When you think A Christmas Carol, you think Scrooge. And when you think Scrooge, you think “bah humbug!” Over all the countless retellings of the classic Charles Dickens story, Scrooge has become synonymous with a lack of Christmas cheer.
There’s so much more to the story, though.
“Charles Dickens’ novella is really a manifesto about Christlike community,” CJ Casciotta wrote in his trending article “What Christians Can Learn from Scrooge” for Relevant. “It’s a profound and timeless reminder that the things we work so hard to achieve and preserve for our own comfort and security will ultimately end up imprisoning us if we don’t share them with our neighbors.”
Marley, the dead business partner of Scrooge who is tied to money boxes and weighed down by the chains of useless wealth, is a perfect illustration of that. We’ve heard the stories and the songs warning us that we can’t take our earthly things with us, and this timeless story reminds us how true that is.
What’s the point of it all, then, if the things of this world stay here even after we’re gone?
I don’t think the point Dickens wanted to drive home was that Scrooge was a grumpy old man who was unenthused about Christmas or who was obsessed with money.
Casciotta shares this illuminating perspective instead:
“There’s a pervading message that wants to convince us that we deserve attention, that creating the life we’ve always dreamed for ourselves is categorically the most important thing imaginable. Protection, security, validation and comfort are the values that tend to steer us individually, economically and thus societally here in the West. We all know not to confuse these things with real joy or happiness, yet our pursuit of them routinely creates more anxiety and burden, causing us to shrivel and shrink like Old Man Ebenezer. But what if the opposite were true? What if the world didn’t owe us a thing, but instead, our passions, talents and longings, the raw materials that make us human beings, were unwrapped gifts meant for those who need them?”
Our society, especially in America, is so focused on self-preservation and personal success. The messages we hear don’t address the real hurts and pains, but gloss over them and paint an impossible image of what achievement looks like. The American dream seems like the ultimate goal-- work hard, climb the ladder, have it all. It’s no surprise that we are burning out and struggling to find real joy in the midst of that.
As I’ve personally been reflecting on the story of Christ’s birth in Scripture this Advent season, I keep thinking about what a gift our Savior gives us in Himself. He offers us a life that is far more fulfilling than what this broken, hurting world can give.
When I zero in on the magnitude of Christ coming to earth like He did, all the gifts under the tree and all the stresses of bills, budgets, and work fade away. All of my striving to be successful or make a name for myself or create something important ceases to be my focus when I set my sights on Him. All of the suffering, pain, and heartache seem not to be meaningless but opportunities to find healing and restoration in Him instead.
Scrooge was haunted by ghosts of the past, present, and future...and many of us relate to that. We, like Scrooge, get caught up in working for our own selves and we lose sight of the people and opportunities around us that are truly life-giving. We try to avoid suffering and challenges to protect ourselves, but those things become like ghosts that haunt us.
“But the calling,” Casciotta says, “if we can hear it above all the anxiety and uncertainty the new year inevitably brings, is that even the scroogiest of us can usher in a future where belonging and togetherness are more than words on a Christmas card, but realities that fuel our endurance. It’s an opportunity to exchange the myth of security in order to expose ourselves to suffering, and in some miraculous fashion that deserves celebration, that suffering generates joy.”
The story of Scrooge isn’t just that he was grumpy or haunted. His story of transformation is one that shows us we can be transformed too, if we step out of the fray and enter into a full, free life in relationship with our Savior and King.
That’s the point of not only A Christmas Carol, but Christmas itself.
Publication date: December 23, 2015
Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com