We know Charles Dickens as the man who brought us beloved and memorable characters.
Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Ebenezer Scrooge, Mr. Fezziwig, the Artful Dodger, Fagin and Oliver Twist to name a few. They are brought to life in stories that bring us at times face to face with poverty, injustice and human cruelty, indeed Dickens was thought of by some as a voice for the poor. Dr. Suess gave us the Grinch whose heart was too small, especially to accommodate others, which led to himself being too large.
More than any other time of year, Christmas has served as opportunity to bring a moral lesson. One of being good and kind and just. But if what we do is simply moralize we have missed the point.
Part of what touches us about Ebenezer Scrooge (and even the Grinch) is that we recognize ourselves in them. We recognize something that is not fixed by simply “being good”. Our actions belie what we know to be the truth despite our best efforts, we care more for ourselves than anyone else.
But if Ebenezer and the Grinch left us seeing only our own selfishness and inhumanity we would have quickly abandoned them. If Scrooge and the Grinch were left the way they were what kind of story would that be? What they ultimately give is hope.
These are stories of transformation. Stories of hearts that had no compassion towards others, let alone benevolence, that are touched by something outside of and greater than themselves. Hearts that are, if you will, set free from a bondage, turned from cold stone to warm flesh, made alive again!
We long for this touch. We feel the desperate need of it in our lives. We read or watch these stories and hope wells up: “could it be possible that this could happen to me? Can I feel that joy, that spirit in my life? I want that renewal!”
This is the story of Christmas. Life and hope enters the world through a baby. Not just any baby, but God’s own son. God knows, as we do, that the Scrooge or Grinch in our hearts won’t be changed by our effort. We need his Spirit to reach into our lives.
God is not content to leave us where we are, that’s why he calls us to come clean and admit who we really are and how in need of his touch. The ghosts of Christmas showed Scrooge who he was, the singing of the Whos on Christmas showed the Grinch who he was and both saw how in need of transformation they were.
That is what waits for us if we believe that Jesus has come to set our heats free and make us live again.