The Wife and I have been watching a different Christmas movie each evening in the run-up to Christmas.
In the midst of a party-less pandemic, it is the next best thing.
We started the first night with A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott version), followed by How the Grinch Stole Christmas, then the next night, my favorite, The Bishop’s Wife.
Then last night we watched a movie neither of us had ever seen, The Man Who Invented Christmas, a loose biopic on Charles Dickens’s writing of A Christmas Carol. The movie is as much fiction as fact, but it led me to a realization: I had never actually read the story Dickens wrote. I had seen several versions of the movie, and my wife and I go every year to the local theatre to see the play, but I had never read the actual words Dickens wrote.
After the movie, I went to my study to do some writing, and while there I noticed one of the temperamental track lights on the mezzanine in our library had flickered off again, so I scurried up the spiral staircase to tinker with it. My tinkering brought light, and when I looked down on the bookshelf where the light shone I noticed on top of a row of vertically stacked books a thin leather-bound book, with gold embossed pages, and gilded lettering on the cover:
A Christmas Carol
I then remembered the book was a gift from my wife, but I had not yet read it.
I’ve done so because it’s a problem that before the pandemic confronted me each day downtown as I walked from my loft to work in one of the largest cities in the U.S.
Then, during the pandemic, my wife and I were in the midst of an unbridled binge watch of The Andy Griffith Show episodes on Apple TV, and we came upon one about vagrancy.
This was the episode where Buddy Ebson (later of The Beverly Hillbillies fame) played a vagrant who wandered into Mayberry, and befriended Opie, extolling to him the benefits of the vagrant lifestyle. Opie was fascinated at first, but fortunately Andy intervened, and in the end, with Ebson’s help, Opie saw the light on volitional vagrancy.
I doubt our current culture is capable of making a proper moral judgment about volitional vagrancy. The homeless have become the urban noble savage, seen as a victim not of their own choices but of the alleged evils of a rigged economic system.
The first vagrant was Cain. See Gen. 4:12. And Cain’s story makes it clear that, at least in Cain’s case, vagrancy was a curse. See Gen. 4:11-12 (“Now you are cursed . . . . you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth”). That a curse made Cain a vagrant does not mean every vagrant is cursed, but it should destroy any illusions about the virtues of the vagrant lifestyle.
Not every one gets to do the job they feel they are ultimately called to do.
Even those who do, do not always do so all the time. This is one of the shortcomings of looking solely to one’s calling to find meaning in one’s work.
Moses was a shepherd before he was a deliverer, Joseph a prison trustee before he was a ruler, and Nehemiah a cupbearer before he was a contractor. Yet no one would argue Moses was ultimately called to be a shepherd, nor Joseph a jailer, nor Nehemiah a cupbearer.
One of my summer jobs between my first and second year of law school was working for a telemarketing firm selling the New York Times. There was no uncertainty in my mind; I was not called to ultimately be a telemarketer. I wanted to be a lawyer.
Growing up in a religious culture can cause us to become inoculated to the meaning of certain religious words, especially if the words are used more in a religious context than in non-religious ones. “Glorify” is one of those words. It’s easy to gloss over the word and miss the full significance of the word.
Dictionary.com defines “glorify” as:
to cause to be or treat as being more splendid, excellent, etc., than would normally be considered.
to honor with praise, admiration, or worship; extol.
to make glorious; invest with glory.
to praise the glory of (God), especially as an act of worship.