Back during December, TV channels were chock full every Christmas movie ever made, it felt like. But if there is one Christmas movie that seems to stand out over the rest as a classic for the ages, maybe it’s the one that has been repeated and adapted more than any other: the Charles Dickens book A Christmas Carol. There seems to be a new version of it every few years. Black & white, color, animated, live-action, singing, no singing, Muppets, and Mickey Mouse. (Those last two are my favorites.)
Apparently Charles Dickens first published the story in 1843, so he must have really connected with something deep inside people for that story to continue being told and adapted into so many new versions decade after decade. Even after 175 years, what kid hasn’t heard of Ebenezer Scrooge and his famous “bah humbug”?
Maybe it’s lasted so long because Scrooge’s transformation in the story is so heartfelt: from a greedy miser who takes as much as he can, to a merry friend who gives as much he can. Or maybe it just inspires us, because it shows a hurting world–a hurting family with a hurting boy (Tiny Tim)–but it also shows that one person can make a difference, if their heart is in the right place. (Focused outward, not inward.)
The three ghosts who visit Scrooge show him things he’s forgotten in the past, things he doesn’t know in the present, and things he wouldn’t get to see in the future. So it got me thinking: What might the ghosts show me?
Scrooge saw fun times in Christmases gone by, and I would too. Big family get-togethers at my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve night. Having supper that seemed to take forever as the kids waited impatiently for the adults to finish eating so we could finally exchange presents. After the meal, everyone took the same seats they took every year, and us cousins were in charge of handing out the gifts. “This one’s for Aunt Shirley. This one’s for Grandmom. This one’s for me!!” We would take turns opening presents, going from youngest to oldest. And of course you open the bigger presents first. Much like Scrooge at one of Old Fezziwig’s Christmas parties, those Christmas Eve nights at my grandparents’ house were full of joy.
So what would the Ghost of Christmas Past show you? Fun times at parties and with family? Probably. And maybe even some memories that aren’t so joyful, like when Scrooge was shown the time his fiancée left him because he loved money too much. Not all Christmas memories are merry.
And what might the Ghost of Christmas Present show me? Maybe, like Scrooge, I would visit scenes of family Christmases going on, with people coming together to share a meal and share the joy. But maybe the second spirit would also show me families here in Franklin County who, like Bob Cratchit’s family, are trying to have a merry Christmas despite not having much food to share, not having many presents under the tree, and worried about someone’s health. The Ghost of Christmas Present told Scrooge that Tiny Tim would die soon if he didn’t get the medical care he needed, and Scrooge was sad. I bet I would be too, if I saw the condition of many folks in our county who are even today struggling to get by, feed their family, get medical care, and try to be merry.
The visions only got sadder for Scrooge when the third spirit arrived, the Ghost of Christmas Not Yet to Come. Scrooge saw the Cratchit family grieving over the death of Tiny Tim, and he also saw his own grave, with no one grieving him.
Hopefully my Christmas future won’t be that depressing, but I do wonder what it would be like. Scrooge saw what people said after he died. So it raises good questions: What will people say about you? What will they remember, and how will they describe you? What things that you did will people be thankful for? What things that you did will people still feel hurt by?
When Scrooge saw the way he would be remembered, he didn’t like it. He sobbed to the third spirit, promising to change. When he woke up, it was still the present, so he decided to live differently; he decided to act differently, and it changed his legacy. So it raises other questions: How do you want to be remembered when you are gone? And is there anything you need to change about the way you live and act now to make sure that happens?
Hopefully the same can be said of us as was said about Ebenezer Scrooge after he decided to live for others instead of himself. Here are the last lines from the book:
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew…. And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!
May we see the world as God sees it, and leave it better than we found it.