Wednesday, January 5, 2011

In praise of Scrooge

I have a rather cynical, agnostic friend who posted this Facebook status in early December: "Tis the Christmas season.  Keep your heads down and your mouths shut and we'll all get out alive."

I am a Christian, and I celebrate Christmas, so why did I click like?

I'm a Scrooge, no doubt about it.  The holiday sensory overload sets in and I get crabby.  I go into a semblance of survival mode.  Oh, pity the poor friend who advises me to just make a batch of cookies and cheer up! (Ok, I bit her head off, and then apologized to her.  It's not her fault).

Ghost of Christmas past, you are a familiar face to me.  I have many memories of my parents making Christmas fun and special, and I know it was a sacrifice some years.  They knew someone who would dress as Santa and visit homes to take toy requests.  This cemented my belief in Santa for many years, despite the fact that I rushed to the window one year hoping to see Rudolf in the driveway, and was disappointed to see a large olive-green Chevy instead.  I get sentimental at Christmas, but I try not to become dragged down.  The simple fact is that there are people who play an essential role in these Christmas memories who are gone now, and it doesn't seem the same without them.
Facebook status from December 1st: Today several of my friends are sharing memories from Christmases past. Here is one that stands out in my memory: our neighbor's dog ran into our house, straight to the tree, hiked his leg, and hosed down our presents and tree, and then shot back out the door. Mission accomplished! I was around 10 at the time.
Ghost of Christmas present, I can hardly see you for all the glitz, can hardly hear you over the noise.  Everyone knows about Christmas overspending, over-commercialization, and overeating.  I don't need to repeat it here.  I try to simplify, but it still becomes overwhelming.  I have this mental image of myself digging through mountains of wadded wrapping paper to find my children, tripping over discarded boxes and batteries, tangled in strands of ribbon.  Christmas is about the kids, I tell myself.  It's ok, I assure myself, to have a few extra cookies, to stay up a little late, and to get excited about a Christmas list, as long as we put the message of Christ first and make this season about helping others and never being so caught up in the materialism that we miss the true beauty.  When I get this all balanced and figured out, I'll write a lengthy blog post and let you know so you can emulate me, but don't expect it any time soon.
Facebook status, December 13th: about halfway through the most rigorous phase of the Christmas-a-thon

Ghost of Christmas future, what do you hold for us?  Am I going to pull this off?  Can I instill my kids with sweet memories so that they will look back and remember happy, safe family times, and pass it on to their kids?  Will they share funny stories of things we did together, just as I tell them stories of my childhood family?  Here's the kicker: will they carry on in faith, and tune out the noise that surrounds them?  That is my goal for them, and my why for plunging ahead through the holiday season with a minimum of complaints.  Overcoming cynicism and melancholy is a challenge worth taking, and I have given myself the gift of getting stronger; maybe it will rub off on my kids. 
Facebook status, December 21st: I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. ~Charles Dickens.
It turns out that Scrooge is not such a bad guy in the end.  After he deals with all his baggage and gets his priorities straight, he becomes the unlikely hero. How beautiful to grasp the nearly hidden truth, the splendid peace, the message of grace as a gift we can give and receive! I couldn't have said it better than Tiny Tim, "God bless us, every one!"