Thursday, December 16, 2010
A Tale of Epiphany and Redemption - Confession Friday a day early!
I may make this a confession. A day early, but there is nothing that prevents me from having more than one Confession Friday, right? Ok, so I just decided to confess!
Other than the actual story of Christ's birth, my favorite written Christmas story is A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. You would have to be raised by illiterate desert nomads with absolutely no access to books, TV and other modern conveniences of storytelling to not be familiar with the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit's family, particularly Tiny Tim, Bob's crippled but ever so effervescent son. Dicken's tale has become so ingrained into our Christmas experiences that the phrase "Bah, humbug!" or "you're being a Scrooge!" needs no further explanation when uttered.
Ebenezer Scrooge, as the main character of the story, is a man to be hated and scorned, but also pitied in a standoffish, don't-get-too-close way. What Ebenezer Scrooge is inflicted with may be catching and this is the time of year that we don't want to come down with the Bah Humbug virus, even though there are many that walk among us that have already been infected and try to spread their misery to the general population. But I digress.
Scrooge hates any and everything Christmas - the revelry, the gift-giving, the fellowship, the money that, in his opinion, is wasted. Ebenezer's story is one of lost dreams, lost family, lost love, lost soul. There is not any redeeming quality that he possesses, at least that we can see. We all know how Marley, Ebenezer's dead and departed business partner, comes warning him to change his ways and then the three Spirits present themselves to Ebenezer in his dreams to show him his past, his present and his future, as well as some of those around him, Tiny Tim and Bob specifically. By the time the Ghost of Christmas Future is done with him, we are pulling for old Scrooge to change his ways. The old curmudgeon. has become endearing to us, the readers, and everyone loves an underdog.
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What a glorious moment in literature and in film when Scrooge wakes up to the ringing of church bells the next morning and realizes that he has not missed Christmas after all! Scrooge has had his epiphany and nothing is going to hold him back. He is going to make up for lost time and enjoy every Christmas from now on. After all, he is an old man and there might not be that many Christmases left for him.
Scrooge is now a redeemed person, helping Bob Cratchit and his family, making sure that Tiny Tim has the medical treatment he so deserves, giving to the poor and celebrating Christmas all year long. Here is how Dickens describes Ebenezer's epiphany: ""I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach."
Which brings me to my point....I love epiphanies, mine or other people's. Even pronouncing the very word "e-pi-pha-ny" gives me a good feeling. So exactly what does epiphany mean?
In general, an epiphany is when a person realizes like a bolt of lightening something he has not realized up until that moment. It is the instant comprehension of an idea or philosophy that has always been right in front of you, like putting the last piece of a puzzle into its proper place and being able to see the puzzle's image. It can come with a new experience or insight, sometimes significant, sometimes small. But the most important part is that an epiphany can, and most often should be, life changing, just as in Ebenezer Scrooge's case.
Now to the point of all this and the lesson that I think Charles Dickens was trying to convey to us. Epiphanies are wonderful turning points. But epiphany without REDEMPTION is nothing. I cannot emphasize this more: Unless we ACT on our epiphanies, they are useless in our lives. Redemption is defined as "the act of delivering from sin or saving from evil" or "the act of purchasing back something previously sold". The ACT. In Scrooge's case, he is delivered from his lifelong hate of Christmas and he acts on getting his soul back by being the best Christmas participant that ever was. He ACTS on his epiphany.
Dickens describes the new and improved Ebenezer with this: " 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 knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. 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 laugter in the onset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that 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."
My own Christmas epiphany came years ago. I have always loved Christmas, from the time I was a little child until now. I will always love Christmas. But it was something that my father, my wise, wise Daddy, told me when I was in my late teens or early 20's. He, too, loved Christmas, and the Christmas spirit just bubbled out of him. We were having a discussion about people not enjoying the holidays and he phrased it this way:
"Pamela, (when he was serious, he always called me Pamela)..."Pamela, the way I think about Christmas is this - if we are really lucky we may get to celebrate Christmas about 85, 86 times in our lifetimes. We don't remember the first few, and we may not be able to remember the last few we have on this earth, so I figure we better make the most of those other 75 or 80 we get - IF we're lucky. Seventy-five times to do something you love isn't very much. Celebrate each Christmas you get because you may never get another." That was my personal Christmas Epiphany and why I celebrate it the way I do. My dad got his lifetime 86, God bless him, and I think of him so delightfully but with a touch of heartache at Christmas. He gave me wonderful Christmas memories that I will treasure for MY 86, if I am that lucky.
I am hoping for each of you your own Christmas epiphany, big or small. Celebrate it! Act on it! Share it with us by leaving a comment! And I leave you with this -
" "God bless us every one," said Tiny Tim, the last of all." ~ Charles Dickens
P.S. If you have never read A Christmas Carol, here's a gift from me to you! Enjoy! The language is wonderful! There is a menu at the top to continue with each section of the book: http://www.stormfax.com/1dickens.htm