Sunday, 6 December 2009

A Christmas Carol: Part 1

Now that I've finished school, I've been wanting to take more time to catch up on some reading, and also read some of the classics. With the upcoming holidays, I decided I ought to read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. After finishing the first part this afternoon, I realized there were many insightful things in there to think about, and decided to start a short blog series on each of the five parts. So, this is Part 1.

In the first part of the book, which takes place on Christmas Eve, you get the idea or basis of the story. You meet Ebenezer Scrooge and learn that he's a grouchy man that has little compassion and cares only for making money. Much of his time is spent at his firm. And he certainly does not like Christmas. He's constantly upset by the cheery greetings, people asking him to give, his nephew inviting him to Christmas dinner, and he's even reluctant to give his clerk the holiday off. You also learn that his business partner, Jacob Marley, died seven years ago, on Christmas Eve.

Later that evening, he is visited by Marley's Ghost. For awhile, he denies the reality of the apparition, but soon has to admit it to be true. You see, Marley's Ghost is quite the sight, and definitely not the most welcome one, especially due to the chain attached to him:

It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel.

When Scrooge asks about the chain, this is what Marley says:

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on my own free will, and on my own free will I wore it. Is it's pattern strange to you?”

Scrooge trembled more and more.

“Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!”

All of Marley's life, he was building his chain. He shows Scrooge that he's doing the same thing, only he's been working on it for seven more years. Chains of selfishness, greed, and money-making. I think here's an appropriate place to ask ourselves some questions. Are we building ourselves a chain? What is binding us and dragging us down? Is it selfishness, greed, an unforgiving spirit, harsh words, or bitterness? Or is it other sin that we indulge in, whether it be ungodly entertainment, lust, or whatever? If you examine your life, I think you'll be able to see what's building your chain, binding you, and dragging you down.

Thankfully, we are not required to live in chains and that we have a God that sets us free. May we repent in humility and ask God to loose us from whatever binds us and keeps us from living the life of freedom that He desires for us. At one point, the ghost says, “No rest, no peace. Incessant torture of remorse.” I, for one, do not want to come to the end of my life only to be tortured with the regret and remorse of the wrong choices and paths of my life. Although God does set us free and grant us His loving mercy and forgiveness, we do still bear the consequences of our actions. I surely want to keep them at a minimum.

The next thing Marley brings out is an idea I thought to be wise words, which, if applied, would make an enormous difference upon our lives:

“Any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!”

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

It held up its chain at arms length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.

Oh, so much is said in this passage! It's so true that this life is far too short to accomplish all we can do and no regrets later on will ever make up for the opportunities we missed. I must look at my own life. I'm far too content to do those things around me that require my attention and I'm far too concerned that I get adequate leisure time. This is not the way we're supposed to live!! There is so much more if we'll only grab onto it. And yes, you may have a good job or career and do what you do well, but if the good of others is not what you give yourself to, it amounts to but a drop in the vast ocean.

The truth is, when this life is over, we have no second chance. When we die, that's it. We cannot go back, do anything differently, take back any words or actions, and can't add anything to the meagre list of things we have accomplished. We must come before God as we are and with what we have, and I must say I would but hang my head in shame, unable to look up at my Lord, unable to speak or give an account for my life, as the Bible says we must do. And most of all, I fear that I will walk away from writing this and triumph over my insightful thoughts, or you will walk away from reading this and think how good it was, and nothing will change. I fail in this so often. I'm fed so much and am often so inspired, so challenged, but very seldom changed. "The question isn't were you challenged; the question is were you changed?" (Leonard Ravenhill)

I hope to get Part 2 up later this week and have this series finished by Christmas Day. May God's blessing be upon each and every one of you.

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