A Christmas Carol and Grace in Practice

Scrooge did it all, and infinitely more

Ali Kjergaard / 12.10.21

I will make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth. Isa 49:6 

“I’m getting to the airport at 5 am, I don’t think I’ll hit bad wait times,” I thought to myself. Seeing curbside drop off caused me to reconsider. I was greeted by a line of cars with flashing lights, and weary passengers weighed down with suitcases waiting in line.  So I stood in line waiting, waiting to print my boarding pass, waiting to drop off my suitcase. Everyone around me seemed to be forgetting how to move through an airport properly, and I found my own patience pretty scarce at 5am sans coffee. “Yes, you need to have your ID out and ready,” I muttered, tapping my foot. The security lines were even longer, with more confusion, more forgetting to remove shoes, more foot tapping from me. These long lines were encroaching on my precious “sit-at-the-gate-reading-books-and-people-watching” time. Even when I got to the gate it was pretty packed. I had my coat resting on the seat next to me, and then, glancing at the crowds, I resentfully moved my coat to the ground, to open up the seat. All these fellow humans were really encroaching on my personal comfort and happiness. 

As I waited (and waited) for the boarding process to begin, I stopped aimlessly scrolling on my phone and looked up, taking out my headphones, mostly to listen for boarding announcements but also letting in some of the clamor around me. And then I made eye contact with a smiley little toddler who was staggering around. She was the most chipper person at the gate, just content to be walking around with her dad. I saw an elderly couple, talking about how big their grandkids would be and how eager they were to see them. Every person in those long lines was eager to be going somewhere or see loved ones, not nuisances, fellow sojourners. And I’d been viewing their journeys as lesser than my own. I am constantly struck by my own myopia. How easily I get caught in the snare of my own comforts and emotions! I pulled out A Christmas Carol sitting at my gate and was struck (again) when I read the lament of Jacob Marley:

Business! Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business! At this time of the rolling year I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!

I set the book down and did another glance around the airport. Everyone in that gate was my business, a fellow passenger. I don’t want to be Scrooge, I really don’t, but I saw my own ugly Scrooge-ness as I stood waiting in those lines. You can’t help but feel that Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol for the Christian, reminding us that our gaze should be fixed on a blessed star and the first founder of this season. It’s in following the star the wise men were led to Christ, and so it is in our journey. We are pointed to Christ, and after that we see newfound opportunities to love those around us. 

Dickens was trying to show us, indirectly, that we are capable of great selfishness but also of great compassion. That a cantankerous morning in the airport doesn’t have to have the final say on how I treat other people for the rest of the day. Even a life of selfishness can be redeemed in Christ. This little Christmas tale pushes all of us to consider what to do with the time we’ve been given and to learn there is something far greater beyond our own desires and pride. We can open up our hearts to those around us, and what better time to do so than the season of Advent. 

In Advent we wait; we wait as sojourners standing in a TSA line, but with far more hope. I have about as much control over my life as I do making sure the plane safely lands, but I can soak in the beauty of the sunrise from the plane window. I can help get an overhead bag down for the elderly couple in front of me. In my little row I might just have the potential to make a little difference, even if it’s just viewing my fellow travelers as humans. 

The short speech Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, gives after his uncle chastises him for his celebratory spirit captures well the theme of the season: 

I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they were really fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.

I’m not much of a crier, but I do cry reading A Christmas Carol every year, and I’ve choked through every performance of it, this year was no exception. The message of it doesn’t change and always compels me to be kinder and gentler to my fellow sojourners. We are all of us continuing to wait, but our time here isn’t forever. And when we look at our own lives as the gift they are, a spark of gratitude kindles a fire of generosity. When we realize the founder of Christmas came for all of us while still in our Scrooge-ness, our hearts change. It’s a miracle that Christ came to us, loving the unlovable. He came to a world of sheep desperately needing a shepherd, to selfish humans reluctant to share a seat, and to be light in great darkness. With Him we our selfishness gives way to see our neighbors as individuals to be loved and served. 

In the last few lines of A Christmas Carol, we see a transformed Scrooge, a redeemed Christian living a life of joy and peace. We see the miracle of what happens when an embittered miser is met by divine grace: 

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man as the good old city ever knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world… It was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that truly be said of us, and all of us!

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