Christmas is a reminder of Giving and Sharing

Most of my life, every time Christmas approaches Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” comes to my mind. I was enthralled by the movie as a teenager so much that I bought the book to read.  Those who have either seen the movie or read the book know that is a story centring on a miserly moneylender named Mr Scrooge.

Mr Scrooge felt himself self sufficient because he had lots of money and obviously he was materially successful. The people around him were merely tools for him to achieve his goals. He was thus unkind, cold, uncharitable and being self centric, he had no time nor compassion for others.

The movie relates how he achieved awareness and reformed himself after he was visited by four ghosts. First was his late partner who visited him in chains and looking miserable. His late partner has been condemned to wander around the world for the sin of being useless to humankind. Next came the ghost of Christmas past which showed him childhood and how he had hurt his sister by not exercising empathy. He had lost his fiancée whom he loved due to his obsession with wealth accumulation.

The ghost of Christmas present took him to visit the celebrations in his poor clerk’s house. There he saw that despite having ill-treated his clerk, the clerk and his family were toasting to Mr Scrooge’s health. This part of the story often reminds me that love has to be given unconditionally. Loving and doing righteous deeds has nothing to do with the other person but with you.  This message is wonderfully presented in the Bible, Luke 14:12-14 reproduced below:

12And he was also saying to the man who had invited him, “When you make a breakfast or dinner, do not call your friends, or your siblings or relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back in return, and that would be repayment for you13Instead, when you make a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,  14and you will be blessed, because they do not have the means to repay youFor it will be repaid to you, you see, at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Lastly, the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows how his death was more of a joy than a grief to others because he has not touched anyone’s life in a meaningful way.

The story sacred me as a teenager because it made me realise how easily one can move far away from oneself and one’s ideals if we get carried away with the world. This is how cute little babies may end up as evil men and women making the world a worse off place for everyone.

Having studied the Bible, from Genesis to revelations, I reasoned that Charles Dickens probably was trying to demonstrate what he considers as the “biblical values” of charity, giving and being useful to humankind.

The New Testament states the following:

“Be giving, and it will be given to youA generous container: compacted, shaken and running over they will hand into your armsFor with the standard you measure out, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38)

As a Muslim, I could very easily relate to this where I am taught that good begets good and evil begets evil.  It is the natural law of reciprocity. If we want the world to be a better place, we have to start with ourselves and not wait for someone else to start the process. It is sad that many of us are busy judging others and forgetting that we ourselves are part of the “they” that we often complain of.  I am reminded of the verses in Mathew 7: 1-5 which i quote in full below:

“1″Do not judge, so that you will not be judged2For with what judgment you are judging, you will be judged, and with what measure you are measuring out, it will be measured to you.

3″Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but the log in your own eye you do not consider?  4Or how will you say to your brother, ‘Let me pluck the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, in your own eye is a log?  5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to pluck the speck out of your brother’s eye.

The message in Matthew 7:5 is clear that one must self reform first. The Quran too condemns hypocrites in no uncertain terms because, inter alia, they are enemies within who cause discord and misrepresent the messages of the scripture to suit their selfish desires. There are good Muslims and good Christians as there are bad “Muslims” and bad “Christians”.  In the final analysis it is not what you profess with your tongue that matters but what you truly believe in your heart and the actual deeds that you do on earth. The Quran clearly carries this message:

“Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, “We believe”, and that they will not be tested?” (Quran: 29:2)

Inter religious debates and discussions can continue but let us never lose our sense of humanity in the process and let it be done with love as we pray for love and compassion from our Creator. Hatred and violence are surely the attributes of Iblis or lucifer and compassion and mercifulness is that of the Great Nourisher we call “God” or “Allah”. To all Malaysian Christians, I wish a Happy Christmas and may the spirit of love, sharing and giving continue.

(If I have misquoted or misapplied the Biblical verses, I hope my Christian friends will forgive me.)

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