The two greatest Christmas villains in history, Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch, are both fictional characters. Yet it is from these two characters that we can learn much about ourselves, our beliefs, and the right to allow others their beliefs as well. My should clarify that as an interfaith church, we are not finding any fault in one’s not celebrating Christmas, but rather these characters’ attitudes – of their minds and their hearts.
After reading Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” for the first time, the writer Robert Louis Stevenson wrote to a friend, “I want to go out and comfort someone; I shall never listen to the nonsense they tell one about not giving money — I shall give money; not that I haven’t done so always, but I shall do it with a high hand now.”
This reaction sums up the entire message of this cautionary tale. It was, after all, Ebenezer Scrooge’s own business whether or not he wanted to celebrate the Christmas holiday. His wrongness came in the harm that he did to others, the destructiveness he wreaked on individuals and entire households through his extortionate business practices. As the tale unfolds, the magnitude of his wrongdoings is multiplied by his refusal to lift one finger or contribute one coin to help his fellow man — in spite of being immensely rich himself. He lived in direct contradiction to the simple practice that we follow in the Universal Life Church — doing that which is right.
Not only did Scrooge have no compassion; he had an acute disdain for anyone who did. This was coupled with his other mortal sin: He hated mankind.
The same is true of the main character in Dr. Seuss’s modern classic, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” It was up to the Grinch whether or not he wanted to celebrate Christmas; his great wrong was that he wanted to stop others from celebrating it as well. His mantra “I must stop Christmas from coming” disrespected the most cherished beliefs and traditions of his neighbors. In his hatred of them, he forgot the most important lesson that we teach in the Universal Life Church: We are all children of the same universe.
It takes the genius of a great writer to create two innately despicable characters who somehow still manage to touch our emotions and evoke our sympathy. Long before Scrooge’s reclamation, long before the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes, you long for the miracle of reclamation to happen. Perhaps it’s because we want to feel all the compassion that they were incapable of, or perhaps it’s because the Grinch and Scrooge represent an Everyman compilation of everything that we don’t want to become.
If you want to get ordained as a minister in the Universal Life Church (ULC), it’s important to remember these two lessons, because they’re both at the heart of our belief statement. Whether you get ordained now or at a later time in your life, you can carry from these classic works the two most important messages of all: Always refrain from disrespecting or harming others, regardless of their beliefs; and always strive to help others whenever you possibly can.