December 25, 2022 Essay: The Gift of Christmas Day

Dec 19, 2022

Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; golden sunlight; heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious. Glorious.

“What’s today?” he cried out, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.

“Eh?” returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.

“What’s today, my fine fellow?” he asked again.

“Today!” replied the boy. “Why, Christmas Day!”

Perhaps you recalled these words from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge has just awakened from a long night’s sleep on Christmas Eve, having been visited in his dream by the spirits of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet To Be. He journeyed with each spirit with hesitation and fear. He witnessed a life that had been filled with gaiety, wonder, love, and the warmth of friendships and family. He revisited the pain of disappointment and heartbreak that transformed his life into one of bitterness, resentment, and greed. He peered into the eyes of those whose lives could have been comforted by a singular word or gesture of kindness from him. He recognized how heartless a person he had become in life. Lonely by choice, not by circumstance, his solitary journey had put him on a path to darkness and doom, vilified by those who knew him and not having recognized in life those who loved him.

The story of Ebenezer Scrooge is one of conversion. His single night’s journey opened the eyes of his heart to what his daily waking eyes could not. Undoubtedly scared to his wit’s end upon first hearing the rattling chains of Jacob Marley, he nonetheless ventured forward with the visiting spirits of Christmas in the likely hope that it would soon be over. Little did he know, or could even have imagined, how it would end.

As children, were not our eyes on Christmas Eve focused on the gifts that Santa would bring? Were not our hearts pumping with happiness in anticipation of Christmas Day and the days that would follow? Filled with wonder, we dreamed of futures overflowing with all the world has to offer. Friendships would be formed, commitments of love made. And then, like Ebenezer Scrooge, times of disappointment and heartbreak diminished the luster of childhood dreams. The real world intruded. The safer path for many became lined with what were perceived as protective barriers that sadly led to a false sense of worth and self-importance, forgetting those who either needed help or wanted their love acknowledged and accepted.

As Ebenezer would come to realize in the course of a night’s dream, the dark path of isolation and walls of fear lead only to the disintegration of the bonds of friendship and family and a hardened heart of resentment. He learned from Jacob Marley that the shackles of darkness bear the torment of eternal despair. His nighttime dream ended there, but he nonetheless hoped that the stories of the Christmases Yet To Be were not yet written. When he finally awakened on Christmas morning, he breathed in the air of freedom, of a new beginning that could recapture the hopes and dreams of his childhood and fuel the fire of others in their dreams for a future overflowing with happiness and the bounty of goodness.

With the realization that he was given another chance to amend his ways, he was giddy with excitement. He danced about his room that for too long had shuttered out the light of day. A dawn of hope was awakened within him. His life was transformed by the wonder of God’s love that, somehow and for unknown reasons, he experienced in his dream. May his story of conversion be for us the entryway to a path that leads to the one born this day, whose birth was heralded by angels and brought joy to the world.

When Ebenezer Scrooge leapt with joy from his bed on that cold December morning to fling wide his bedroom window, he discovered that the greatest gift of all was the gift of Christmas Day.

— Rev. Dennis J. Yesalonia, S.J., Pastor