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Posted on Tue. Dec. 24, 2013 - 12:01 am EDT

COLUMN

The genuine Christmas is too precious to imprison in the past

'Bah! Humbug' is proper response to those who would ignore holiday's true higher power

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Leininger on 'Christmas Marathon'

Kevin Leininger will be Steve Shine's guest on the annual Christmas Marathon Wednesday between 2:15 and 3 p.m. on WANE Channel 15.2 (Channel 250 on Comcast, 463 on Frontier and 106 on Mediacom).

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It was cold, and Christmas Eve, and old Scrooge was still at his desk, straining under a nearly spent candle to make some extra money before the light dimmed and wretched custom would force employees home to family and church. He knew it was something successful people must do when their business partner has died, charities are desperately seeking help for the poor and employees like Bob Cratchit are constantly asking for a larger salary and more time off.

“Bah! Humbug! Are there no workhouses?” Scrooge says as he rebuffs two well-dressed gentlemen from the United Way, who storm off into the night.

“If I had as many mouths to feed as you do, I would be poor, too!” he tells Cratchit before grudgingly giving him Christmas Day off with pay.

Then, with the wick spent and his fingers numb, Scrooge locks the door and leaves, making his way through crowded streets to his large but cold house, where he eats a hearty but cold meal before tucking himself into his plush but cold bed.

Sometime later he is awakened by the ghost of his late partner, Jacob Marley, bound in chains that appear to represent a warning. But what is the danger? Marley's not much help. He's dead.

Soon, Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. The first reminds the old man of how he had been a gentle and happy youth until the love of money and cares of life hardened him. The second takes Scrooge to Cratchit's house, where the family has gathered for a simple but festive Christmas dinner. But the spirit warns Scrooge that Tiny Tim, so happy now despite his illness, will soon die.

The ghost of Christmas to come verifies the terrible prophecy: Not only is Tiny Tim dead, but so is a certain “wretched man” who was so hated that his bedroom fixtures are stolen while his corpse is still beneath the covers. Only then does the spirit escort Scrooge to a graveyard, where a tombstone bearing his name reveals the awful truth that at last melts his miser's heart and inspires repentance.

And with that, Scrooge awakes to a gloriously sunny Christmas morning. A changed man, he anonymously sends a prize turkey to the Cratchit home, resolves to give his loyal employee a raise and spends the day in the streets offering good cheer to all and his own hard-earned money to anyone in need. And to all who saw him, Scrooge was the epitome of the Christmas spirit: the lost had been found, sin had been redeemed, selfishness had given way to undeserved generosity, and darkness of spirit had been overcome by joy.

Scrooge was jovial as he made his way home to a house he was certain would no longer seem cold, desolate or foreboding. And so it was, until he opened the mailbox and read the letter from the King.

“Loyal subject Scrooge,” it began. “It has come to our attention that you are among those who have not been paying your fair share in taxes, paying your employees a livable wage or providing them with vacations, sick days, paid family leave and health care.

“Consequently, you are hereby ordered to forfeit 60 percent of your holdings to the Crown immediately, and while you will be allowed to keep your business you are also ordered to increase the salaries of all employees by 20 percent, with a commensurate increase in fringe benefits that will of course include treatment for all pre-existing medical conditions. Failure to comply will result in forfeiture of your property – and your head.

“Have a happy holiday!”

Being a good businessman, Scrooge knew what this meant. Even though his heart remained full of newfound Christmas joy and love, his bank account was soon running dangerously low. He was forced to lay off Cratchit and several other employees and to increase his prices, making his product unaffordable which, in turn, created additional layoffs.

Scrooge's joy soon turned to disappointment and resentment because he knew he could do a better job of giving his own money away than the King could – in a way that promoted self-sufficiency and mutual respect, not resentment over being forced to pay too much or for not being entitled to even more.

But all those taxes did allow the government to build even larger and better workhouses, and the Cratchits were soon living in one and stayed for several generations. Unfortunately, the King didn't have enough money left over to provide health care to everyone, so seriously ill patients were sometimes sacrificed for the greater good.

And so Tiny Tim died. “Government bless us, every one!” were his last words, according to the King's official town criers.

When Scrooge heard the news, “Bah! Humbug!” flew from his lips for the first time in years, matched only by a longing for the kind of Christmas past he had once cursed, and cherished too late.

May you embrace and preserve the true meaning of Christmas now and always.

kleininger@news-sentinel.com


This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.


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