With all the chaos and uncertainty in the economy, this year is a perfect time to celebrate Christmas in the manner of Ebenezer Scrooge.
If you’re superficially familiar with Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, you might first assume that I’m suggesting you celebrate Christmas like a cold-hearted skinflint. After all, Ebenezer Scrooge is probably the most famous miser in literary history. With the current economic uncertainty, following his example of spending little or nothing might seem like a wise move in uncertain financial times.
What I’d like to recommend, however, is to celebrate Christmas in the way Scrooge did after the visits of the three Spirits transformed him. This might seem as if I’m going to the opposite extreme and advising you to go overboard and buy lavish gifts for everyone on your list.
That’s not it, either. To clarify what I mean by “celebrating like Scrooge,” let’s take a look at what this once-miserable millionaire did after his encounter with the Spirits of Christmas changed his life. When he woke up on the first day of his new life to discover that it was still Christmas morning, these were the actions he took:
• He ordered the poulterer’s largest prize turkey to be sent to the home of his clerk, Bob Cratchit, for Christmas dinner, giving a generous tip to the boy who carried his message.
• He went out to walk in the streets, exchanging warm greetings with those he met.
• He promised a generous gift to a charity whose representative he had turned away with harsh words the day before.
• He went to church.
• He went to his nephew’s house for Christmas dinner, asking rather timidly, “Will you let me in, Fred?” Even though he had curtly refused Fred’s invitation the previous day, he received a warm welcome, and he participated fully in the day’s festivities.
• He increased Bob Cratchit’s salary, began to treat his clerk as a respected employee, and began to use his resources to live more comfortably.
• He subsequently became “a second father” to Tiny Tim.
Certainly, after his visits from the Spirits, Ebenezer Scrooge spent more money than he had done before, both during the holidays and during the rest of the year. It was money that he, as a successful man of business, could well afford to spend. But nowhere in A Christmas Carol does it say, “Then Scrooge took his credit card to the mall and went into debt to buy Tiny Tim the latest video game system and get the Cratchits a big-screen TV.”
Instead, notice the most important elements in the life of the transformed Scrooge—charity, spirituality, and, above all, friends and family. He mended his relationship with his nephew, became a friend and mentor to Bob Cratchit and his family, took steps to help those in need, and began to welcome people into his life instead of pushing them away. As Dickens put it, “He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew.”
This Christmas, it’s especially important to remember that observing the season doesn’t necessarily have much to do with how much you spend on gifts. Depending on your circumstances, this may well be a good year to practice thrift. Even so, you can still celebrate in the manner of the transformed Scrooge—by giving what you can, by opening your heart and your life to others, and, especially, by sharing this time with those you care about the most.
God Bless Us, Every One.