“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7
This past Christmas Day, even though it was a lovely time spent with friends, I had—as I always have—a let-down feeling. I’d had the feeling many times before, but I had never framed the question, “Why do I feel this way?” As soon as I asked myself, I knew the reason I felt a little blue was because the Christmas season was over.
December is such a wonderful month, filled with good things: Christmas lights and decorations everywhere, get-togethers with friends, good food and drink, Christmas cards, presents, anticipation. And, most of all, the holiday spirit that permeates us, making us feel more connected to one another, and therefore more benevolent toward one another.
In early January, only days after my Christmas Day insight, I spent a few minutes talking books with a friend. “I reread A Christmas Carol over the holiday,” he said. “It was so good, and I found in it the best paragraph I’ve ever read.” At my prompting, he located the passage. Scrooge and his nephew Fred were discussing the profitability of Christmas. Of course, Scrooge’s opinion was that Christmas has never done anyone any good, including his nephew. Here is the response from Scrooge’s nephew:
“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew. “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”
January is all about profitable efforts. We collectively turn away from the relaxed camaraderie of the holidays and gird ourselves for the year ahead. Enough playing around. Time to take care of business. How sad that on the heels of Christmas, as we turn our eyes toward a new year’s promise, we also turn our focus from our fellow passengers on the journey that is life.
What if the most profitable business for 2023 is to continue to make time for the camaraderie of December? “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom,” prayed Moses (Psalm 90:12). Thinking about my own numbered days—fewer ahead of me than behind—creates an urgency to push toward life-long goals I have not reached. But is this wisdom? I may strive and strive and not reach them at all, a definite possibility since all my efforts haven’t been enough so far.
Maybe all the tasks I plan and execute, which are many and satisfying, aren’t the best parts of my day, or the most profitable in the long term. Will they keep me company when I am old and gray and nodding by the fire?
There’s a canvas in my study with this C.S. Lewis quote: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
Not bad words to live by in a fresh new year. Wouldn’t Scrooge agree?