At the end of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol we find this description of the changed Ebenezer Scrooge, after his encounter with the spirits:
and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!
I remember the first time I heard those words, “he knew how to keep Christmas well,” and I wondered then what they meant. After hearing those words many more times over the years, knowing how to “keep Christmas well” is something I’m still not sure I understand, but I am sure it’s something I aspire to. To me, those words are reminiscent of the words found in Luke 2:19, in a description of Mary, after her meeting with the angel:
Luke 2:19: But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
What did Mary keep? The knowledge of her child, who he was and where he came from. For Mary, that knowledge was something she thought about and cherished.
Keeping Christmas may have something to do with our traditions, the lights, the tree, the food and presents. But it also has much to do with way we think about Christmas, how it lives in us, the way the knowledge of her child lived within Mary. It means that we think about not just the traditions and the celebrations, but the reasons for them and the effect they have on us and on others.
For Ebeneezer Scrooge, keeping Christmas well meant changing his life, celebrating a holiday that was previously just an inconvenience. And more than celebrating, using his means to provide for others and change the course of their lives. The reason that all of this is an important part of keeping Christmas comes from the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place: the knowledge of what Christmas is.
The knowledge that Christ was born on that first Christmas night so long ago, that he came as a baby, that he was and is the Son of our Eternal Father, that he came to save all the world from sin and that he accomplished all the things he set out to do, that knowledge must live within us at Christmas and always. It should inform our celebrations and our traditions and change our lives and the lives of those we live among. I think that is how we can truly “keep Christmas well.”
May keeping Christmas change our lives and make us better people, as Scrooge was made better by the spirits, and may it change the course of the lives of those around us, as Bob Cratchit’s life was changed by his boss’s newfound love of his fellowman, and may it save us, as Tiny Tim was saved. Merry Christmas.