thinking. He shows the reader the Cratchet family, with many children and one, Tiny Tim, dying by inches because he did not get enough food or medical attention. Even now, some of the more heartless among us would sneer at such a family, blaming the parents for having too many children.
Now an agnostic, who by definition doesn't know what is true and not true, and certainly doesn't look to  our Lord for her salvation, tries to tell us the real meaning of Christmas, and why we give gifts to one another:
We often forget what Christmas is about. The gifts we give each other were intended to stand in for gifts given Jesus in the New Testament. Even a confirmed agnostic like myself can see the value in that old story.
"That old story"???  
Let us be compassionate to each other, see past the blinding and thick commercial haze that covers this holiday, celebrate our affection for each other and open our hearts to all. As Dickens wrote, “We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”
"We choose this time?"  No, I don't think it's about us choosing this time.  This time was chosen by our Lord and it's about a whole lot more than "celebrating our affection for each other and opening our hearts to all."  This is an almost a defamation of what Christmas is about.  The story of Scrooge is one of self redemption.  The real story of Christmas, in complete contrast, is our Lord and Creator coming to earth to redeem helpless man who is completely unable to redeem himself.

I think in some ways Ms. Lutton is correct.  We can probably lay a good part of the degeneration in the observance of Christmas at the feet of Charles Dickens and his creation, Ebenezer Scrooge.  Dickens promoted the message of "good feelings."   I don't know if he consciously tried to do it, but Dickens in effect attempted to replace the Christ Child with Tiny Tim, and the gospel of Christ's redemption with the gospel of self redemption contained in these words: "Stop and think about your life. Live in a thoughtful fashion, filled with compassion. Have hope and love your fellow man."

The words of "O Holy Night" explain it well:

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!

O night divine, O night when Christ was born;

O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Satan is the arch deceiver.  He is always ready to supply us with deceptions, anything that will divert our attention from what is real and from our Creator.  I enjoy watching Scrooge movies, and will continue to do so.  But I'm not about to let anyone tell me that this is the "most important story of Christmas."  The most important story of Christmas - the only story of Christmas was given to us by the angels in Bethlehem:


May you have a most blessed and holy Christmas season.

2 comments:

  1. Merry Christmas!

    One thing I love in NYC is the store windows - and St. Pat's of course.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Merry Christmas, Terry!

      The store windows in NYC are not what they use to be. They're trying very hard to do a secular Christmas, which means ignoring any tradition that is the least bit "religious." They are certainly not worth traveling to see. They're barely worth the cost of a subway ride for me!

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