This year, I introduced my daughter to Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. We read the book then watched a couple film versions. The 2009 animated version (with Jim Carrey playing Scrooge) is her favorite. It’s my new favorite as well. While adding flourishes here and there, it follows the book pretty well. It also features Christianity instead of downplaying it like other versions.
There are many wonderful moments in the story but one in particular got my attention this year. Jacob Marley bursts into Scrooge’s room, tossing ghostly chains and lock boxes around. With tormented shrieks he laments that his spirit never walked compassionately among his fellow men while he lived. The chains and weights are his penalty for a life lived for himself. Jacob warns that Scrooge is facing the same fate because of his misanthropy. Terrified, Scrooge says, “Speak comfort to me, Jacob.” Jacob replies, “I have none to give.”
We are all too ready to comfort without reason. Here’s the story. Our story. We are so unlike God He can’t have anything to do with us. We are like the meth addict that can no longer have a relationship with his parents; we have burned every bridge. If we continue as we are, there is no comfort for us. Our course ends in darkness, alienation, and torment. But this story is too negative. We would rather slide into damnation with our good feelings intact.
Many of today’s popular stories do tell us what we want to hear: Whatever our sin, family dysfunction, or trail of wreckage happens to be, accept it. Own it…with pride. And, oh yeah, everyone else needs to accept it too. In fact, everyone else needs to celebrate it. If they don’t, they are the guilty ones.
Scrooge tells a different story. Who can forget the climax of A Christmas Carol? Scrooge begs for his life next to his own gravestone. The ghost of Christmas Yet to Come says nothing, gives no assurance, assuages no fears. His robe is blacker than any judge’s; it blots out every light in the night sky. Scrooge promises he is not the man he was; he pledges to let the love of Christmas reign in his heart all year. The point of Scrooge’s story is the point of our story as well: change or die.
Scrooge’s choice is at the heart of the gospel: “The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). We can cling to ourselves as we are and die. Or we can reject ourselves as we are in exchange for eternal life. Eternal life is not living forever as a reward for good behavior. Eternal life means I no longer live but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:19-20). That is real change: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
God bless us, everyone!