Monica E. Smith

Monica E. Smith

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

In Keeping with the Situation

While the actual "holiday" of Christmas has passed, we are still in the Christmas season; for Christmas is the celebration of Christ's birth, and lasts until Epiphany, which is celebrated on January 6. (The Christmas song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas", is rooted in the celebration of Christmastime, from a time in England when Catholics were forced to disguise their beliefs. During the period of 1558 to 1829, Catholics were prohibited from practicing the faith by law. The twelve days of Christmas are actually December 25 through January 6, and not the 12 days before Christmas as many believe.)

After a viewing of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol this year, a question arose regarding the situation in which Scrooge found himself: "Why was it that the chance of reclamation was offered to Scrooge and not also to Marley? Was that "it" for Marley? Why was he not offered the same chance in life as was Scrooge? Did he spend the afterlife in hell, then, with no possibility of eternal salvation? A very interesting question indeed; and I have been thinking about it on and off since the question came to be asked.

First and foremost, I think we have to realize that Dickens was telling a story to offer hope and to teach. Interestingly, this is exactly how Christ taught--through parables. The stories Christ told were not of actual events, but a teaching tool of truths that could easily be understood by anyone (well, perhaps anyone but the ruling class of Israel!). In the same way, Dickens used A Christmas Carol as a teaching tool to explain the many lessons contained within. We sometimes have difficulty in understanding Truth unless hit in the face with it. Dickens did just that in A Christmas Carol. Dickens lived in Victorian England. It was not often a time that was as pretty as the scenes we see on Christmas cards. It was a time when orphan children roamed the streets and non-Christian society despised the poor and treated them atrociously. Living conditions were often unbearable. There were many social inequalities and injustices. There was much suffering and pain during this period in history. Dickens tried to bring all this to light, to expose the situation in his novella, and offer the solution. 

The other thing that came to my mind was that we are never really told, in A Christmas Carol, that "this was it" for Marley, that he had no chance for salvation, and he was stuck for all eternity in this thick fog of doom and pain, unable to free himself. In the big picture, things happen to us all in the ways that are most beneficial to each person, I believe. There is no formula, no blanket remedy that will heal all of us in the same way. And simply because we cannot understand this, or why one has to suffer more than another, does not make it wrong or unfair or unjust. We also need to remember that Dickens was telling the story of one man, Ebenezer Scrooge, and his "sins" and his reclamation, and not Jacob Marley's. Dickens was in actuality using a parable.

We all have the same chance Scrooge and Marley did, while we live on this earth. We have many "spirits" who visit us each day, in the form of friends and family, teachers, the Church, people who enter our lives for no good reason (or so we think), who try to open our minds to Truth, who bless us with their goodness, their knowledge, their kindness. We would be wise to learn from them, before it is too late. Each of us has a purpose, and what we do in life affects others:

"Spirit," said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, "tell me if Tiny Tim will live."

"I see a vacant seat," replied the Ghost, "in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die."

"No, no," said Scrooge. "Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared."

"If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race," returned the Ghost, "will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population." 

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.

Christmas marks the celebration of Christ's birth, but it is not to be celebrated on only one day. We can change this world by changing ourselves. We can "live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!" We can allow "the Spirits of all Three [to] strive within...". And in so doing, we can say with Ebenezer Scrooge, "Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees!"

A most blessed Christmas season to you all, and the happiest of New Years!