Thursday, 8 December 2011

Hard to Shake a Ghost

Every year at Christmas some famous Canadian actors and CBC radio personalities give performances of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as fundraisers for local charities. Although one of the performances is at my own church, I just wasn’t interested. That story has been done to death, I thought.

I looked forward to other Christmas events and planned to kick off my Christmas season with the neighbourhood BIA-sponsored concert. Several local church choirs join with a string ensemble to make heavenly music. 

After eagerly arriving early to get a seat I scanned the programme in my hand. Groan. This year, between selections from Handel’s Messiah, there were going to be readings from Dickens’ famous novella! Oh drat. I was further annoyed when, at the last minute, an usher pushed in a hefty (late) woman to sit beside me, jammed up against my own hefty self. 
The combo of physical discomfort and Dickens, sent me out the door early, feeling cranky instead of jolly.

The next evening, again anticipating a meaningful occasion, I spent a confusing two hours at a fundraiser for a stranger that combined a tragic story, tango dancers, a sexy bar singer, some ballet, and a scriptural benediction. Long story. I left feeling cranky again.

Oh well, I knew that the Salvation Army’s annual concert in the magnificent Roy Thompson Hall would not disappoint.  A week later I settled in my seat near the rafters and looked at the programme.
WHAT? This can’t be.
Tucked between various musical numbers that promised delight, the programme listed readings from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol!
What was going on? Never mind the ghost of Christmas past, Dickens himself was haunting me.

My next evening out had been advertised as a concert by one of my favourite recording artists. Dickens didn’t show up, but most of the evening turned out to be a plea for charitable donations topped off with a sermon. I tried to be positive but I couldn’t keep from grumbling about sneaky organizers who publicize one thing and intend another. 
Crank, crank, crank, 

One morning, I sat in discouraged silence. The Christmas glow had vanished. 
“Okay, God, very funny. I’m trying to celebrate Your incarnation on earth, “keeping the Christ in Christmas”, as they say, and all I’m getting so far is disappointment and Dickens, of all crazy things.” 
After a few minutes, a light bulb went on. 
With shock I realized that I, myself, was acting like Scrooge! I was the one saying “Bah!” as I attend one disappointing event after another.
I finally surrendered to the Ghost and read A Christmas Carol.
There was a vivid description of Ebenezer Scrooge:
“a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!”
When his cheerful nephew says to him, “Don’t be cross", he answers, “What else could I be when I live in such a world of fools as this?” 
Oops, my recent sentiments exactly.
For two weeks I’d been hungrily trying to consume merriness and Christmas inspiration. Smug about not spending extravagantly on gifts, and planning my lovely Advent events expectantly, I hadn’t noticed my self-centred greed for tradition, beauty and pleasure at this time of year. Thanks for the wake-up call, Mr. Dickens.