Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Lessons from A Christmas Carol

If you are reading this the day it is published, then it is Christmas Eve, but whenever you are reading it the lessons are the same.  It was on Christmas Eve that Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by the Christmas Ghosts - the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge key moments in his past where, had he taken the opportunity by the hand, he could have become a very different person.  Instead, he rejected all those opportunities to live a happy life and became a miserable miser instead.

The Ghost of Christmas Present appears to Scrooge in the form of Father Christmas.  Not the red, "Coca Cola" version, but the more traditional green robed Father Christmas.  A version beloved of all children who hang their stockings by the fireplace and expect him to come down a very narrow chimney, as Dickens' Ghost of Christmas Present has the essential ability to change his size to fit into any space, small or large.  This Ghost appears both as a jolly, partying Father Christmas carrying a symbol of peace on earth and goodwill toward men (and women!), and a stern, sarcastic chastiser who throws back at Scrooge his own selfish and unthinking comments about the poor and needy.  As he accompanies the Ghost of Christmas Present and sees the probable fate of his employee's disabled son, Tiny Tim, Scrooge seems to feel some remorse, asking whether Tim will really die.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come never speaks, but just points, leaving Scrooge to draw his own conclusions.  The future he shows is grim.  Nobody mourns the death of Scrooge, in great contrast with the feelings of Bob Cratchitt and his family over the death of Bob's son, Tiny Tim.

We all know the outcome of these three visitations, of course.  Ebenezer Scrooge realizes that although he cannot change the past, if he changes what he does in the present he can certainly change the future.  And that is what he does, becoming a changed man spreading joy instead of misery, and receiving joy instead of misery back into his life.

There are very clear messages here we should all learn.

Regret the past, but don't dwell on it.  What has happened has happened, and we cannot change it.  But we must learn from it.  We must see what went wrong and not make the same mistakes over and over again.  Having taken the lesson we need from it, we must give ourselves closure.  Forgive ourselves for anything we may have done which we shouldn't have done.  Forgive others who may have done wrong to us.  This forgiveness both ways is vital.  We cannot allow Christmas Past forever to mar Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come!

Recognize that the future is Yet to Come.  Fear about the future is pointless.  It is not here yet and it can be changed.  Scrooge saw his own death unmourned and Tiny Tim dying prematurely, but neither actually happened, because Scrooge changed his actions in the present.

Remember that the present is all we have.  Don't let anyone take your present from you - it is God's gift to you, giving the word "present" a double meaning.  Nobody has the right to take that gift from you, or the ability to do so unless you yourself give that to them.  Live in the present, and live a full life now - not a live centered in regret about the past or worry about the future.  Do what you should do now, live the live you want to live now, be the person you want to be now, make the changes you want to make in yourself and all that is around you now.  Realize it is not too late to do this, but also that there is no time to lose.  You cannot sit there frozen, thinking you should have done this in the past, and you must not sit there thinking you can do it some time in the future.  Do it now!

Do this and your life and the lives of those around you will change radically and very much for the better, just as was the case for the hero of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol".

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