At the end of the beloved story A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens tells us that the transformed Ebenezer Scrooge “knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” That knowledge of how to keep Christmas informed and was informed by the whole year. For while Christmas was indeed a unique and joyous time of year, it was during the entire year when Scrooge “became as good a friend, as good a master, and a good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.”
Christmas Day may be past us, but the rest of the year beckons us to live in the Christmas spirit.
In the course of that single Christmas Eve, the trajectory of Scrooge’s life changed dramatically because of his encounters (through the intercession of the spirits of past, present and future) with his fellow men and women. He saw the kindness of old Fezziwig, the hardships being faced by his clerk, the abundant hospitality of his nephew, the deprivation of children without education, material support and caring adults. Through each encounter, Scrooge opened his heart a little bit. (The book makes the gradualism of this change more obvious than the sudden, graveyard change of heart of the movie versions of Scrooge.)
And so as Christmas continues and the new year begins, Dickens’s story seems to ask us many questions. Among them:
To what previously ignored voices should we be attentive? An invitation to friendship such as the one offered by nephew Fred year after year?
Who, standing before us in need, have we have failed to see? Who are the children “Ignorance” and “Want,” revealed by the Ghost of Christmas Present?
Are our priorities rightly ordered? In Jacob Marley’s words, do we know our true business? (“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.”)
Through attentiveness and action, may we all, like Scrooge, “honour Christmas in [our] heart[s] and try to keep it all the year.”