My wife and I once saw a German stage production of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. You likely know the story of a miserly banker who transforms into a kind and generous man through the mysterious workings of three ghosts who take him on a trip through his past, present, and future. I was struck by the impact the stage production had on me and the audience.

The story was born out of Dickens’ desire to make people aware of the terrible conditions of workers in England at that time. Having been brought up in poverty and having worked in a factory 12 hours a day as a child himself, he empathized with their plight and hoped this story would make a difference for the better in their lives. Dickens wrote the novella in six weeks, and it became an instant and enduring hit.

Ruth Glancy, a professor of English literature, stated that the greatest impact of A Christmas Carol was how it inspired individual readers to help the needy. Thanks in part to this story, hosting Christmas dinners for the poor became a tradition. In 1867 one American businessman was so moved by attending a reading that he closed his factory on Christmas Day and sent every employee a turkey. In the early 1900s, the queen of Norway sent gifts to London’s crippled children signed “With Tiny Tim’s Love.” Author G. K. Chesterton wrote, “The beauty and blessing of the story … lie in the great furnace of real happiness that glows through Scrooge and everything around him. … Whether the Christmas visions would or would not convert Scrooge, they convert us.”

I recently read about a Christmas transformation story that parallels the one in A Christmas Carol. It’s about a banker named George Mason, who locked himself by accident in his own bank vault on Christmas Eve. When he finally got out two days later, he realized that no one missed him. Fortunately, he had reflected on his life and decided to make positive changes. Inside his vault is a handwritten card that reads: “To love people, to be indispensable somewhere, that is the purpose of life. That is the secret of happiness.”

We don’t have to be visited by ghosts or get locked inside a bank vault to realize the real meaning of Christmas. God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus, His only begotten Son, on that first Christmas, to redeem us from death and give us eternal life. Let’s share the love we have received with others this Christmas season.