The Common Good

The Gospel According to Charles Dickens: Charity worth Laughing At

Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and, knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well the they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

 

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come had left Scrooge and there was left an "ebenezer," or reminder.  

Scrooge repented, promised to “honor Christmas in his heart” all year long and to never forget the lessons of the three spirits.

He celebrated Christmas day with his nephew, sent the Cratchit family a prize Christmas turkey and then given Bob Cratchit a raise. He became a second father to Tiny Tim, was known as a good man in the city and was remembered for his ability to keep Christmas well.

But, as Dickens pointed out, this didn’t come without some laughter and derision.

Some people who knew Scrooge as a misanthrope before, now saw the old, mean man as a fool. The radical conversion Scrooge underwent  caused some to question whether this new Ebenezer was still of sound mind.

This is as it should be.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus’ family thought Jesus was out of his mind at least once (Mark 3). They were concerned that he had lost touch with reality. And in a way, they were right to be concerned.

The new reality Jesus was ushering in meant that he and his followers had started to lose touch with the old reality. Paul wrote that the message of the cross is foolishness to most but to those who are being saved it is the glory of God (1 Corinthians 1).

If you don’t find the idea of God putting on flesh and dwelling among us scandalous, then you don’t understand it.

Conversion should be a transformation so significant that people should laugh at us and think us foolish for the risk-taking charity that flows out of our lives.

Not all of us have the kind of dramatic conversion that marked the life of Ebenezer Scrooge. Many of us live lives in which our conversion occurs slowly each day.

So the important questions to ask at Christmas are these:

Am I more converted than last year?

Are my heart and life turning closer to the picture of the miserly Scrooge or the joyful Ebenezer?

What is the trajectory of my spirit?

With each decision we make we bring either more freedom or captivity into the world. Christmas is not just a time to be charitable but to assess the charity of our spirit from the entire year before.

May Christmas this year inspire us all to a kind of charity worth laughing at.

Tim King is Communications Director for Sojourners. Follow Tim on Twitter @TMKing.

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