“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!”
Merry Christmas! Charles Dickens and the England in which he lived and worked continue to influence our perception of 25 December. We give the greeting we think they gave, and we believe the holiday’s essence rests in the narrow, winding, cobblestone streets of an imaginary London. Men and women are garbed in Victorian regalia; the atmosphere is that of a freshly shaken snow globe; there are children and toy stores and a sense of wide-eyed expectation.
One might pause to wonder how Scrooge, the unforgettable character Dickens injected into Christmas lore, would feel about his conversion were he to re-emerge today. In many modern quarters the man who “knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge” would be out of place. We have been somehow given the belief that wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” is an offensive act. We end up instead muting our statement to “Have a happy holiday” as though using the “C” word might result in our being picked up by the political correctness police. Would Dickens still write “May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!” Oh dear; he dared to use the “G” word too. I can almost hear the approaching sirens.
Hopefully, there is a principle on which the secularists and the adherents to the sacred can find agreement. It lies in Marley’s response to Scrooge’s compliment about his having been a good man of business. Whether you’re a fan or foe of Christmas, you probably wish other people well. Marley lamented the fact that he had wasted his life by focusing on what should have been only a part of a much richer whole. He had failed to make any effort toward leaving the world a better place than he had found it. He had never touched another life in a positive way. He had never done the wonderful things that it was in his power to do. He had never attended to the real business of life.
So when you go to turn off the light switches tonight – or any night – take a good look at that switch. It’s such a little thing, yet it makes such a big difference. It turns darkness into illumination. Let us aspire to turn on as many figurative switches as we can while making our way through life so that we might each leave a legacy of light. May this truly be said of all of us in this season and in all the others as well.