“Beloved let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” I John 4:7-12 (NRSV)
A number of years ago Mary Ellen gave me a facsimile copy of the first edition of Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic “A Christmas Carol.” The leather bound book is now worn and discolored – so much so it comes close to looking like an original.
My favorite personality in this book is none other than Ebenezer Scrooge. Dickens certainly deserves credit for Scrooge’s dramatic character development. Scrooge begins the story as a selfish man who makes changes and ends with generous contribution to the generally unappreciated employee and his family. Christmas is, of course, the catalyst for this metamorphosis.
My father – likely candidate for “poster child” for a modern day psychological version of Christmas Scrooge – began each Christmas with detailed lament of his troubled childhood and the unpleasant memories accumulated during early holiday seasons. His depression was particularly evident at the onset of the season especially as we brought down the few boxes and a leather suitcase of decorations. My brother and I would listen sympathetically (my mother not so sympathetically) to his oft repeated stories, and extract $3.00 or $4.00 from him to buy a Christmas tree. We would walk by ourselves to town center a few blocks away to make the purchase. Our mother -year after year – would shoo my father away and, waiting for our return, prepare a fun filled – hilarious – what will possibly happen next – decorating of house and tree. The party involved all the standards – tinsel, music, angels, strings of lights, cookies, red, and green. There was a surprise or two, an unexpected hat, or a package from Germany to open. We had a great time!
Fast forward a couple of weeks as we continued our happy celebration. My father’s sulking moderated to curiosity, and finally realization the fun would continue with or without him. His sorrowful recollections faded until on or about Christmas Eve he would routinely review our letters to Santa. He checked to see what our frugal mother had purchased (or not purchased) for us and again disappear. I can remember with clarity my father’s arms full of wrapped packages. His face beaming as he placed the final gifts under the tree. His Christmas Eve generosity was legendary – so much so I knew to be careful about what I might ask for at Christmas knowing my Dad would purchase whatever I desired. And – in memory- I did receive everything – except a pony!
Gracious God, we praise and give You thanks for the remarkable transformative power of Your love. In this fictional story we see how a selfish miser was transformed into a loving and generous person upon seeing himself as he really was. We thank You for Jesus and his atoning sacrifice for us. Help us to love one another in grateful response to Your having loved us. Amen.