Improv on Charles Dickens … Advent was dead to begin with …

1933 British children's book. Public domain.

1933 British children’s book. Public domain.

Rarely do I even think to post humor … but this Advent my own contributions to the blog will be my playing with gifts, old and new, that have been given to me by the rich heritage of story, carol and poem. 

Improv on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol – Chapter 1

Advent was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatsoever about that. The register of his funeral was signed by the mall, the television, the fair guild, Santa Claus and the chief mourner. Christmas signed it; and Christmas was good for anything she choose to put a bow to. Old Advent was dead as a snuffed wick.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge what there is particularly dead about a snuffed wick. I might have been inclined myself to regard a burnt-out string of Christmas tree bulbs as the deadest light in the darkness, but solstice is a time of tradition and I won’t disturb it, but only repeat emphatically, that Advent was dead as a snuffed wick.

Christmas never printed out old Advent’s name. There it stood on the calendar of December. Advent and Christmas. Sometimes people new to the business called Christmas — Christmas — and sometimes Advent, but she answered to both names.

Oh, but she was a frantic hand at the seasonals – Christmas — a buying, baking, decorating, partying, card-writing old sinner she was. Busy and busy a holiday from which peace on earth never struck a moment of rest. External heat and cold had little influence on Christmas. No Florida sunshine could take the expanding tree from her Nutcracker or Maine Nor-easter cancel a Yankee Swap. The heaviest mail and travel, obligations and musical occasions could boast over Christmas in only one respect – they often ended with a sigh of contentment and Christmas rarely did.

Christmas took her eggnog and cookies in a melancholy way that night. She lived in a nave which had once belonged to her deceased partner and it was dark when she arrived home. It is a fact, that there was nothing at all particular about the wreath on the door except that it was very large and so let anyone explain to me how it happened that Christmas, having her key in the door, saw on the door an Advent wreath – not pine cones and artificial snow but candles — four purple and one pink, yes, indeed.

“Humbug,” said Christmas and walked across the room. A sound of silver bells filled her with inexplicable dread but they were succeeded by a banging noise as if someone were dragging a heavy bag of boxes across the roof, down the chimney, up the stairs and then straight towards her very room.

“It’s humbug still – I won’t believe it. Her color changed though, when, without a pause, something came through the heavy door and passed into the very room.

“I know you – you’re Advent’s ghost.”

The same four candles — the purple and the pink, the same tinsel, the same red illuminated nose, the same chestnuts smoldering a hole in the pockets, a Santa hat, a shepherds crook and an iPOD hanging out of one come-thou-Dayspring-come-and-cheer-ear and holding in his hands the same minor key – it was undoubtedly Advent.

“What do you want with me?”

“You don’t believe in me.”

“I don’t. I do. I don’t. You may be a bit of undigested Isaiah, an alarm of Romans 13, a fragment of underdone Thessalonians. There’s more of pose than posada to you!”

At this the spirit raised a frightful cry and rattled the credit cards that were encircling its arms and legs. Christmas held on to her chair to save herself from falling into a debt faint.

“Mercy, dreadful Pageant, why do liturgical seasons walk the earth and why do they come to me?”

“In my lifetime I was jealous with the story. I did all these things with wait, wait, wait and so they were filled in by normal folks with ‘traditional’ foods and gift-buying, office parties, candy canes, ‘Bad Santa,’ and even the Grinch. It was my pride and joy to never put the baby in the crèche until the last moment – long after the presents were under the tree. I never had carols in my life time and now I’m cursed to wander the earth listening to ‘Grandma’s been Run Over by a Reindeer’ and ‘Alvin the Chipmunk’ over and over again for my penance. I long to hear the real story of the Maccabees and the oil that would never run out and all I get is ‘Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel’ and Adam Sandler.”

“Oh, no!”

“I am here to warn you,” Advent said.

“Yule always were a good friend, “ Christmas replied.

“You’ll be haunted by Three Carols.”

“Advent,” said Christmas in a piteous tone, “I think I’d rather not.”

“Without their visits, you cannot hope to shun the path I tread.”

“Couldn’t I take them all at once, on Christmas Eve and have it over, Advent, so I don’t have to think about them?”

“Expect the first November 27, the next, December 4, and one on December 11. Listen to them well. Look to see me no more but remember what I’ve said.”

At this the air filled with phantom clarences flittering hither and thither as if looking for a bridge from which to throw themselves – every one had credit card stoles and crinkly icicle-lights like Advent. The misery with them all was that clearly they sought to interfere for Bethlehem in some church service where lonely hopeful men, women and children sit and they had re-run the power forever.

Christmas closed the window and examined the door by which Advent had entered. She tried to say, “Humbug,” but it came out “O Holy Night.”

“I’ll have to buy a tree tomorrow,” she said. “Hanging the Greens will make me feel so much better.” Despairing, she went straight to bed and fell asleep upon the instant.

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8 Responses to Improv on Charles Dickens … Advent was dead to begin with …

  1. Right on Sister – I went hunting for Advent decorations today (there was 30% off at ‘The Warehouse’ – NZ’s biggest bargain chain) and not one item could I find that in any way reflected what Christmas is! (So I bought a pack of 4 glittering butterflies and with blu-tac attached letter tiles to spell out HOPE, LOVE, JOY and PEACE). Looking forward to further installments, ’cause we so need the ‘God bless us everyone.’

  2. Maren says:

    With bits of snow in the air, I admit to envy.Butterflies!!!! A gentleman from Aotearoa sent me a photograph of cherry blossoms that I have put with this coming Monday’s post.

  3. Kris Firth says:


    Thanks for this. I am on tenterhooks waiting for the next installment!

    Also happy to be working on your book with Maria for Pilgrim.


    On Sat, Nov 26, 2016 at 3:45 AM, Gifts in Open Hands wrote:

    > Maren posted: ” Rarely do I even think to post humor … but this Advent > my own contributions to the blog will be my playing with gifts, old and > new, that have been given to me by the rich heritage of story, carol and > poem. Improv on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas” >

  4. Maren says:

    Oh, Kris — we are soooo lucky!

  5. says:

    Maren, I could not be more delighted with your blend of humor and story…..even down to “phantom clarences.” You have used your gifts in such a creative way as you meddled with one of the stories where I almost always resist those who want to meddle. If that makes any sense………..I wait eagerly for the next installment. In the meantime Advent blessings to you as we struggle with these dark times. Shalom, Carole Carlson

    • Maren says:

      Carole, thank you so much. I may have to go forward with this. My original intent was to “play” with other favorites — A Child’s Christmas in Wales” “The Polar Express” and so on, but I may just have to live into a little more Dickens. Thank you so much for the fan mail!

  6. Nathaniel C. Emens says:

    Dear Maren, I especially need your words now as I worry about my Christian and Muslim
    friends that live in the Bethlehem area. Looking forward to your additions to the story.

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