“BAH! HUMBUG!” Those familiar with Charles Dickens’ tale of Ebenezer Scrooge will understand the emotions behind his savage outburst at the carollers. His very name has become synonymous with meanness and greed.

Visited by ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come, it was the last who terrified Scrooge with alarming visions of the future if he did not learn and act upon what he had witnessed. He did, and Tiny Tim, the cripple with a bleak future, did not die as the ghost had foretold, as Scrooge had undergone a transforming change. He began to treat his fellow men with kindness, generosity and compassion, thus gaining the reputation of a man who embodies the spirit of Christmas.

It is a parable which is very much applicable today, when “Christmas” seems to have lost Christ, and concentrated all its energies on consumption, some of which borders on the absurd. The contemporary “global” community is bombarded with advertisements urging people to enjoy the “holiday season” with feasting and lavish gifts, often of little or fleeting value. The credit card debts can only be imagined.

In this frenzy, it is forgotten that when the Christ Child was born, He became poor that we might be rich: the magi presented their gifts appropriate to the King of Kings; the poor shepherds worshipped Him, giving only themselves. Nowhere do we read of feasting and merry-making: in fact, when Herod ordered all first-born male children put to the sword, the first Christmas was a virtual holocaust.

Christmas can be mere humbug if it does not go beyond the rejoicing and gift-giving. Like Scrooge, we can learn that we should, like Jesus of old, begin to treat our fellow men with kindness, generosity and compassion, as all Christians should. That would be a great gift for the Christ Child.