Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.
James 1:19; Psalm 4:4, 103:8, & 145:8; Proverbs 14:29, 16:32, & 19:11; and James 1:19-20
One of my very favorite Christmas stories is the classic,
A Christmas Carol. Not only is it a beautiful story and well told in countless movie adaptations from Mickey to the Muppets to George C. Scott, but it's an important one, rich in meaning and deep in new lessons for annual reading or viewing. And one of my favorite questions is to ask people what the moral is, or what new moral have they gleaned.
I'd like to suggest to you that one of the truly meaningful lessons we can observe in this story for Scrooge that is particularly relevant for us today is about his indignation... that which offends Scrooge. For better or, more likely, for worse, one of the easiest ways to identify someone nowadays is to ask a person what offends them most. If it's government interference in education or business, you can guess perhaps their political party, and maybe the opposite, if it's climate change and minimum wage. If it's drinking, we might guess one denomination, and if it's someone taking your pew, we might guess another. We are perhaps most easily recognized by what it is that offends us most. It's no different for Scrooge. And the change we observe in Scrooge is most easily recognized in the shift in what offends him, and not that he becomes less or more sensitive.
At the start of the tale, what seems to offend Scrooge the most is anyone squandering his time or money. He begrudges his assistant's Christmas Day off, calling it an annual excuse to pickpocket an employer, and the coal to warm the office. He is infuriated by the request for charitable giving to widows and orphans and even the invite of his nephew to a Christmas party. But after a review of his life and that of his employee, he becomes just as angry at the injustice of the poverty he witnesses and the hunger and illness he himself has the power to prevent.
I think it's worth reflection for us all when we are visited at Christmas by this story. Rather than assessing if we get easily offended or never offended, asking something new. We should take an honest inventory of what has offended us this year. In other words, what makes us righteously angry, not quickly angry. If what tops our list is the words or actions of those in poverty or under oppression or the people speaking for them, we need to consider we may be in need of some reorientation of our spirit. But if the top of our list this year or for next year for what offends us is poverty and oppression itself, violence and hunger, cruelty and prejudice, and we are willing to act for change and justice, then we know it will be said of us, as Dickens would say, that we know how to keep Christmas well.