Thursday, December 25, 2014

"I am a mortal, and liable to fall."

Scrooge and Christmas Past, in performance
When in Dickens' classic Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the first of the three spirits, the Ghost of Christmas past, and the spirit beckons him toward the window, he is reluctant. "I am a mortal, and liable to fall," he says. And the spirit responds "Bear but a touch of my hand and you shall be upheld in more than this." I've always focused on the spirit's response, but this Christmas season, I've found myself noticing Scrooge's words and their wider meaning.

Like Scrooge, I am a mortal, and liable to fall. We all are, all the way back to Genesis. We humans are liable to fall. In fact, you might argue that it's what we do best. It's part of what separates us from angels and from God in fully divine form. We are so liable to fall that, in the days of the Old Testament, we made it a regular point to make offerings and sacrifices to God to make up for all our falling. And somewhere along the way, God decided enough was enough. We were so liable to fall that we really needed something much more powerful to bridge the eternal gap between the infallible divine and ourselves. Hence, Jesus.

When the angels fall, they get a full-fledged and eternal punishment. We humans are given ways to make up for all our screw-ups. Why? Maybe it's because since God created us, he's pretty aware of our essential nature, and part of our essential nature is that we're liable to fall. The point of interest is how we respond, and how God responds, when we fall. He knows it's in our nature, and so he's prepared to forgive.

If only we could accept our essential nature more in the same spirit that God does. If only we could stop trying to be perfect on our own and accept that we are neither God nor angels nor demons. We are mortals, liable to fall, and the power lies in reaching out for the divine hand, in whatever form it is extended to us.