If you enjoy gift-giving you may need to thank Charles. Before he put his pen to paper, the observance of Christmas had come to a halt. Puritans saw it as a pagan holiday and worked to have it banned. Anabaptists ignored it branding it “Papist.” But that was all before Charles conjured up a story in his head while walking the streets of London at night.
When he had it worked out in his mind he quickly wrote it on paper. In six weeks he had his story set. His intention was not to ignite Christmas. His goal was to shine a light on the horrible working conditions of the poor after touring tin mines and seeing children working in dangerous conditions and being denied an education.
But when his public pleas fell on deaf ears he realized a more effective way to reach the broadest audience would be to tell a story. A story could be felt and remembered. And so Charles – Charles Dickens – wrote A Christmas Carol. It was published just before Christmas in 1843 and it was immediately popular with the public and critics.
And aren’t you glad? Some scholars claim that his novel single-handedly invented the modern form of the holiday. The fun of gift-giving and charitable giving is now part of the fabric of the season. Many of our ideas of Christmas today including the Christmas tree, caroling and gift exchanges come from the Dickens period in Victorian history.
But gift giving has been around longer than has A Christmas Carol. Perhaps the most famous gift is found in the most famous verse of the Bible. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” And because the Son that was given was in nature the same as God, he gave too. “…grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’”
The Spirit too has the gift-giving bug. In writing to the Corinthian church Paul says “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit …”
God gave Jesus. Jesus gave gifts. The Spirit gives gifts. No need to argue over who gives. Paul’s point is this: each one in the body of Christ has been given a gift. That gift comes from God: Father, Son, and Spirit are giving in nature.
We are the beneficiaries of this gift-giving. But we don’t keep these gifts to ourselves. Your gifts that God has packaged inside you are not to be held onto tightly. They are to be developed and then used within the body of Christ. You have gifts that will help others grow into his likeness. And they have gifts you need too.
Charles Dickens helped the people of his day begin to think and behave more generously. He wrote a story that lives on today. You and I can help the people of our day by using our gifts in a way that bless others. We can write a story with our lives that will be felt and remembered and live on past today.
That’s a Christmas carol worth singing about.