It is finally the most wonderful time of the year! With Christmas comes Christmas songs, movies, cookies, decorations, socks, and best of all – Christmas books! When I think of a book that encompasses all things Christmas, Charles Dickens’ famed short-story A Christmas Carol comes to mind.
Every time I read this story, I’m reminded of my own Christmas Past. Let’s go back to December 2018.
It is a warm, humid day in Arequipa, Peru. I situate myself for a day of reading a book that I’d had on my bookshelf for several years. Just a week ago, this almost 200-year-old book sat stuffed in between clothes in a suitcase as it flew with me from Washington D.C. to Lima, Peru.
I pull out the book, sit on the squeaky bed and remember what brought me here. Last year, my family and I celebrated our last Christmas with my grandmother, who passed away almost three months after. Wise, loving, and compassionate, my grandma was a light in my life who I had the honor of calling my best friend. The approaching Christmas season, absent of her contagious smile, prompted my family to embark on a crazy adventure to my mother’s hometown of Peru.
So I sit here after days of attempting to fill the void of my late grandmother. I yearn to share all the wonderful experiences of the previous days with my grandma. I have to remind myself that will not happen until we are reunited in eternity.
Opening the pages of the book, I am transported to a different world. My surroundings transform into the grey, cold walls of Ebenezer Scrooge’s bedroom. The Ghost of Christmas Past arrives and guides Scrooge through his past Christmas, each one reminding him of the hurt and pain each one bestowed. Reminded of my own personal pain and hurt, I come face to face with Scrooge’s resentment to joy.
I realize the daunting manner in which I perceive Christmas. Instead of looking at it as a season of joy abounding, I view it as a season tainted by the empty seat beside the tree that belonged to my grandma. I let my grandma’s passing dictate my life. Instead of honoring my Heavenly Father’s story, I resented it and did all in my power to shield myself from the pang of heartache, and in doing that, my heart developed an intolerance for joy.
Circumstances shape me as a person, but the strident blows of reality must not mold me into a woman who shuts her heart to joy. Though people who know me may not see it, I am morphing into my own Scrooge, preventing myself from embracing the joy Christmas brings.
Firmly intrigued by the book, I continue reading and eventually meet the Cratchit family. A poor family barely making enough money to support themselves, they surround a worn dining room table and enjoy a plentiful Christmas meal. Tiny Tim, their crippled son, waddles into the scene, leaning on his cane, radiating peace and joy throughout the house. Despite facing the possibility of sickness or death, he still musters up enough gratitude to ebulliently exclaim, “God bless us everyone.”
Weak and withering, Tiny Tim reminds me of my grandmother. Both awakened every morning with the knowledge that the day lying ahead may be their last. Yet they both lived each day in joy, basking in every beautiful moment that reminded them of God’s blessings. Even though my grandmother’s body ached from the cancer devouring her from the inside out, she lived her life in surrender to whatever the Lord had in store. Trusting in Him, she gracefully celebrated the season of Christmas with that contagious smile, making it impossible for anyone around her to bear any sadness.
My grandmother, like Tiny Tim, did not allow for her circumstances to steal her joy – she chose to further embrace it.
Finishing the book, I ponder the images that struck so close to home. I remember my grandmother’s life. I remember her final Christmas morning with the scrumptious aroma of breakfast casserole wafting throughout the house and the sight of a White Christmas blanketing the background. I stare out the window over the dust-covered desert streets of Peru and the majestic volcano reigning the sky several miles away.
I set the book down, stretch, and feel a gush of warmth break down the cold walls of my Scrooge heart. I thank God for my grandmother’s life and the impact she made on my life. I choose joy. To relish in the blessings Christ so graciously bestows upon me and my family as Tiny Tim did.
And now, I sit on my couch in Springfield, Virginia writing this article, at the brink of the Christmas season with a heart newly open to the joy that the upcoming months hold. I thank God for that simple story that opened my eyes to my hardening heart and served in transforming it into a heart that chooses joy over anguish. A heart that can be joyful in any part of the world, whether in Peru or Virginia. A heart like my beloved grandma’s heart, who laughed in the face of fear and lived through Christmas radiating hope and gratefulness.
May the light of hope and joy embrace you as the Christmas lights hug the branches of the evergreen tree in the corner of your living room. May you take the time to give thanks for the Lord’s many blessings. May you choose joy in the face of pain and not let your heart grow weary.
“A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us, every one!”
Dickens, Charles, and Katharine Kroeber. Wiley. A Christmas Carol; The Chimes and; The Cricket on the Hearth. Barnes & Noble Classics, 2004.