Last December I read the book, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It was a great read. To know the original story has helped me to understand and appreciate the various literary references related to the classic tale. It is a story filled with deep feeling and much symbolism.
The Christmas Season is upon us once again and at this time of year we all experience a range of feelings and emotions—excitement, stress, nostalgia, frustration, warmth, regret and celebration, to name a few.
Recently, I was reminded that Christmas is all about grace, joy, hope and love.
Below I have shared a writing by Ben Patterson about the Christmas Story. He bases his thoughts on the Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol.
Take a moment, give it a read, and be reminded of what Christmas is all about.
The below excerpt is from the book He Has Made Me Glad by Ben Patterson
In my opinion, the finest picture of this glorious gospel outside the Bible is Charles Dickens’ tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a man incapable of joy. His story is the gospel in paraphrase. Scrooge is extremely rich, but he lives alone in barren squalor. He takes pleasure in nothing, hates almost everything and is indifferent to human suffering.
On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by a series of ghosts who take him on a tumultuous journey of insight into his own character. They show him with jarring clarity how pain and disappointment have made him self-absorbed, bitter and callous. Love has been all around him, but he turns away from it. The ghost of Christmas future has the most shocking vision of all. In a desolate graveyard, the spirit’s bony finger points Scrooge toward a headstone. Scrooge is wordlessly commanded to wipe the snow off and read the name carved on it. He knows the name will be his own. Weeping and shaking, Scrooge pleads with the spirit.
Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they the shadows of the things that may be, only? . . . Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends . . . but if the course be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me! . . . Hear me? I am not the man I was . . . Oh tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!
That last sentence is the most wrenching of all. Can words etched in stone be wiped away with a sponge? Can the past be removed? Humanly speaking, it’s impossible. And that is the human predicament. We are chained to our pasts, to things done and undone that cannot be changed. “What is twisted cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted” (Ecclesiastes 1:15). The misdeeds of the past are like chains. Our guilt is carved in stone—or so it seems.
Scrooge awakens from his vision and discovers he is not dead. He still has time, the course can be departed from, the end may change, he is not the man he was. Grace is given! Joyful, he dances around his bedroom: “I’m as light as a feather. I’m as happy as an angel, I’m as merry as a schoolboy, I’m as giddy as a drunken man.” And then, in the movie version of the story, the old man jumps up and down on his bed, falls backward and shouts, laughing, “Merry Christmas to everybody, and a happy New Year to the world!” And it is said that from thenceforth nobody knew how to celebrate Christmas like Ebenezer Scrooge.
Ebenezer, significantly, is the biblical name for a pile of stones the Jews put up to remember an event of God’s goodness and grace in their history. When Scrooge’s stone is wiped clean, he lives the rest of his days gratefully and joyfully as a memorial stone of that event.
Dickens titled his tale “A Christmas Carol.” A carol, according to the dictionary, is a song of joy and mirth, especially of the religious kind. To behold what God has done for us in Christ is to see ourselves as Scrooge saw himself in his desolation, and then generously and inexplicably be given a new life. It is to be made grateful, to sing a song of joy and mirth and to know how to really celebrate, forever.