On Sunday, 22nd July, 2012, I conducted my first independent confirmation class. I did it because the main teacher was out of town and I had to carry on with the regular teaching. There were butterflies in my stomach and I had absolutely no idea what I was teaching and what the students were grasping. I just know that I taught about the rich young man, the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. Though I didn’t fumble anywhere, I know for sure that there was chaos inside me as well as in the classroom.
Though I had done all my homework, now I feel that I should have also done my usual Google research. It always helps.
I taught Session 8 which was about JESUS, THE GOOD TEACHER.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
“Remember! It is Christianity to do good always – even to those who do evil to us. It is Christianity to love our neighbours as ourself, and to do to all men as we would have them do to us. It is Christianity to be gentle, merciful and forgiving, and to keep those qualities quiet in our own hearts, and never make a boast of them or of our prayers or of our love of God, but always to show that we love Him by humbly trying to do right in everything. If we do this, and remember the life and lessons of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and try to act up to them, we may confidently hope that God will forgive us our sins and mistakes, and enable us to live and die in peace”.
These are the beautiful words of Charles Dickens, the great English writer and the greatest novelist of the Victorian period. He was a Christian and was often referred to as, “that great Christian writer” by Leo Tolstoy, the Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. During his time, Charles Dickens filled his works with Christian references to encourage devotion to Jesus Christ and that’s why I have decided to continue reading his books. From yesterday (3rd July), I have again started reading A TALE OF TWO CITIES.
I have always liked Charles Dickens but respect for him increased manifold when on Friday, 29th June, 2012, I came to know his views on Jesus and Christianity. Dickens was a member of the Church of England and deeply believed in Jesus though in all his writings, he is outspoken in his dislike of evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism. I read somewhere that “the one aspect of his life that best reveals Dickens’ deep Christian faith is his fiction. Charles Dickens was not a religious writer but his novels expressed his Christian beliefs”. I like this about him and so don’t want to stop reading his books/writings.
But it seems that after 1847 he did attend the Anglican Church near his home. And you know what? He prayed each morning and night. In one of his most popular and endearing novels, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Scrooge sees the folly of his way and exclaims, “I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse”. Here, Scrooge says this about his “salvation” that comes not from an encounter with Christ, but an encounter with self. He displays the Dickensian view that salvation is achieved by loving your neighbor, giving a cup of water to those in need. The New Testament teaches that such acts are the result of spiritual conversion; for Dickens, they were the means. And that’s why I see no harm in continuing to read his books.
While speaking about A CHRISTMAS CAROL, how can anyone ever forget these famous lines from the novel? “Once upon a time of all the good days in the year, upon a Christmas eve, old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak biting, foggy weather….” This Charles Dickens' novel, published in 1843, is the famous tale of an old and bitter miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by spirits from the past, present and future.
According to charlesdickenslondon.net, Charles Dickens greatly influenced the shaping of Christmas as we know it today. In his early work, PICKWICK PAPERS, he sets out a splendidly homely, family and friends gathering to party together. It was only after this that the (A) CHRISTMAS CAROL came in followed by five lesser known, but still important Christmas stories by Dickens. It seems this great novelist also wrote numerous other Christmas stories. Interestingly, the earliest terming of the phrase “Merry Christmas” was coined in (yes, you have guessed it right), A CHRISTMAS CAROL.
Then there’s this website, http://www.ctlibrary.com/ch/1990/issue27/2739.html, where it’s mentioned that in 1849, Dickens wrote an important manuscript that had not been printed until 1934. This work was so personal to him that Dickens requested it not be made public for 85 years. The work was a retelling of the Gospel narratives, adapted from the Gospel of St. Luke, titled THE LIFE OF OUR LORD.
In this website, Marie Dickens, Dickens’s daughter-in-law, says: “This book, the last work of Charles Dickens to be published, has an individual interest and purpose that separate it completely from everything else that Dickens wrote. Quite apart from its Divine Subject, the manuscript is peculiarly personal to the novelist, and is not so much a revelation of his mind as a tribute to his heart and humanity, and also, his deep devotion to Our Lord”.
Dickens wrote THE LIFE OF OUR LORD so that his children would become familiar with Jesus Christ, and he often read the story to them. When his children left home, he gave each a New Testament. To one, he wrote, “I put a New Testament among your books, for the very same reasons, and with the very same hopes that made me write an easy account of it for you, when you were a little child; because it is the best book that ever was or will be known in the world…” How very sweet of him to say this!
It’s further written in the website that “Dickens respected Christianity’s founder, Jesus Christ, who practiced what Dickens so desperately wanted to find in humanity. Jesus loved all people. He rubbed shoulders with social castaways, rebuked wealthy elitists, and severely condemned hypocrisy. If ever a man could gain Dickens’ utmost respect and favor, Christ could, and did”. Like I wrote before, my respect for Dickens multiplied after reading this fact about him. Dickens portrays Jesus as a good man who is loved by God like a son.
I felt really nice to know that Dickens truly respected the Bible and Christ and sought to instill in his children the same reverence. So much like me and so being a diehard Charles Dickens fan, I will not feel guilty to devour his writings once again.
PS: On 1st July, 2012, I took my first Confirmation class. I just did the start up on a testimony by archbishop -----. But what the heck! Small beginnings have great endings…!!!