My Christmas readings
Every December 25, I read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and G.K. Chesterton’s essay, “The God in the Cave”.
Charles Dickens’ well-loved novel has captured imaginations with its rich depictions of typically British Christmas celebrations during the Victorian era. It has also touched hearts with its story of Scrooge’s redemption.
Often, Charles Dickens’ novel has been characterized as a secular celebration of Christmas. But a close reading reveals Christ peeping through the text.
For example, when the Ghost of Christmas Present introduced himself to Scrooge and the latter said that he had never seen the likes of the ghost before, the ghost asked, “Have [you] never walked forth with the younger members of my family; meaning (for I am very young) my elder brothers born in these later years?”
Scrooge said “no”, then asked the ghost how many brothers the latter had. The ghost replied, “More than eighteen hundred.”
Why more than eighteen hundred? Recall that A Christmas Carol was published sometime in 1800 A.D. The Ghost of Christmas Present was referring to all the Ghosts of Christmas ever since the first Christmas at 1A.D – the birth of Christ – till then.
Then, when the same ghost showed Scrooge different celebrations of Christmas, he showed them people playing games at a Christmas party. The narration commented that “it is good to be children sometimes, and never better at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.”
With regard to G.K. Chesterton’s essay, my favorite quote from it is its statement that “there is something defiant in [Christmas] also; something that makes the abrupt bells at midnight sound like the great guns of a battle that has just been won.”
I remembered this quote when I spent Christmas in Spain with my brother. We walked to the cathedral in Pamplona for midnight Mass. It was cold. The streets were almost empty and quiet on the way to the cathedral. Inside, a small congregation sat in the dark, lost in the huge edifice that was a souvenir of the era when Europe was predominantly Christian.
Then, at 12 midnight, the church bells boomed and clanged, loud like “the great guns of a battle that has just been won.” The lights of the church were turned on, and the Mass began.
Christmas today seems to be getting predominantly secular. But if we know where to look, there are reminders that Christmas is about God becoming part of human history to give us hope of something better than being stuck in Christmas traffic.
We must heed these reminders, just as Scrooge heeded the lessons from the Christmas ghosts. We nurture the hope awakened by the sound of the “great guns of a battle that has just been won.” These will spur us on to pray, to work, to fight for a better future.
For as said in a December-released blockbuster movie a few years back, “rebellions are born of hope”.