A Christmas Carol

What comes to mind when you think of Christmas? Perhaps gifts, evergreen trees, lights, holly, good food, the birth of the Christ Child, the coming new year, the end of the old, and probably for many, A Christmas Carol.

The well-known tale of the bad-tempered, miserly Scrooge has been often retold through the many years since its first publication by Charles Dickens in 1843. To many, the story has become a symbol of Christmas; yet while most of us are familiar with the hardheartedness, stinginess, and greed of the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, how often do we apply the story’s lessons to our own lives?

The plot takes a wretched miser and brings him through a dramatic change for the better. Before his transformation, he was the opposite of all the good qualities that Christmas stands for—love, charity, goodwill, unselfishness, feeling, care for those around us. While Scrooge may be a rather extreme representation of miserly features, he’s perhaps also a metaphor for the miserliness that resides in each of us.

There’s a little selfishness in all of us, isn’t there? Goals gone a little awry, high ideals long forgotten? Do we pass by others without a word or kind glance when they cross our path, too caught up with ourselves to notice?

We don’t have to wait until we become as extreme in our selfishness as Scrooge before we decide to make a change. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if at every Christmas we could take an honest look at our lives, at the things of the past, at what we’re doing in the present, and our goals for the future, and see what really has become most important to us?

In the ultimate act of love and unselfishness, God gave Jesus to us on earth, so that He could teach us His love, and then die for us to purchase our eternal salvation. At Christmas, we celebrate the giving of this marvelous gift. We can never hope to pay Him back, but Jesus says that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”[Matthew 25:40 NIV] Every kind word and deed done out of love—not because it’s logical or in our best interests, but because it will help someone else—will ultimately help us, most often in ways we were least expecting.

By taking Jesus as our role model, we can hope to reflect some of those qualities that will keep us happy and make us a blessing to those around us and a better person in general.

Let’s make it a goal—and not only at Christmas—to step back a bit and reassess our life and values and discern what has been the driving force in all our actions. Let us savor every moment while we have it, and make the most of every opportunity to help another human being, because in the end, that’s all that’s going to matter anyway.

Natalie (1991–2011) spent much of her short life in Africa where her parents run various humanitarian projects, and she was involved in helping others from an early age. This article, written in 2006, was sent to us by her parents, Gino and Clotilde, who continue their work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Find out more about their work here.

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.—Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, in A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens