It’s Christmas! The halls are decked with holly, the house with a million flashing lights (If you are an American, that is.) The shops are stocked with toys, tinsel, and turkeys by the trolley load.
There seem to be only two songs on all the radio stations: Jingle Bells or Rudolph the Rednosed reindeer.
All of this reminds us that it is the season, the season of capitalism, where we exchange gifts we can not afford for gifts we do not want from people we do not like! Ho, ho, ho!
This is supposed to be the season of joy, but if you look at the faces of shoppers jostling each other they look more like Doomsday-preppers than people celebrating the birth of the Lamb of God.
InstaScribe decided that we will be a beacon of light and joy by sharing a few of the most beloved Christmas masterpieces. Here they are, in no particular order,
It is just right that we feature the original Christmas book. In many homes the world over, folks read a short piece on the birth of Jesus whose birthday Christmas commemorates.
The second chapter of Luke is a great favorite to be read before the exchange of gifts.
I quote from verse 4 to 14: “And Joseph went up from Galilee, out of the town of Nazareth, into Judaea, to Bethlehem, the town of David, because he was of the house and family of David, To be put on the list with Mary, his future wife, who was about to become a mother. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she had her first son; and folding him in linen, she put him to rest in the place where the cattle had their food, because there was no room for them in the house. And in the same country there were keepers of sheep in the fields, watching over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord came to them, and the glory of the Lord was shining round about them: and fear came on them. And the angel said, Have no fear; for truly, I give you good news of great joy which will be for all the people: For on this day, in the town of David, a Saviour has come to birth, who is Christ the Lord. And this is the sign to you: you will see a young child folded in linen, in the place where the cattle have their food. And suddenly there was with the angel a great band of spirits from heaven, giving praise to God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on the earth peace among men with whom he is well pleased.”
The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R.Tolkien
This posthumously published book by Tolkien contains illustrated letters that he wrote for his children over a period of 22 years.
In this fun book, Father Christmas writes about his adventures and misadventures ofthe world’s most beloved “postman.”
Some critics argue that these books laid, at least in part, the foundation for the Lord of the Rings.
“Father Christmas lives. And never more merrily than in these pages.” is what the The New York Times Book Review had to say about it.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Yes, the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come. This novella is one of those few that create new language. These days the word scrooge means miser, just like Ebenezer was.
One of the sources that motivated Dickens to pen this little treasure was his own childhood experiences of intense poverty and the always present humiliation that poor people must face.
Although his experiences are not directly related here, it did give him a great sympathy for poor children. Remember that in the nineteenth century many children worked in mines and many other dangerous places.
One reviewer Thomas Hood wrote about this work, “If Christmas, with its ancient and hospitable customs, its social and charitable observances, were ever in danger of decay, this is the book that would give them a new lease. The very name of the author predisposes one to the kindlier feelings; and a peep at the Frontispiece sets the animal spirits capering.”
This book, then, is much more than a classic work, but a tool that parents can use to “predispose their children to the kindlier feelings.”
The Gift of the Magi by O.Henry
This is truly an O.Henry masterpiece about a desperately poor couple, Della and Jim, who would make any sacrifice for one another.
Della is virtually famous for her beautiful auburn hair. It reaches almost all the way down to her knees. With the $20 she is paid by an avaricious hairdresser, she buys a fob chain for Jim’s watch, a family heirloom.
Jim, in turn, sells this self-same family heirloom in order to buy a set of expensive combs for Della’s long hair.
When they open one another’s gifts, they discover how much they love each other. Both sold what they valued most, in order to give their loved one the best they could.
A true embodiment of the spirit of Christmas.
The Night before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
This is a beautiful poem for children by Clement Clarke Moore:
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads,
This poem seems to have contributed to the modern day St. Nicholas or Father Christmas. It is the tale of a father who wakes up in the middle of the night. He sees the jolly old man in red fill the children’s Christmas stockings before disappearing through the chimney with a “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
The Grinch, a bitter and always angry cave dweller is said to have a “heart two sizes too small.” (Reminds one of Ebenezer Scrooge, doesn’t it?)
He cannot stand the joyous noise the Whos for Whoville produce each Christmas . Concocting an evil plan, he disguises himself as Santa and steals all the Who’s gifts.
Early the next morning as he is preparing to dump all the gifts into an abyss, he hears the Whos singing a joyous Christmas song instead of a woeful wail.
“Maybe Christmas, he thought, means a little bit more.” His heart grows three sizes (Christmas past, present, future?). He returns all the gifts and becomes friends with the Whos.
Another simple tale that masterfully conveys a much bigger message.
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson
This is another golden oldie and unlike the others, this is a real tear jerker. A poor girl is forced by her mean father to sell matches to passersby in the street. It is a horribly cold day and business is slow. The girl shivers uncontrollably and takes shelter in a corner.
She tries to stay warm by lighting the matches one by one. She sees the loveliest and most comforting visions including that of a Christmas tree and a holiday feast. As she lifts up her head, she sees a shooting star and remembers that it is the sign of impeding death. The next match brings a vision of her saintly grandmother, the only person who ever loved the poor Little Match Girl.
As the last match dies, so does our little girl. She is carried to heaven by her grandmother. Her body is only found the next morning, frozen. Only then do people pity her.
This sad tale has been adapted in countless versions, including movies, plays, musicals and even a computer game.
Each of these tales reminds us that Christmas is to more than a jollification of some sorts. Let’s take some of these lessons to heart, and perhaps our heart will also grow three sizes.
A Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year from the InstaScribe team.