He had just finished speaking to the members of the Manchester Athenaeum. He had witnessed the harsh conditions of the manufacturing workers in their city. They were experiencing a 15-20% unemployment rate. He had visited schools where children were illiterate, filthy and dressed in rags. 57% of children born to working class children in Manchester died before they reached the age of five.
So he wanted to do something for the cause of the poor. And he thought the time of the year to do it would be Christmas, which at the time was a minor holiday and not what we know today. And so, after his speech to the library members in which they envisioned a place where anyone could come and learn and better their lives, he walked the dark city streets with his mind formulating what would become his most famous work of fiction.
In 1843 Charles Dickens wanted to revive his writing career and at the same time revive the spirit of Christmas. The book and movie of the same title—The Man Who Invented Christmas—tells the story behind the story of A Christmas Carol. Dickens observed people living in dark times. He had lived them as a child. And he wanted to birth a story that would bring light to those dark places.
Your world might need some light today. And your Christmas might need a facelift as well. Dickens’ world had become dark because people cared little for others. People were like Ebenezer Scrooge who had made his money but cared little if anything for anyone else.
The Christmas season can surface some Scrooge in all of us. Snarled traffic can snarl our lips. Shaky economy can make us horde what we have. We “want” more than “give.” Before we know it we can be a bit like Scrooge. He was a miser. And that’s only one letter away from misery. How can we keep the holiday season with its crowded malls and decked out halls from making us miserable?
The answer lies in another story, the story behind the story of Christmas. The God who invented Christmas wanted to send light into a dark world too. His plot was to revive the world with Christmas.
Herod is the Scrooge of the story. No room for anyone else in his life, much less another king. The wise men stand in contrast to Herod, like Bob Cratchit did with Scrooge. They were looking for Jesus and came, not wanting anything, but bringing gifts. Most of all they brought him their worship.
With whom do you better relate in the holiday season? Scrooge or Bob Cratchit? Herod or the Wise Men? Which heart is most like yours? Difficult times can make us more like Herod. We hold tight to what we have because we fear we won’t have enough. And it’s been a difficult year. Harvey hit us hard. Some have lost work. Some lost jobs. It would be easy to withdraw into a hard outer shell to keep the harsh world at bay.
But let’s not. The season of Advent is a season for preparing for Christ. It is a perfect time to practice generosity instead of miser-osity. Generosity is not something we fall to naturally. Did you know the average American gives 2.1% of the wages to some form of charity? Generosity has to be cultivated. Here are some ideas of how you can generate generosity in your home:
- You can be generous to someone in a foreign country. The Wise Men did. They helped Joseph, Mary and Jesus with gifts that enabled them to live while in Egypt. Organizations like World Vision and Compassion International can show you ways to help others in other lands.
- You can be generous to someone nearby. Give to a nonprofit, volunteer at a shelter, give to a center that provides emergency help, or adopt a family in need for Christmas.
- You can give to the church. Churches help people in need. And the amount of help is determined by what we give. In most churches, about 20% of the people give 80% of the contributions given. What if that changed beginning this season?
Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the all-time great characters in literature. But let’s keep him on the pages of a book. Let’s let the God who invented Christmas write us into his script of bringing light into our dark world.
Question: How do you plan to cultivate generosity this Christmas?