By Curtis K. Shelburne: Local columnist
The Lord Jesus and Charles Dickens were both right: the way to be saved is to become a child.
That’s not easy. We spend most of our lives trying to be all grown up. Sadly, we generally succeed.
All too often, our imaginations start to shrivel about the time we learn to count. Now, learning to count is not a bad thing if you also learn to count the right things. Children naturally assume that grown-ups know all about what’s worth counting, and nothing could be further from the truth.
Grown-ups can generally be counted on to count all the wrong things at all the wrong times. If a modern kid knew a sugar plum from a teddy bear and actually recognized a sugar plum or a few dancing in his head, he wouldn’t waste time counting the plums; he’d giggle and laugh and enjoy the dance, all the while filling up with the joy of being a child, as thrilled as Tiny Tim at the sight of that amazing Christmas feast.
Grown-ups follow their own patron saint Ebenezer, sitting in the cold counting house shuffling shekels. At first, they think about what those coins will buy, which at least requires a smidgeon of imagination.
But before long, old Scrooge’s imagination is completely frozen out. Life becomes all about counting coins and getting more to count and never leaving the counting house lest some remain uncounted.
Early on in Dickens’ wonderful story, the one thing Tiny Tim didn’t have to worry about at all was having a father too frightened and dull to know that Christmastime is time to leave the counting house. Ol’ Scrooge may have frightened good Bob Cratchit, but Cratchit never saw the day when he was as frightened as Scrooge, scared to death that when the time came to staple his resume and spreadsheet on his tombstone, he might have counted too few coins, spent too little time in the counting house.
Oddly enough, when Scrooge is scared silly by the Christmas spirits, he gets over being scared to death by life. He turns back into a child. He takes up laughing again. He remembers how to live with expectation and delight. And he breaks the counting house chains by giving away a serious stack of coins that he no longer takes too seriously.
G. K. Chesterton, the wise, rotund, jolly, master weaver of words (wise enough not to trust “cold, hard, thin people”) said a century or so ago, “Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.” Children’s imaginations naturally take wing for the same reason. Loving the giver, they’ll delight in even the smallest gift, saying thank you with their smiles, never for a moment worrying that they haven’t earned it or paid for it.
It’s Christmas! God’s given us the best Gift! He uses a little Child to lead us to become children again, to accept His Gift, and to respond with delight and laughter.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org