Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” made its annual appearance the other night. Old bagger that I am, I nodded off through part of Christmas Past and Present. Later, Tiny Tim uttered his famous line without me because I was staring into the kitchen pantry wishing a can of beets would morph into a bag of M&M’s. The M&M’s never materialized, so I ended up back in front of the tube grumbling, “Humbug!” I settled for an Oreo cookie, but my chocolate craving remained unfulfilled.
Scrooge was unhappy, too, sobbing over his own gravestone and begging the Spirit of Christmas Future for a chance to change the course of his life. He promised to hold the Spirit of Christmas in his heart every day and not just at the Christmas season.
I have always focused on the story’s message that we have the power to impact our future by changing our behavior in the present. (For instance, how this Oreo cookie I’m munching tonight will evidence itself on my hips tomorrow.) Keeping the Spirit of Christmas inside us every day, with every breath—that concept I never fully pondered.
First, we would all have to agree on what the Spirit of Christmas is. I believe it is being kind to others, being grateful for what we have, loving each other and forgiving one another in spite of our differences and foibles. The Spirit of Christmas is the contentment we find in the presence of our loved ones, and the happiness derived from joyful giving.
Surprise! I thought of religion not even once.
Christmas is more than just a Christian holiday. When I was a kid, most folks understood this concept. No one took offense at the trappings of Christmas because of the good things that ride on this holiday’s coattails. Not so much these days, with political correctness running amok. Too bad, because “good will toward men” is a positive thing, no matter what religion one practices.
In spite of that, I still believe there is plenty of Christmas to go around. As a Christian, I celebrate Christ in the holiday, but if I awoke with amnesia and no recollection of being Christian, Jewish or Muslim I would yet delight in the sight of shy children talking to Santa. I would still be grateful for the love of my family. I would enjoy the lights on the neighborhood homes, and understand that dropping loose change into the Salvation Army bucket and donating canned goods to the local food bank should continue past December 31st.
That each person’s heart might, every day, hold alive the Spirit of Christmas is as impossible as turning a can of beets into a bag of M&M’s; and yet, I wonder . . . perhaps the miracle lies not in wanting it to happen, but in believing with all of my heart that one day, it will.