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Living Faith: Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens!

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November 20th, 2012

This year, I m celebrating the 200th birthday of the author of my all-time favorite book. I read A Christmas Carol every holiday season because my spirit so desperately needs transformation. I m prone to falling into a Bah! Humbug! funk from the hassles of finding a parking spot at the mall, pulling out those boxes of decorations, washing all the dinner dishes, and sweeping up the pine needles. I need Marley s reminder to make amends for my opportunities misused. We see evidence of Charles Dickens faith in overtly spiritual works such as The Life of Our Lord and Two Views of a Cheap Theatre, and in the messages of many writings such as Little Dorrit, Bleak House, and, of course, A Christmas Carol. He wrote to move believers to a living faith that takes action to meet the needs of those whom society typically rejects, particularly the poor. Dickens message flows out of his own experience as a 12-year-old who left school to work in a factory after his father was thrown into debtor s prison. He labored ten hours a day pasting labels on pots of boot blacking, swarming rats squealing in the basement below. He suffered the shame of poverty, living in the attic of the house of an agent of the insolvency court, his wife, and lame son.

Nineteenth century role model

Dickens used his professional stature to model humility, compassion, and charity. He campaigned vigorously for children s rights, improved working conditions, and educational and other social reforms. He founded and managed the Urania Cottage, an outreach to former prostitutes, and conducted reading tours to raise money for the financially strapped Great Ormand Street Hospital. George Orwell said of Dickens: He is always preaching a sermon, and that is the final secret of his inventiveness. For you can only create if you can care. With so many pressing social needs around us, Dickens call to action is as relevant today as it was 200 years ago. Author Gary Colledge writes, he can remind us in humorous, profound, simple, or uncomfortable ways what our faith should look like. It s never too late to honor Christmas in our hearts. God bless us, every one!

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