Christmas Carol (X): Jollification

Scrooge repents.

He repents even though he is unsure of salvation. He is sorry for his misdoings and no longer attempts to bargain with Justice. He accepts that he is wretched and does not just retreat from selfishness, but to positive charity.

C.S. Lewis made the point that too many of us confused unselfishness with charity, but charity, as he points out, is a positive virtue while unselfishness is merely getting rid of a vice. A husband may be utterly unselfish, but fail love his wife. Such a situation may be just as bad as the selfish husband, since after all even vice is something.

It is at least easier to escape the positive evils of a selfish man than the unselfish, but unloving man. The selfish man signals his evil, like Scrooge, by everything he says or does while the merely unselfish confuses the heart. It can take a long time to know that the simply unselfish man is unfeeling about anything: undead to the tender emotions, but not alive to them either.

Scrooge was an active sinner and now becomes an active saint. He has faith, one of his first acts is to go to Church, but his faith works. Scrooge gives generously from the first day. We also see the wry humor that Scrooge had used for evil turned to good in his pranks on Bob Cratchitt.

It is standard on the Holidays to moan about commercialism and false jollity and nobody defends either, but there is another sin: the refusal to laugh with those who laugh. There is a deep selfishness that will only be happy when “everything is going my way.” December 25 is a fixed date and there is no reason to  believe that any of us will be particularly happy on that day more than any other if we attend only to our “feelings.”

We must attend to our feelings, but a mature person need not be controlled by them. We are bidden to make merry on Christmas to celebrate the Incarnation and so merry we should be. We need not lie if that attempt fails as sometimes it will nor need we be insensitive to those stricken by a particular tragedy at Christmas time. Still the maudlin “have yourself a Merry Little Christmas” whine that is too common at this time of year is often (though not always) a sign of advanced selfishness.

We cannot stand our family, because we do not agree with their politics. Some crazy uncle tells foolish stories too often. We don’t like Christmas movies or are bored. Tinsel offends our aesthetic sensibility. Christmas is a good time to think: if I can love my enemy, then I can love my family. If I want others to tolerate aging me, then I must extend toleration to aging others. My boredom is probably a sure sign that I am selfish. My celebration is to entertain me instead of being for others whether children, parents, or the poor.

I demand the Holiday serve me up a slice of jollification, not that I make others jolly, but a sure recipe to make merry is to make others merry. The Holiday is holy not because of us, good not because of us, happy not because of us, and exists despite us. We are celebrate His birth . . . and nothing that happens to us can prevent that birth from having been anymore than all the armies of the earth can stop His Second Coming.

I am off to make merry!


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