Christmas is without doubt the most joyous time of year. It’s a season to return to hearth and home for a time of good food and fellowship, a time of glowing lights and shared good will.
Ironically, it’s also the saddest time of year, a time when more people commit suicide than any other season. Many have no hearth and home to return to, no resources to procure a feast, and even if they could, precious few to share it with! For them, it is a time of dampened spirits, darkened faces, and depression. Interestingly, this contrast has little to do with economic position.
In his book, “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens traces this incongruity in poignant scenes from the era of Victorian England. Though well over 150 years have passed since Dickens penned this tale, and our circumstances are quite different, the themes he explores still call us to sober reflection.
Set in the 1840s on Christmas Eve, “A Christmas Carol” chronicles the personal transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge, the proprietor of a London counting house. Scrooge is miserly and contemptuous of those he perceives as beneath him. He has no wife or children; he bullies and underpays his loyal clerk, Bob Cratchit; and he dismisses the Christmas dinner invitation of his kind nephew, Fred. While his clerk and his nephew and their families are poor economically, they share a richness of spirit Scrooge knows nothing of.
As he prepares for bed on Christmas Eve in his cold, solitary chambers, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley. In life, Marley was very similar in attitude and temperament to Scrooge; remote, cruel, and parsimonious. In death, Marley has learned the value of compassion and warns Scrooge to reform his ways before it is too late. Marley informs Scrooge that he will be visited by three more specters: the spirits of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet-to-Come.
When Dr. J. Otis Yoder, the founder of Heralds of Hope was in seminary, his minor course of study was in Storytelling. After founding Heralds of Hope in 1967, he produced a daily radio program, “The Children’s Hour” for 21 years! The program featured dramatic readings of classic children’s literature that contained clear moral lessons. Dozens of these stories still reside in our archives on 4-inch reels of vinyl audio tape.
“A Christmas Carol” was the first of these stories to be resurrected and produced, first on cassette, and then on audio CDs. At this special season we recommend it to young and old alike as a good reminder of the true spirit of Christmas, exemplified by our Savior whose birth we commemorate at this time of year.
And so, in the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us every one.”
– J. Mark Horst
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