As I’ve written elsewhere, A Christmas Carol is a favorite holiday story in our house. To many, it’s a familiar tale. Scrooge is a selfish, old miser. Financial gain is his one great love. He thinks little of the poor and even comments that they should die to “decrease the surplus population.” (Uh…WOW).
Scrooge’s heart is diamond-hard. You would vote him “Least likely to change.” But Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. The spirits bring him face to face with the reality of his selfishness and certain death. Yet Scrooge is spared. The judgment and mercy of the spirits transforms him. Overnight, he becomes a new man and vows that all three spirits will strive within him throughout the year.
During Scrooge’s time with the spirits, the ghost of Christmas Present acquaints Scrooge with one of the “surplus population.” Scrooge and the spirit travel to the home of Bob Crachit, Scrooge’s abysmally paid employee.
Bob has a sickly son nicknamed Tiny Tim. Scrooge learns that Tim will die if nothing is done to change his situation. The implication is that Scrooge is partly responsible. His greed keeps him from paying Bob a decent wage. Bob can’t provide the care and nutrition Tim needs to get healthy. For the first time, Scrooge encounters something harder than his heart. It breaks. Tiny Tim’s fate is a major catalyst of the change within Scrooge.
Every year I wonder why Tiny Tim has such an effect on Scrooge. I try to be content with the obvious–Tim is a child. Who can be unmoved when a child dies? As attached as I am to my own children, it’s hard for me to imagine anything more ruinous. But year after year I find this answer dissatisfying.
As I watched a film version of A Christmas Carol recently, something occurred to me. Christianity permeates this story. I have no doubt Dickens was trying to do more than write a good story; he was trying to put a face on God and on God’s transforming work in us. Scrooge’s impending death is a parable for all of us. Whether we like it or not, we’re as sinful and deserving of death as Scrooge. Tiny Tim is a figure of one who doesn’t deserve death. He’s innocent. Yet Scrooge comes to understand Tim will die because of sins Scrooge committed.
Scripture says Jesus died “the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Peter 3:18). His innocent death brings saving change to our hearts. Tiny Tim, I think, is a figure of Christ. In Scrooge, Dickens is showing us a sinful soul faced with the blamelessness of Christ. The gospel of Christ is the only thing capable of cutting us to the heart (Acts 2:36-37). This is why Tiny Tim has such an effect on Scrooge–the gospel of Christ is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16).
God bless us, everyone!