“I have come to bring you home, dear Brother! … Home, for good and all. Home, for ever and ever. Father is so much kinder than he used to be, that home’s like Heaven!”
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
Home is like heaven. What more is there to say? Dickens’s immortal short story of Christmas goes to the deepest longings of the human heart. This stands to reason, as the great drama of human life is always a drama of home, and home-coming. And this tends to come to light at Christmas.
Stave Two of A Christmas Carol holds the key. Among a few unforgettable images from Christmas past, that of Scrooge’s dear little sister Fan stands out. One Christmas she comes to the boarding school of Scrooge’s painful isolation and gleefully announces (in the words quoted above) she is sent to bring him home.
The flashback ends abruptly; we don’t get to see the actual homecoming. It seems that Fan’s great hope for her brother does not come to fruition. Or rather, not yet, in his youth.
A Christmas Carol has such universal appeal because we all sense the drama. Indeed, we are all in it—just in different characters or chapters. The key aspects of the human drama are all here: What is a real home anyway? How do we find it? Or perhaps rather: What does making a true home require of us?
Also in Stave Two is the account of the demise in his young manhood of Scrooge’s engagement to be married. In short, he chose badly. Distracted, misled, hurt, ambitious, avaricious. Who can judge precisely what led to his bad choice? But choose badly he did, and he and others would suffer for it for years to come.
And now so many years later, he is given the opportunity to look again. To see his life, and the choices he’s made and is still making, differently. And this gift comes to him at Christmas. It comes to him through Christmas.
Scrooge pleads with the last Spirit: “Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!” The Spirit does not answer. Scrooge must strive forward the best he can.
“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future! The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees…”
Heaven, and the Christmas Time indeed. We don’t need special apparitions. The whole glorious if challenging reality is right before our eyes: in the story of the birth of Christ; in our ability or inability to celebrate Christmas; and in the deeply connected stories of our own life and those around us.
Augustine of Hippo says home is where the heart is at rest. There is yet time. We can put first things first; again, or for the first time. That is home: where first things are put first. And so our hearts can be at rest. Together.
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Make sure to check out Sofia’s list of books to READ ALOUD at Christmas time. And here is a reflection from a couple of years ago on Christmas depression:
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Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. LifeCraft springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.
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