In October of 1843, Charles Dickens set out to write a story that he hoped would help alleviate his financial pressures. In a record six weeks he produced A Christmas Carol. Money was not his only concern. Dickens heart was tender towards the plight of the children in the workforce and also those suffering handicaps.
The first publication of the book (6000 copies) sold out quickly and even though the immediate revenue did not meet his expectation, the effect of the story was immediate and long lasting.
So, what is there in A Christmas Carol that still touches a nerve in 2020? Let me give you a short recap of the story.
It begins on Christmas Eve seven years after the death of Ebenezer Scrooge’s business partner Jacob Marley. Scrooge is established within the first chapter as a greedy, stingy businessman who has no place in his life for kindness, compassion, charity, or benevolence. Scrooge has a dream and in it is warned by Marley’s ghost to change his ways. He then is visited by three additional ghosts who accompany him to various scenes with the hope of achieving his transformation. The first of the spirits, the Ghost of Christmas Past, takes Scrooge to the scenes of his boyhood and youth. The old miser is put in touch with his gentle and tender side and reminded of a time when he was more innocent. The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, takes Scrooge to several radically different scenes: a joy-filled market of people buying the makings of Christmas dinner; the family feast of Scrooge’s near-impoverished clerk Bob Cratchit; a miner’s cottage where there is joy and celebration; and a lighthouse, among other sites. All of this with the intended purpose of evincing from the miser a sense of responsibility for his fellow man. The third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, harrows Scrooge with dire visions of the future. He is being shown the outcome of his life if he does not change his ways. Scrooge sees his own neglected and untended grave. This prompts the miser to avow that he will change his ways in hopes of changing these “shadows of what may be.” In the fifth and final chapter, Scrooge awakens Christmas morning with joy and love in his heart. He spends the day with his nephew’s family after anonymously sending a prize turkey to the Cratchit home for Christmas dinner. Scrooge has become a different man overnight, and now treats his fellow men with kindness, generosity, and compassion, gaining a reputation as a man who embodies the spirit of Christmas. The story closes with the narrator confirming the validity, completeness, and permanence of Scrooge’s transformation.
What is there about the Christmas story that touches the heart of a Scrooge and evokes change? There is something deep within us that resonates with the desire for family, the care and attention of others. We long for peace to encompass the globe, for hostility and hate to give way to brotherhood, and animosity to be swallowed by goodwill.
A Christmas Carol expresses the heart of the Christmas story. Heaven invaded earth. Jesus Christ demonstrated life as our Creator intended it. He touched the outcast, gave hope to the broken-hearted, exposed the sham of self-righteous piety, crossed cultural barriers to restore those engulfed in shame, and extended forgiveness to those imprisoned with guilt. At the end of His life, He became the human blotter that absorbed all the puss of depraved human behavior. He took the guilt, shame, ignominy and curse of our wrong and made atonement for us on the cross.
The babe in the manger speaks to the hope that is in us for something better. After watching the movie, I Can Only Imagine, I had the privilege of talking with the manager of the theater. I asked if the attendance that night was reflective of the six nights it had been showing. She said, “Yes, it has had remarkable success.” I then asked, “Why do you think people are coming to see it?” She thought for a moment and then said, “I think it gives people hope. Perhaps broken family relationships can be restored.” The movie is the true story of how the restoration of a broken relationship between a father and son launched the phenomenal success of the son’s song I Can Only Imagine.
The Christmas story touches the deep cry within for hope: not the hope of wishful thinking or dreams of fantasy, but the hope that is anchored in the reality of the One who can bring transformation to a Scrooge, new life to the downcast, reinstatement of the disenfranchised and companionship to the deserted.
May this Christmas be a miracle Christmas when the light of the star leads you to the One who can bring life changing transformation into reality. Have a wonderful Christmas and may you walk in the light, love and likeness of the One who is the reason for our celebration.