Whether you watched online, in person, or were one of the players, you know our congregation was briefly overtaken by the words of Charles Dickens and perhaps his most beloved work, A Christmas Carol.
Along with the fun and frivolity of the celebration, many of you heard the message of the tale – one of giving, generosity, and kindness. All worthy, important, and worthwhile messages to share, there can be no doubt. And just before Christmas, I saw a tweet from 2017, which read A “Christmas Carol is the heartwarming tale of how rich people must be supernaturally terrorized into sharing.” And indeed, the ghost story of A Christmas Carol is potent – four pretty terrifying ghosts in total, scaring an aging miser into giving.
But someone offered a corrected version of that tweet: “A Christmas Carol is the heartwarming tale of how the frank examination of past trauma can help people re-examine their maladaptive coping strategies.”
I love this – because it reminds us that, as we see in the story, Scrooge was not always the cold-hearted miser we meet at the start of the tale. This is a man who suffered a series of unfortunate events at Christmastime – from his absent parents abandoning him to a boarding school, to losing his fiancé, to his beloved sister dying. It’s not that he naturally hated the holidays; it’s that the holidays brought painful reminders of the traumas he experienced. And at every turn, people are telling him what he Should Do – donate, make merry, celebrate, decorate… when all he wanted to do was tend to his pain.
And tend he did, until his whole world became about it. Scrooge hid from the world in a cave of his own making to avoid further pain.
How many times do we hide from our own pains, sorrows, and troubles – and hide from the things that would remind us? It’s a common strategy for all of us.
But what saves us – and what saves Scrooge in the end – is community. A friend who cares enough to point out what’s happened. Other friends who allow us to confront the past traumas, and then show us healthier behaviors that help us cope with them. And then more people who create a loving, holding community of welcome.
Scrooge has his ghosts – including his best friend Marley – along with the Cratchits, and his nephew Fred, and even the charity workers and people on the street. We have each other – friends we know well or are getting to know, people we serve with on committees or sing with in the choir or teach with in religious education, or work on projects with, or engage with in Journey Groups.
I’m thinking about that a lot as we enter a new year; we have an incredible community, right here, of people who care about each other and want to help, want to welcome. What might the year look like if we all remember to reach out to each other, check in with each other, create spaces and classes and discussions and events and festivities that bring us together?
May this new year remind us that we all have a story – and that all of our stories are welcome in this circle of love.
Happy New Year.