Christmas has inspired innumerable deeds of creativity and charity. Some have composed songs to honour the Son of God, some have given gifts to the poor, and others have held feasts of celebration. Then there’s Charles Dickens. When he contemplated the birth of Jesus Christ, the incarnation of Deity, and the arrival of hope for us wretched sinners—old Chuck decided to write a ghost story. Each to his own.
A Christmas Carol details a life-altering twenty-four hours for Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is a miserable miser whose only thought of Christmas is one of disgust at not being able to turn a profit on that day. One Christmas Eve he reluctantly allows his employee, Bob Cratchit, to take the following day off to spend with his family. During the night the shackled ghost of Scrooge’s former business partner (and fellow-tightwad), Jacob Marley, appears to him. The ghost warns Scrooge that an eternity in chains awaits him—unless he amends his ways. Three more spirits visit Scrooge that evening, and take him to Christmases past, present, and yet to come. Through these revelations, fear and regret awaken Scrooge to the error of his ways; while pity for the poor Cratchit family gives him an idea of how to turn his life around. There is a happy ending; certainly in comparison with the actual Christmas story, which concludes with Joseph and Mary fleeing with Jesus to Egypt, narrowly escaping Herod’s massacre of all the male babies in Bethlehem.
“Get your priorities sorted because you’ll be dead soon,” seems to be the message Dickens is trying to get across. Scrooge had a band of ethereal sages to scare him into repentance, but most of us aren’t so lucky. We haven’t got long here, and too much of what we do have is freely wasted. Anaesthetised by comforts and luxuries, we neglect the truly worthwhile. What would we really lose—and what might we gain—if we didn’t spend so long at the office? What if we traded some of those hours spent looking at screens for quality time with loved ones? What if we worried less about our own ambitions and gave more consideration to those in need? Might we, like Scrooge, find that happiness lies not in hoarding, but in giving of one’s self? These are questions I fully intend to consider, just as soon as I finish watching tonight’s episode of Survivor.
A fun fact you may have missed: in the movie The Muppet Christmas Carol, when Scrooge (Michael Caine) declines a charity donation request, one of the charity workers (Beaker) gives him the finger. And just like a Muppet giving the bird, Dickens’s Christmas Carol is fun and memorable. It gets straight to the point, and it is a point we all need to hear. God bless us, every one! 8/10
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