A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a well-loved and familiar story to many people. In the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, we are offered an example of someone who is shown how much richer life can be when value is placed on what’s meaningful to the heart rather than the pocketbook.
On a cold and blustery night, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley, who, like Scrooge, had been a cold and greedy businessman. Right before his own eyes, Scrooge sees the pain and weight that Marley bears from the error of his ways. Scrooge learns that he is to be visited by three more apparitions: the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future.
The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge the possibility he had for good before he hardened his heart and turned to materiality. He feels the loss of love when he watches a scene in which his fiancée tells him that he has chosen another love, his business, over her.
The Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to visit two homes filled with goodwill: his nephew’s and that of his accountant, Bob Cratchit. The Cratchit house is small and its roof is dilapidated and leaking, but there is great love there. Though lame and ill, Tiny Tim, Cratchit’s son, is the center of a cheerful, loving family.
With the Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come, Scrooge is given the ability to see where his present path will take him. In this vision, he has died, and none of the townspeople care enough about him to attend his funeral. The full result of a life spent without loving and caring is abhorrent to him. Not being loved or loving is a consequence Scrooge is no longer willing to endure. With a new perspective, he chooses to change and makes a decision to be loving and caring himself.
We probably don’t see ourselves in the character of Scrooge, but he may give us cause to question ourselves and our lives: When we put our head down on a pillow for the very last time, what will really have mattered to us? Will we have fully lived our God-given ability to love and care, and will we have matured our capacity to make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of others?
We, too, have a choice. As a gift of love, God gives us life. And in life, we have the opportunity to bring mastery to all the elements and circumstances of life. We have the chance to both discover and develop the skills and aptitudes of possibility that are inherent in our nature as children of God.
The Higher Possibility
During the Christmas season, there is a sweet energy aglow on our planet. For a moment in time, we suspend a certain amount of judgment and criticism. In a world where we are inundated with information and the business of being busy, we take the time to show others that we care, to greet strangers with a smile, to be with loved ones.
The best Christmas gift we can give ourselves is to fulfill the possibility of being all that God created us to be. The season really can be more than simply a replay of the Christmases we’ve had in the past. This year’s holiday can be a time of giving shape and form to that higher possibility.
When we sing “Let every heart prepare Him room,” that preparation is an activity of mind, heart, and spirit where we become a living manger where love abides.
Light of Love
Some of us may be going through a very dark time in our lives, but just as we did when we were kids playing hide-and-seek, we can still say, “I’ll be it! I’ll be the light of love shining in my family, my workplace, my part of the world. I’ll be the manger and let my heart prepare Him room.” We can practice doing this on a daily basis and let our lives be molded and shaped by God’s love.
At one time in my life, much of what I had believed about people and circumstances turned out not to be true. I watched the life I had known melt away. I had never before known such darkness. Life presents such challenges: a diagnosis that scares us, a phone call that a child has been injured, or the news that a 401(k) that we thought was safe is gone.
During this time of my life, I read from Dark Night of the Soul by Saint John of the Cross and the Twenty-third Psalm, which helped me walk through my dark valley. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.”
I think the key word here is walk. I didn’t want to pitch a tent—camping out in self-pity, blame, or victimhood—even though I was tempted. I wanted to receive everything the walk itself came to give me. I finally realized I couldn’t make the dark circumstances go away, but I could decide how I was going to be in the experience.
Marianne Williamson gave me this idea: Stare down the dark. And I did. I realized the truth of what Jesus said, “Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4).
We celebrate Christmas at the darkest time of year, knowing there is a light within us that transcends any darkness.
We each have access to something that is more powerful, more transcendent than anything this world can offer. Knowing this truth in concept is not enough. We need to experience it in our own hearts right in the presence of a difficulty that is scary or seems too big for us to handle. Learning to stare down the dark of the problem, we proclaim, “Through the power of God in me, I will master you!”
At this point, we learn for ourselves what Dr. Michael Beckwith means when he says, “Stop telling God about your big problems. Tell your problems about your big God.” The presence of God in us is greater than any problem we could encounter.
This Christmas season, let’s give ourselves a gift by being who we were created to be: spiritual beings now, just as we were before we took human form and as we will continue to be for all eternity. Allowing the love of God to fill our hearts, we will shine the light of love brightly for all to see.