I posted a version of this last Christmas. But given the growing level of selfishness and hatred seen in human interactions today, these themes bear revising and revisiting. Enjoy!
For me, it’s just not Christmas without A Christmas Carol. I love getting caught up in the story of greed gone good and the most sacred of human redemptions. I watch EVERY version of the movie that has ever been made. The classic Alastair Sim version is still my favorite. But I even admit to enjoying the cartoon Carols with Mr. Magoo and the Smurfs…and the ultra-cheesy Ebbie with Susan Lucci.
At the beginning of the story, Dickens says “I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book to raise the Ghost of an Idea.” Just what idea Dickens had in mind I do not know. But the idea I am left with after reading the tale…the idea I’d like to raise …is this:
Every human, every one, stands in need of redemption. None of us is without flaw or foible. Like it or not, we depend upon the grace of God, the bounty of creation and the generosity of others to live life, let alone to live it well. We are saved by these connections. And ourselves being saved, we are called upon to share the gift of connection and salvation with each other.
When little Tiny Tim, out of the abundance of his heart, proudly proclaims the most recognized holiday wish since “We bring you tidings of great joy,” he gave such a gift. “God bless us, every one.” In context, the boy was offering his special prayer for those he loved. But Dickens and I have a deeper message in mind.
God bless us, everyone! Yes, literally everyone! Wishing well to those who would do the same for you is easy. But it’s difficult, nigh impossible, to wish blessing upon those who hurt us or wish us ill. Yet that is the nature of the love of which divine blessing is made. No one on this planet is beyond the reach of divine blessing. And no one on this planet should try to change that.
The reason is simple…and from a certain perspective, selfish. Divine blessing…divine love…is given freely without condition or limit. But when asking for this blessing, we most often pray the easy, narrowly focused “God please give us” prayers. Easy prayers center us on the ones being blessed rather than on the one giving the blessing. In doing so, they turn divine blessings into all too human “good wishes.”
Praying such easy prayers closes off the heart and cripples our ability to give and receive the love of which blessings are made. Praying the difficult prayer opens our hearts to God and to others in a bond of mutual respect and shared communion. Love thy neighbor is great. But love thy enemy is an uphill climb…especially if the hurt they’ve caused is fresh and the pain intense.
There is nothing wrong with asking this love for our families, friends, selves and those like us. However, unless we can pray the same prayer for one who hates us (not just for one you hate), then we don’t know how deeply and profoundly the blessing for which we are asking runs. We will never truly know divine love until we can share it with the one who our human heart would rather avoid or even harm in return.
So in this holiday season, dare to pray a bolder prayer.
“God bless us! Every one!
“God, bless those I love and those who love me. Bless all those who have my best interest at heart. Bless those who make your world a better place simply by being in it. Bless those who make my life shine!
“But God, also bless those who hate and spitefully use us. Bless those who find me foolish and without value. Bless those who see my opinions…or even my existence…as trivial. Bless those who see themselves as the world’s greatest blessing.
“Bless those who make my life hell. Bless those I cannot bless because even seeing them darkens my spirit. Bless those who have hurt me most deeply, even those who hurt me in your name. Bless those with whom I will never agree!
Bless those who destroy for destruction’s sake. Bless those whose actions tear at our hearts and preoccupy our minds with humanity gone wrong. Bless those who would obliterate the best in us…the best and most innocent among us. Bless those who know naught but evil, and bless us so that we will never be or be impacted by such as that.
“Bless those who would never think…or want…to ask for your blessings themselves.”
Perhaps this change in the focus of our prayers will open the door to new community, connection and cooperation in 2013. Individually, as a nation and a world, we are in desperate need of this blessing!
One of my other favorite things about A Christmas Carol is that Dickens chose Ebenezer as the first name of his redeemed character. The word translates literally from Hebrew as “Stone of Help.” In Old Testament times, such stones were raised to memorialize places and times when God intervened for the good of Israel in ways which no human being could have orchestrated alone. Dickens’ Ebenezer was graced with such an intervention for his good…and subsequently became the source of good interventions on behalf of others.
In this most sacred of times for so many faiths, let us receive that same grace to transform our hearts to better share love, joy and peace with all. Let us not be like Old Jacob Marley, dead as a door-nail in our spirits. Let us be redeemable and sources of redemption for the Scrooge that would dwell in each of our hearts. God, please do bless us…every one!