Christmas Eve 2019
A FESTIVAL OF THREE LESSONS AND CAROLS
Charles Dickens lived in Victorian London and he wrote his stories based on his view of society as he observed the contrast between rich and poor. His novel A Christmas Carol was published on December 19th, 1843, just one week before Christmas. Dickens wrote about a troubled but wealthy man named Ebenezer Scrooge. Interestingly the word scrooge would find its way into the Oxford dictionary and is defined as someone who is miserly and tightfisted with money. In fact, many of the words from Dickens novels made their way into the English language. Such words as butter-fingers for someone who is clumsy, and slow-coach for someone who is lethargic. Charles Dickens was a prolific writer and his works are now classics in literature.
Why was A Christmas Carol so timeless? It is a story of a grumpy but wealthy man who has a series of vivid dreams on the night before Christmas in which he is shown his past, his present and the future. When he awakes on Christmas morning, he is a very changed man, he sheds all of his negativity and becomes alive with a huge desire to do good to others. Dickens weaves the tapestry of this story with other characters who allow the reader to step into the shoes of those people. Bob Cratchit the clerk who works tirelessly for Scrooge has a large family to support and this includes his little boy Tiny Tim who is not well. Dickens shows us that Bob has a huge love for his family and the Cratchit’s manage to be happy even on their meagre budget. Scrooge’s nephew Fred lives well in the upper end of society and invites his Uncle to spend Christmas with Fred’s family even though the family find grumpy Scrooge a tiresome bore. When Scrooge has his spiritual dream experience of the past, present and future, Dickens reveals that there is much more to Ebenezer than what we initially understand, we learn about how Scrooge lost his compassion for others and how he became a diminished man. Then on Christmas morning, Ebenezer Scrooge has an epiphany he becomes a new man, he buys the largest Turkey and has it delivered to Bob Cratchit’s home. Scrooge becomes a man of compassion to all.
In 1903 F.G. Kitton published an article titled “The man who invented Christmas” and attributed the commercial popularity of Christmas to Charles Dickens and the success of A Christmas Carol. Dickens had made Turkey the roast of choice for Christmas Dinner and the time for celebration and the giving of gifts.
Christians have been celebrating Christmas for over 1600 years since Pope Julius 1 declared in the 4th century that December 25th was to be the official date for the birth of Christ.
Jesus of Nazareth was born to Joseph and Mary in humble surroundings. In my first theatrical role at the age of nine I had to play the role of the Innkeeper in our school nativity play. I have always felt guilty having to tell Joseph and Mary that there was “no room at the inn”.
The story from the bible scripture speaks of shepherds and wise men who came to pay homage to this very special baby. On that night, the rest of Bethlehem was oblivious to this great event that would shape the world for the next two thousand years.
As we gather here this evening what is the message from our own hearts, are we filled with compassion towards others. How do we make sure that we do not become like the Ebenezer Scrooge before Christmas Day, rather we would choose to be the new Scrooge, the one who is filled with enthusiasm for life and the desire to be kind and full of compassion. Jesus provided the formula for us all when he said: Do to others what you want them to do to you. This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets. This is now known simply as the Golden Rule and can be found as a universal teaching in all of the religions in the world. I believe Dickens had in mind the principle of the Golden Rule when he wrote the story of Ebenezer Scrooge.
So, my Christmas message to you all is simple, use the Golden Rule in everything you do, be kind be compassionate, do to others as you would have them do to you.
Christmas Blessings to you all.