Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Other than the Biblical Christmas story, A Christmas Carol is my next favorite story for the holidays. Even though it is not a Christian story in the sense of talking about Christ or theology, it is still a story about redemption. I would argue that mercy, undeserved love, and redemption is the true meaning of Christmas… not the presents and decorating.

In A Christmas Carol, we follow a very rich and cruel character named Ebenezer Scrooge as he is visited by four ghosts on Christmas eve. During the course of these visits, we see the cause and effects of Scrooge’s life choices. The author intends, in this revelation, for us to understand the meaning of Christmas.

A Christmas Carol is not easy reading for elementary students, I think the story has something for all ages. I expecially like the Muppet’s Christmas Carol as my favorite movie version and accessable for the youngest audiences (though the ghost of Christmas past might be a likle scary for some kids).

Even though I like the movoe version, I think the book as written is ver valuable to read for middle schoolers and up. Charles Dickens not only has a mastery of emotive language, but he also adds so much in the internal and emotional development of Scrooge that is hatd for any movie or play to fully capture.

So what is this internal/ emotional development? How does rhos teally hsve anything to do with Christmas? Couldn’t these visions have happened at any time of year?

Sort of…

In today’s world, we have lost a lot of our Christmas tradition for a variety of reasons- materialism, lack of family, lack of time, religous diversity, bad memories, and more. For many, Christmas is a fun game of make-believe, family time, and presents. In this context, is the meaning of A Christmas Carol then that Scrooge needs to spend more time with family and friends and give more presents?

Sort of.

Those morals are not bad, but I doubt such a lesson would completely transform Scrooge from being cruel and heartless to the generous benefactor he becomes. Scrooge learns something much deeper. He see how the raw selfish obsessions in his life was destroy himself more than the people he hurt. He saw how his riches failed to make him happy, long lived, respected, or safe. All of which he had long thought his riches would accomplish. He saw instead the love and joy in homes of those who were poorer, weaker, and even disabled. Scrooge saw he needed something internal different. He needed something the author calls the “Christmas in his heart.”

This something, the Christmas in one’s heart, is left undefined and we only see the results of it in the actions of Scrooge. How can a person suddenly love his fellow man unless they have seen and felt that love for themselves? How can someone show joy or mercy with it follow. From within? Where did this river of generous inclinations derive?

We are shown Scrooge’s gratitude to the ghost of Jacob Marley and the other spirits. I would argue that there is an implied gratude to the divinity that sent them.

Oh, if only this divinity would show such supernatural mercy to others decieved by their own destructive paths. Perhaps even sendong a messanger from another world…

Perhaps even a savior or a divine spirit?

Perhaps He already has…

The traditional Biblical Christmas story is the stpry of just that…except us Christians believe it is both real and true.

We believe that the divine creator of the universe looked down at this mortal person (each one of us individually and all of corporately at the same time) and thought, “I want you to have a second chance. I want you to see how you are destroying yourself and I want you to see there is another …better way.” So instead of sending spirits, his servants, he sent his son.

You might ask, “Why in such a werid way? What has a stable/barn have to do with anything? Why make him a baby and put his parents through such trauma?”

I would respond, “Why sent Scrooge to Bob Cratchet’s house and show him tiny Tim? Why dors tiny Tim’s death effect us, the readers, more powerfully than Scrooge’s own death?”

The reason is that Scrooge deserved to die. His actions and choices lead him to the descruction of his own making. Tiny Tim, though, was innocent. His death was ungair and cruel. When we look at the story of Jesus… when we see him as a baby in the nativity, we should think of tiny Tim… just as tiny Tim says in the novel. Though, not just as the healer of the blind and lame as tiny Tim says, but as the innocent death for our salvation.

If this distresses you, I will let you know in both stories, tiny Tim and Jesus Christ do not stay dead. Even so, we are the ones who pave the way to pur own destruction. We are the ones who are messing up the world one choice at a time. We are the ones who march down the path of death.

We are Scrooge.

We also have a second chance.

This is the story of Christmas. This is the Christmas spirit. This is what A Christmas Carol is about. I encourage you to find a pastor or a Christian friend and make the most out of your second chance. My prayers go with you.