by Pam Tinsley
I recently saw a stage production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. He wrote his novella in 1843, in outraged response to the dire working conditions of the poor, especially of women and children, as England became more industrialized. I’m sure you’re familiar with the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a slave of greed – heartless and mean-spirited – who is visited first by the ghost of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, who voices his life regrets. He is then visited by the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, before he awakens humbled and transformed on Christmas morning.
As I listened to Jacob Marley’s words of deep remorse for his life failings, I was struck by how they reflect our promises at baptism. After Scrooge extols Marley’s virtues as a businessman, Marley retorts,
Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!…. Why did I walk through the crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star, which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!
Marley had realized belatedly that the most important aspect of his daily work as a business owner was to seek and serve Christ in his neighbor; to strive for justice; and to treat everyone he encountered with dignity and respect – using our baptismal language. Helping to create a more caring and just world was his true purpose in life.
Visits by the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future reveal to Scrooge the joy he experienced in his youth before greed corrupted him; the dismal plight of the world around him; and the bleak future that lies ahead. After the Spirits’ ominous visits, Scrooge awakens on Christmas morning a new man with his softened heart filled with love and generosity for others. Humbled, he heeds the Spirits’ warnings and is transformed – and learns always to keep Christmas well.
Although A Christmas Carol is a work of fiction, it reminds us all that humankind is our business. We, too, can keep Christmas in our hearts every day and show the world God’s love through our caring words, but especially through our actions where we live and work, each and every day.