When I was growing up, my mother gave me the same, wonderful book for a Christmas gift every year. Mom was the librarian in the small village where we lived, and books were a fixture in our household for as long as I can remember. Mom loved to read aloud to my sisters and me, and classics such as Charlotte’s Web and Peter Pan were favorite bedtime stories. But the book Mom gave me every year for Christmas was Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. She didn’t wrap it up and place it beneath the tree with the other gifts, but instead, read it aloud to us on Christmas Eve. As we grew older, my sisters and I would choose parts to read aloud along with Mom’s narration—Marley’s ghost or Tiny Tim or maybe Scrooge himself.
This annual tradition of reading together as a family helped me understand the true meaning of Christmas. The holiday has little to do with shopping or stressing or consuming, and everything to do with spending time together, sharing our love for each other and, in my family’s case, sharing our love for stories and words.
Dickens’ timeless book is a much-needed reminder in our busy days that we need to pause and reflect on our lives from time to time, as Ebenezer Scrooge was forced to do. We need to make sure we have our priorities straight; that the love of money isn’t consuming us; that we’ve made time for our families, and time to express our faith and love for God. And if we’ve gotten off track, change is possible even for the most hard-hearted of Scrooges. As the characters in A Christmas Carol taught me year after year, love is at the heart of Christmas. “God bless us, everyone!”