Reflections on “A Christmas Carol”

Three Things to Think On This “Holiday Season”

51ycpilxgcl If you’re like me, you’re pretty familiar with the mythos of A Christmas Carol, but have never actually read the original. This year, I remedied that.

Charles Dickens’ original story of rich, cantankerous, “Bah-Humbug” Scrooge, the ghosts of Christmas, and the joy of celebration is available on Project Gutenberg and on Amazon as free ebooks (or as an audiobook!), so there’s no barrier to enjoying this classic tale.

As I read Dickens’ version of the story, three things jumped out at me.

  1. Scrooge is still a sympathetic character.
    Yes, he snarls at carolers, deals rigidly with his clerk, and Bah-Humbugs the charity collector, but his actions are so over-the-top he is not really villainous. His evil, uncharitable nature is more a caricature of real-life tyrants than otherwise. Further, in the visions of the Ghost of Christmas Past, we glimpse the back-story that led Ebenezer to this point, offering a counter-point to his self-insulated misery.
  2. Everyone (bar grumpy Scrooge) is full of “holiday spirit.”
    From the cheery Christmas fruits on the shelf, to the grocers working Christmas morning, to the customers bubbling with good humor toward each other, everyone shows Ebenezer the general aura of “good cheer” that supposedly characterizes the season.
    How about us, in the modern world? Did you banter with the people waiting with you in line? Were you cheerful toward your waitress, when you were eating out to celebrate and she was working her feet off on a holiday? Did you show Christmasy compassion and kindness toward your check-out clerks, your annoying uncles, that out-of-control kid in the mall?
    Sharing “good will” certainly includes bestowing donations on the “work-houses” of our day (a la Christmas Carol) but it involves so much more than that. I admit it’s difficult, in the midst of extra hours, presents, coordinating vacation plans, and all the rest of the bustle, to remember an upbeat attitude, but it seems to me sort of the whole point. The new-made Scrooge does {SPOILER} give generously with his money, but he also starts giving smiles, greetings, well-wishes, and time – he frivoles at his nephew’s party, leaves his office to enjoy the Christmas-day streets, and invests not just money but time and himself in a relationship with his clerk’s family.
    Did anyone else have trouble remembering to be generous with ourselves this year?
  3. Everyone goes to church.
    There’s no indication Scrooge’s Christmas day was on a Sunday, but when the church bells ring, everyone sallies out to their ecclesiastical duties (cheerfully, of course).
    In 2016, Christmas Day was also Sunday, which is highly fitting. On Christmas, we remember when God the Son came in human flesh as a defenseless baby; on Easter (and, technically, every “first day of the week”) we remember that His purpose in coming was to die on the cross, a sacrifice for our sins, and to rise again, defeating Death forever.
    How many people struggled with whether or not to go to church that morning? How many churches cancelled services so people could “be with their families,” forgetting that worship of God was the whole point of Christ-mass?
    Yet, in the London which Charles Dickens portrays, everyone gladly follows the bells to the church – Ebenezer Scrooge included.

If your only experience of this classic is an abridged children’s version, or one of the movie versions, or vague cultural references, it’s worth it to pick up this Christmas classic and consider the allegories, lessons, and themes it celebrates for yourself.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

God bless us, every one.

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