Copyright © 2011 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved.
In memory of my soul friend Terry Flynn, who kept the Christmas spirit the whole year ‘round. May he rest in peace and rise in laughter.
In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, after the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future have each paid Ebenezer Scrooge a visit, Scrooge vows to the latter spirit, “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.”
And when the phantom leaves him and Christmas morn arrives, a redeemed Ebenezer Scrooge vows again, “I will live in the Past, the Present, and Future! The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.” This is something to consider as we enter a new year.
One could say that the spiritual vitality of faith and its many stories and expressions derive from honoring the past, the present, and the future, letting them all strive within us. The nomadic Hebrews’ understanding of their spiritual ancestors going before them, as in a caravan, helps us look to our spiritual forebears who still lead our way. Buddhists realized the eternal in the now, illuminating our present. Christians keep us mindful of the inbreaking commonwealth of God manifest in serving “the least of these.” The Iroquois concept of the Seventh Generation reminds us to be faithful to our posterity in our stewardship of the earth—environment, resources, and creatures. And Latin America’s liberation theology speaks of the “memory of the future” which keeps God’s faithfulness in past generations (or in our own past) before us as we contemplate future possibilities.
Charles Dickens was a writer concerned for economic justice. He knew that in most of our hearts there is a little bit of Ebenezer Scrooge. “Bah, humbug,” we sometimes say, under our breath, when we hear a “naïve” or “impractical” or “idealistic” message. As Dickens completes the tale of a transformed Scrooge, he writes: “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 laughter in the outset…” Even so, Dickens tells us, Tiny Tim did not die, concluding the story, “And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”