Love lavishly, honor deeply, give joyfully, help humbly, encourage sincerely. It is through this that the year 2020 and all subsequent years will be redeemed. You are the miracle of Christmas.
I have a pretty ridiculous love of (obsession with?) the famous novella, "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. Other than the Bible, this is the book that has influenced my life more than any other. It affected me even more than "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee even though that runs a pretty close second. It appears that I am not alone in my love of this story because, literary historians believe, there has never been a book that affected so much rapid and radical change in the way that western culture views Christmas. It certainly helped me see that the coldest heart can change and become more Christ-like.
While I love this story year round and think about it often, I positively swim in it during the weeks of Advent. I reread the book, watch all (all) the film versions, regale my husband (bless his patient heart) with the discrepancies between the book and the films and refer back to this tale in far too many conversations. I think of the characters as friends and I meditate on their back stories. I say, "God bless us, everyone!" with too much enthusiasm. I told you, it really is pretty serious fan girl situation.
What I love most about the story is the theme of redemption. Each of us can, if we really desire it, choose to turn our entire outlook around. It all begins with a decision to be better, to look at something from a different angle, to see through someone else's eyes, to learn from an experience. This is, as with Scrooge, often an overnight revelation. A full transformation may take time, but the change of heart and mind occurs in one moment of realization that things can be different if we choose.
Transformation is a beautiful concept especially when an individual's spiritual makeover spills out to the community all around. There was not a soul in Scrooge's sphere of influence that failed to witness and experience alongside of Scrooge the joy of his miraculous realization that "mankind is my business" as is so adamantly stated by the Ghost of Jacob Marley. Scrooge came to know in his later years that we are all responsible for one another. In fact, the answer to the eternal question first asked by Cain, "Am I my brother's keeper?" is a resounding "Yes!" Beyond that, you are your brother's brother. It matters.
It is through this realization that the year 2020 and all subsequent years will be redeemed. Not a person on the planet needs me to repeat the incessant mantra that this year has been challenging. What we need to hear now is how can we learn, move forward and thrive in the months ahead. As it always does, the Word of God has provided us with the answer even before we sought it: "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." Romans 12:10 NIV.
My sweet husband reminded us all on one of our live video Advent devotions that joy can be ours if we remember that the letters of the word joy stand for Jesus first, Others second, Yourself third. Like most old sayings, this one has remained in our memories because it is truth. Joy comes to the givers of joy. Joy comes to the ones who put the needs, desires and comforts of their spouse, children, friends, and strangers ahead of their own. It comes to the ones who seek to love more than they seek to be loved.
Have you ever had a Scrooge-like transformation? Saint Benedict referred to this as "conversion of manners" which indicates that the change in your heart doesn't stay in your heart but spills out through your behaviors and your words; your demeanor and countenance are open and cheer the souls around you. You gain a glow and a warmth of spirit which are noticed by everyone you know, and their lives are enriched along with yours. Strangers and wanderers are drawn to the light that shines from you as the cold and weary are drawn to a fire. You become the very essence of Christ's love and the entire community sees Christmas joy in you each day. The experience of transformation is like that of the caterpillar emerging from a cocoon as an entirely new creature. Has this happened in your life?
Make room in the uncertainty and confusion that has been the hallmark of 2020 for a transformation that will bring to you the comfort of joy. Allow yourself the freedom to be reshaped into the likeness of Christ as Ebenezer Scrooge did. Perhaps we can think about the year 2020 as a visitation of the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet To Come and open our hearts to the message of the season. Love lavishly, honor deeply, give joyfully, help humbly, encourage sincerely. Be the one that your children and spouse, parents and coworkers, neighbors and strangers see the light of Christ-mas in. The word Christmas is from Latin and means "Christ's Day" and so, if we are shining His light, every day really can be Christmas.
The day of Christ happens when just one person in a family or community chooses to bring the comfort of His joy to a world in which 2020 can happen at any time. That is the miracle of Christmas and the greatness of love. The miracle is in you already. Let it shine!