“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27
“Marley was dead” is the opening sentence in to one of the most beloved Christmas stories of all time. Charles Dickens quickly penned the novella, “A Christmas Carol”, in six weeks, hoping to inspire England to celebrate Christmas with more charity, and to improve his own financial situation. It is reported that as Scrooge was traveling London with ghosts on paper, Dickens himself was wandering the streets of London for inspiration. In 1843, the people of London were divided into two different worlds. The first world was filled with bounty, lavish homes and furnishings, and idle entertainment. The second world, containing most of the population of London, was marked by a lack of food and clothing, children working twelve-hour days in factories, poor houses, and debtor’s prisons. Dickens hoped that his little ghost story would “help open the hearts of the prosperous and powerful towards the poor and powerless.” In his sixty-six-page manuscript, Scrooge’s encounters with ghosts lead to his redemption with the declaration, “I will honour Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.” Not only did Scrooge redeem his life, Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” helped reform much of London, inspiring changes not only in laws but also in hearts.
Like Scrooge, just maybe, I needed to redeem my Christmas in 2020. This Advent season, I am using the quietness of Christmas in the middle of a pandemic as a reset for me. I am not rushing around shopping, or busy with Christmas programs and activities. Instead, I am spending that time leaning into Advent, exploring it through a few devotionals, rereading portions of scripture, and listening to Advent poetry. For the first time, Terry and I are reading “A Christmas Carol” aloud together, engrossed in Dicken’s imagery with phrases like, “You may be an undigested bit of beef.” I feel calmer and more peaceful than I ever have, even though my oven coil broke yesterday morning in the middle of cookie baking. Even my research for my Advent blog posts has awakened a deeper curiosity about the big picture of Jesus’ birth and the redemption it brings for mankind. Although I am looking forward to celebrating Christmas 2021 without a pandemic, like Scrooge, “I will not shut out the lessons” I have learned this Advent season!