Reel-to-Reel Christmas “A Christmas Carol”
I certainly hope you have been enjoying our Reel-to-Reel Christmas Series. Today we conclude with the film, “A Christmas Carol.”
Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol was published in England in 1843, & had both an immediate and lasting impact on the Christmas holiday. It is credited with reviving interest in Christmas at a time when its traditions were falling out of fashion. The novella’s lessons of charity, family, and a shared humanity spoke directly to a Victorian society that, in Dickens’s view, oppressed the poor and the working class in the name of industry. The work’s impact has endured far beyond the nineteenth century, and its message has reached audiences far beyond Great Britain.
The main character is a surly old geezer who lives a miserly existence in far too many ways. He sees nothing to be gained by helping the poor or even paying a living wage to his own employee. As the story says, his soul never walked beyond his counting house.
In Dickens’ story, Scrooge clutches to his money and financial wealth, wholeheartedly despises the thought of parting with any of it and, even worse, he withholds not just money but also love, kindness, warmth, friendship and empathy from every other human being, including his only living relative. All that is humbug in Scrooge’s eyes. Then one night, he has a profound epiphany, courtesy of three Christmas spirits and the ghost of his long-dead business partner.
Sadly, the lessons taught to us by A Christmas Carol seem to be lost on a surprising number of Americans in this day and age.
We all know what the word “Scrooge” means to most today, as well as ‘humbug!’ Let’s see what else can we learn from this story?
The story’s message is one to which every person, everywhere can relate: Relentless pursuit of wealth comes at a great price. Dickens shows the descent into greed is a slippery slope; the more we worship the “golden idol,” the easier it is to forget the genuine value of having money which is the ability to improve the quality of life for others and, in doing so, to enrich our own lives in truly meaningful ways.
Beyond its exploration of greed, A Christmas Carol emphasizes the impossibility of isolation in a shared world. We are more and more aware of that today.
We walk through life as “fellow passengers to the grave,” as Scrooge’s nephew Fred points out. When fellow passengers are left ignorant and needy, as the ghost of Christmas Present showed us, they are not the only ones who suffer; society itself suffers.
I love the dramatic start – Marley was dead! Seven years to the day. The number 7, in some circles, is about death and rebirth. Not so much literally, but in its tendency to throw away material success when it perceives it as a threat to its spiritual growth.
Interesting that Marley came to give Scrooge a chance for spiritual growth after being dead 7 years.
The stage is set with a glimpse of what kind of a man Scrooge is and what contract he has between himself and his nephew and Bob Crachit. He lets everyone know how he feels about money and everyone minding their own business so he can mind his.
The gloom of the evening, fog and all, tells us that the story is set for something otherworldly. It starts with the door knocker. First it’s a knocker and then its Marley’s face and then a knocker again. All our perception.
Ever have an evening like that?
I think it’s a precursor for a spiritual 2 x 4.
But Scrooge wasn’t open to any change, was he?
When Marley tells him of the pending visit by three spirits he says he’s rather not accept them – and then asks if they could all come in one night instead of three (the original script has them coming in three successive nights).
In general, Ebenezer Scrooge learned that he needed to turn his life around and be a happier, more caring person than he was at the beginning of the story. Each spirit taught him a different part of that lesson.
The first spirit, using the “Light of Truth,” showed the past to Scrooge.
In his past, Scrooge used to be a much happier person. This shows him that it is possible for him to be that way again. This spirit also shows him through Fezziwig, how important it is to be kind because of the impacts that has on others.
“Come and Know me better!” I love that greeting from Christmas Present. The ghost shows Scrooge that he is now something of a tyrant and that his behavior makes problems for other people. It also shows him that people can be happy without having as much money as Scrooge wants to have.
The third spirit shows him what will happen if he doesn’t change his ways. It shows him that his current behavior makes it so that no one loves him or even cares about him.
Between them, the three teach Scrooge that it is important to act more kindly and humanely towards other people (and even towards himself).
How would a visit from these three ghosts impact you & your life?
Jeff Skolnick M.D., P.h.D says there is a bit of Scrooge in all of us.
“Not me,” you say? “People like me.” Yet, there’s a quality to everyone’s life that is self-centered and disconnected from others. You might see Scrooge in your competitiveness—like when you race to speed up to prevent another driver from getting ahead of you or you resent other people’s success or needing to win in an argument.
Or when you feel victimized by life and blame others and life circumstances for your unhappiness. What does that get you? It makes you irritable, disappointed and sad. Yup, good ole Ebenezer comes up constantly. He’s there any time we look outside ourselves for happiness—like “retail therapy” shopping, wishing for that perfect relationship, needing a chemical to relax.
Scrooge had an Awakening to a new way of seeing the world and a new way of being. This can happen in two ways. Abruptly, in the case of Scrooge, or gradually.
In either case, you let go of old habits that are controlling you—whether you realize it or not—in favor of new perspectives and ways of doing things. So, it’s a skill of letting go into the moment. Witnessing in silence your own attitudes, beliefs, stress, compulsive habit or habits. You go from unknowingly “self-centered” to that inner, silent part of you that gets little attention—but when tapped, brings forth the Christmas spirit.
With no competitiveness to catch you up, with habits actively released, you are free to enjoy the miracle of the moment; To see the miracle in your very existence. And in others’ existence—especially the Tiny Tim’s of the world. Compassion is released like a logjam splitting apart.
The story of hope in “A Christmas Carol” is that just as someone as “lost” as Scrooge can be saved from a future worse than hell, so can we.
Like Scrooge, we can make changes in our own life; a ghost from our past or even a frightening look into our future. We can make needed changes in our life and thus help change the world for the betterment of every Tiny Tim, including those we don’t even know. We can become a better person.
That’s the positive message of Dickens’ classic, just as it is the message of Christmas itself. The gift of the little baby born in a manger is the gift from God of not only a second chance, but a third, fourth, fifth or however many chances we need to make a meaningful change in our life.
And isn’t that what God seeks in us all?
Here are 10 lessons we can learn from A Christmas Carol:
- Learning begins with listening.
Initially, Scrooge wants nothing to do with the three spirits who endeavor to show him the errors of his ways. But once he realizes they have his best interest at heart, he willingly lets them lead. “Spirit,” he tells the Ghost of Christmas Present, “conduct me where you will.”
When we listen, we learn. When we learn, we have the potential to grow and change in ways that will not only help us, but also those around us. Says Proverbs 18:13, “To answer before listening — that is folly and shame.”
- Humility enhances vision.
When some famous athlete or person is caught in some sort of transgression and, at the press conference, says, “That’s not who I am.” That may not be all of who you are, but at least for now, it’s part of who you are. And you’ll never get the issue resolved until you admit that.
Scrooge does this. He feels sorrow at his past memories. He feels remorse for having treated people badly. In short, he humbles himself. And when we see our shadow self, we are able to allow God to help us.
How cool is it that Scrooge cries out to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, “I am not the man I once was!”
- Regret leads to renewal.
This is related to our previous lesson, but points out an important part of the process: letting that humility morph into regret, but not letting it shackle us to regret. Humility and regret are always means to a greater end. Regret is the boost that allows humility to grow.
- Bitterness will poison you.
Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, is a wise man. It is Fred who points out, that it’s Scrooge who loses when he refuses the invitation to Christmas dinner. It’s been said that bitterness is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die. The victim of bitterness is ourselves.
- There’s joy in starting over.
Scrooge gets a bad rap. Too much attention is paid to his mean-spiritedness and not enough to the all-new Ebenezer. We see the sullen, bitter, biting Scrooge, but not enough of the laughing, giving, joyful Scrooge. On Christmas morning, however, he reminds us that starting over washes us in newness.
“I’m quite a baby,” he says. “Never mind, I don’t care. I’d rather be a baby.” People get in ruts and forget that they needn’t stay there. Scrooge’s turn-around reminds us there’s hope for us all, if we’re willing to begin anew.
- We must be present to win.
On Christmas morn, one of the first things Scrooge does after realizing he’s been given a second chance at life is to fling open his window. He moves from self to the world at large. He notices life around him instead of only himself. To notice is to see. To see is to feel. To feel is to build connections with those around us. And to build connections is to bring love to the world.
When Scrooge asks a young lad to deliver a turkey Bob Cratchit, it reminds us; the former taker is now a giver, which begins with noticing the needs of others.
- Seeking forgiveness is a strength, not a weakness.
Actions often say we’re sorry more than words. For example, on Christmas morning, the born-again Scrooge makes a financial pledge to one of the two solicitors for the poor whom Ebenezer all but threw out of his office the previous day. The amount of money is so much that the solicitor says, “My dear Mr. Scrooge, are you serious?”
Scrooge was saying, in essence: I am sorry for being so stingy my entire life. That wasn’t easy. But it affirmed that Scrooge’s turnaround is real stuff.
- We need to live with the end in mind.
“Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on that stone,” says Scrooge when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows him the headstone with Ebenezer’s name on it.
The catalyst for Scrooge finally realizing he’s wasted his life on money and power is seeing that there’s an end to that life — and it’s a rather depressing end. To live with the end in mind is to be inspired to change now.
- Redemption is about changed hearts.
We try so hard to change people’s minds, but what needs changing isn’t views on presidential candidates or social issues. What needs changing is people’s hearts — ours and others. Something we have been working on in Unity and other ways in our society.
What’s fascinating about Scrooge’s journey to renewal is that when he arrived at Christmas morning his circumstances were utterly unchanged. What had changed was his heart. Says Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
- It’s never too late to change.
Nobody would have bet a pound on Scrooge turning his life around. But that’s the power of God’s grace: nobody is beyond the reach of God’s love for us. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you,” says Matthew 7:7
“It’s too late for me,” some may lament. But this is wrong. As someone once said, the best time to plant a tree was 50 years ago, but the second best time is now. It’s a lesson that Ebenezer Scrooge teaches us well every Christmas.
Here are a few final thoughts:
“If you sacrifice everything for money that’s what you end up with.”
“Money is worthless if you do nothing with it.”
“Lack of a safety net, even for the rich has horrible repercussions.”
“Investing in the common welfare of others does not mean you can’t be rich.”
“God Bless us, everyone.”
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Our third film in the Reel-to-Reel Christmas Series is “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” This Christmas classic has a bit of history to it.
Rudolph was the creation of Bob May, a copywriter for Montgomery Ward. In August of 1939 May wrote a Christmas story to cheer up his daughter. When he shared the story at his company’s Christmas party, everyone asked him to use it to attract shoppers to store.
As he wrote the story, May’s first choice for the reindeer’s name was “Rollo” but he was told it was too carefree. He picked “Reginald” next but that was considered too royal.
Prior to the Clement Moore “Twas the Night Before Christmas, in 1823, Santa’s sleigh pulled by only one anonymous reindeer.
Montgomery Ward sold 2.5 million copies of the Rudolph story in 1939. It was reissued in 1946 and sold over 3.5 million copies. In 1949 Johnny Marks, May’s brother-in-law, wrote a song called Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Originally, Rudolph was sung by cowboy Gene Autry. His song has sold more than 12 million copies, second only to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”
And a little science to the story…
Nathaniel Dominy, an anthropology professor at Dartmouth College published a scholarly paper on Rudolph’s red nose in the journal Frontiers for Young Minds in 2015. In the paper, Dominy noted that reindeer eyes can perceive shorter wavelengths of light than humans, allowing them to see ultraviolet light; ultraviolet light, however, is much more easily scattered in fog, which would blind reindeer. Thus, Rudolph’s red nose, emitting longer-wavelength red light, would penetrate the fog more easily.
Maybe there’s some truth to the story….
If we are open to look, see and hear, we can find many lessons in the story of Rudolph. Stories like Rudolph’s capture our imagination. They resonate with ‘something’ deep within us. That’s what makes them so powerful and well-loved all over the world. On a subconscious level and on a superconscious level they connect with our Spirit.
This passage from Life and Teachings of the Masters by Baird Spalding help us justify to be open to a metaphysical approach to Rudolph. Baird was on a spiritual pilgrimage in India and asked his guide Emil what he thought of the street performers in the square. His wise old guide said:
“These performers are called fakirs, and they are all the name implies. But underneath it all is a deeper spiritual meaning that few discern, and good will come of their antics someday. Their street magic is but the shadow of the thing from which it springs. Those who have eyes to see and ears to hear can see the truth beneath it all.”
So, armed with the blessings of a Hindu mystic let’s look at this classic metaphysically:
The 8 reindeer each have characteristics that make the nocturnal flight possible:
- Dasher: represents out-of-the-box thinking
- Dancer: represents innate wisdom
- Prancer (Dancer’s twin) represents authentic integrity
- Vixen: represents a giving consciousness
- Comet: represents an internal locus of control
- Cupid: represents love
- Donner: represents inner strength
- Blitzen: represents an optimistic spirit
These reindeer represent qualities within us: out-of-the-box thinking, innate wisdom, love, and so on. They could also represent the Eightfold Path of Buddhism: Right understanding, right thoughts, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
The number eight also stands for balance and adjustment; magical alignments; the clearing away of obstacles and barriers; and karmic conformity, to name a few.
And laying sideways, the infinity symbol.
The Rudolph of us is that part of us that doesn’t fully comprehend that we are spiritual beings in human form, that we are divine beings having a human experience.
Santa is the Authentic Us, the Extraordinary Us, that encourages us to let our light shine, to use our unique gifts to bring peace and healing to the world.
The room where Santa finds Rudolph represents our ‘going into the Silence.’ It is there that our inner light, the truth of us, shines. It is there that we become one with our Christ nature.
The sleigh stands for our positive, giving state of consciousness which is our vehicle for unlimited prosperity and abundance.
Santa gave Rudolph a choice. He invited Rudolph to lead his sleigh. Rudolph could have refused, and we would have had quite a different story. Choirs would sing – Rudolph the Red-Faced Reindeer –because he would have missed the opportunity of a lifetime.
Rudolph could have kept his light hidden under a bushel. Instead he listened to that ‘Still Small Voice’ that says “will you guide my sleigh tonight? Will you let your light shine?”
That’s a great message for all of us: Let your light shine. Share your gifts with the world. Answer the call to express your divinity.
The original story is expanded into the film we were asked to watch this past week. The movie still has some of this original ideas and messages, but is expanded into more story.
The other cast of characters find it almost disturbing or disconcerting to see someone who is different than they are. Rudolph was ridiculed by the other reindeer and even his father was disappointed.
We find another outcast in Hermy, who wanted to be a dentist. The outcasts travel to the Island of Misfit toys where mismatched toys are just waiting to be loved and accepted.
The hero’s journey is clearly shown to us as Rudolph matures. When he goes back to find his family missing, he goes to rescue them from the Abominable Snow Monster. And even the Snow Monster learns a lesson…everyone can change.
It is not until Christmas Eve, the most important time of night for delivering of gifts, that Santa has an epiphany and realizes Rudolph is a gift to help him through the foggy world. Then, and only then, do the other reindeer accept him as their own. The lesson…maybe not judging others at first impression?
And Santa takes ALL the so called ‘misfit toys’ and again shows us that everyone belongs someplace.
So, this story has three elements: discrimination, epiphany, and redemption.
Discrimination regarding Rudolph because he is different looking; Hermy because he doesn’t fit into the ‘family’ business; the misfit toys because they are not what others expect; and even the Snow Monster because no one took the time to understand him.
And did you notice the Yucon Cornelous DIDN’T discriminate regarding sled dogs – he even had a poodle helping to pull the sled!
Epiphany for Rudolph’s Father as he realizes he was projecting his ideas of success on his son; Santa when he realizes Rudolph’s gift is exactly what he needs; Yukon Cornelius when he realizes he really wasn’t prospecting for gold or silver, but peppermint…because that is what was there! And Rudolph is reminded by the King of Misfit Island that we cannot run from our problems, “A living creature cannot hide itself.”
Redemption is found with Clarise because she stood by Rudolph even though the other reindeer made fun of him and she reminds us that there is always a tomorrow; and Rudolph is redeemed when he finds himself and doesn’t forget his promises to the other toys; and of course, Rudolph’s Mother…Mothers stand by their kids, most often, no matter what.
What did you find it the film?
What Reindeer games do we sometimes play?
Do you ever find yourself on the Island of Misfit toys?
What Would Jesus Say to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?
Whatever Jesus would say to Rudolph would be the same message communicated to the Rudolph within each of us. See how the message resonates with you.
First of all, from a blog by Unity Minister Rev Bill Holton, Jesus might say something like this:
“You know, Rudolph, sometimes we don’t recognize our greatest, most valuable gifts. Sometimes, they may even look like problems and embarrassments. But if we hold the faith, believe me, those problems will transform into the greatest gifts that the world needs.”
So, we need to look deep within ourselves, and acknowledge the issues that create the biggest problems for us. It may be a physical characteristic, an emotional issue, a quirky style preference, something that is ours to own, and we can’t understand why we got “stuck” with it. We can transform the thing into a great gift, with a powerful message to give the world. We must embrace it, love it, and be open enough – and wise enough – to see how our attitude about it transforms us.
Secondly, Jesus might say,
“And here’s a real keeper for you, Rudolph. Quite often in this world, your special gifts may be misunderstood. That happened with me, you know! The more I developed my Christ Consciousness, the more I became consciously one with God, and the more I was misunderstood by those who chose not to “get it.” So don’t worry, buddy, if people make fun of your nose, and judge you based on appearance, because you are a little different from others. Make it okay, and be kind to them. Love them, and see the Christ light in them. They really don’t know what they are doing.”
So we invite you to realize that others may misunderstand you as you begin using your gifts. As you strengthen your spirituality, and become consciously one with your divine nature, you may run into people who judge you, or make fun of you. Make it okay, and behold the Christ in them.
Finally, Jesus would probably sum it all up by saying,
“Here’s the deal, Rudolph! Regardless of what anyone tells you, no matter what … let your light shine!”
Great Morning Beloved!
Today we light the second advent candle, the candle for Peace. The first Advent candle was for Faith.
We sing the Peace song every Sunday, are we taking it to heart. We have said time and again that peace begins with each of us. It begins when we learn to trust in the peace that is the Christ Presence within each of us.
Let us welcome the peace of the Christ this Christmas Season
Reel-to-Reel Christmas “It’s a Wonderful Life”
I hope you are enjoying our little adventure into some of the Seasons favorite movies. If you pay attention to many of the lasting movies, you may find that, they are lasting because of the messages and lesson they provide to us.
Last week we discussed a few lessons from “The Miracle on 34th Street.” And there were many examples of the Advent theme, Faith, in that movie.
This week we look at “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This movie is one of my very favorites of ALL movies. And no matter how many times I’ve seen it, I shed tears at the end if not before.
I hope you took the time to watch the film this past week. There is just too much we could discuss from the film to put in one Lesson. It’s been called an Hour & half long teachable moment.
There’s a bank that requires its employees to watch a series of scenes from the movie and law students watch certain scenes for the ethics lessons. I am sure there are many other examples of the importance of the lessons in the film.
Many of the iconic moments of the movie have become cultural touchstones. Do you think of an angel getting its wings every time you hear a bell ring? Do you yell “Merry Christmas, movie house!” every time you pass your local theatre? Do you have someone for whom you would lasso the moon? You have “It’s a Wonderful Life” to thank.
The story of George Bailey’s life is one that touches so many in his small town of Bedford Falls. We get to see his life from a child to present through the eyes of celestial beings…“oh that’s right I forgot, until you get your wings you can’t see without my help but once you get your wings you’ll be able to see clearly on your own.”
Our first lesson, once we wake up we see clearly on our own and yet until that time we are encouraged to call upon our friends and our teachers to help us see more clearly. Great start and we haven’t even gotten to earth yet.
Through these celestial eyes we see how George saved his brother, Harry’s life from the not-so-frozen pond. And how that affected his life because of the loss of hearing in one ear.
We next see how he saved the life of a child from the error in a prescription by Mr. Gower. And that one action saved Mr. Gower too.
He sacrificed his education for his brother’s, kept the family-run savings and loan afloat, protecting the town from the greedy Mr. Potter
We see how George’s father and then he, himself, strive to stand up to Mr. Potter and keep at least some of the town out of his grip.
And, we see how both George and his father put up with Uncle Billy and his incompetency’s, almost to their detriment.
From the very beginning we’re seeing that George has had an impact on many peoples’ lives. But he doesn’t get to follow his dreams… More than anything else George wants to travel. He wants to get out of Bedford Falls and travel. As he says at one point in the movie he wants to “Shake the dust of this crummy little town off his feet.”
At one point his father mentions that he would like him to take care of the Bailey building and loan and George says “I couldn’t face being cooped up for the rest of my life in a shabby little office, I’d go crazy, I want to do something big, something important”
George’s dad thinks they are doing a big thing. He says; “It’s deep in the race for a man to want his own roof, walls and fire place and we’re helping him get those things in our shabby little office.”
When George comes to his crisis point, he fails to see all the good he has done, so it takes Angel 2nd class Clarence Odbody to show him his worth and, at the same time, earn his wings.
Clarence does this by giving George the opportunity to see what it would have been like if he was never born.
With no one to keep Potter in check, Bedford Falls becomes Pottersville and all that that implies. Even Mary is casts as an ‘old maid’ (horrors!) and working in the library. No family. No kids. No Bailey Park with all it’s nice little homes.
All the sailor and soldiers would have dies without Harry, who owes his life to George.
Clarence tells George, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man touches so many other lives, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?
What would it be like to see what life would have been like with no YOU to fill the place in our tapestry of life? George gets to see just that.
At the end of the film, Clarence has the almost last word: “Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings. Love, Clarence.”
What can we learn from George? First, you don’t have to leave home to go on an amazing journey. George Bailey’s life was an amazing journey and he did it right in his crummy little town. So often we think we must build something big or go somewhere grand to have an impact, for our journey to mean something. What if the real journey is how much we love and how loved we are? That’s one thing George learned. George built lives, not skyscrapers. Skyscrapers can fall down. What George built, lasts.
I think we can also learn from George that we should never underestimate the impact we can have. We’ve all heard of the butterfly effect, that if a butterfly flaps it’s wings in Tokyo it can cause a tornado in Texas. We never know what a kind word will do, we never know whose day we can turn around, just by being who we are, just by sharing our gifts like George did. We never know the impact that we’re going to have.
And, I think, we all need to be willing to accept a little help now and then. We all have angels. In this realm, in other realms, we all have help that’s available to us if we’re just willing to be open to it.
And what George really learned by the end of the movie is that he was a blessing to the people in his life. He never saw himself that way. He saw himself as just a regular guy plugging away in his life. But he was a blessing to the people in his world just by doing what he did.
The big thing that he built was a town and a life and relationships. As Clarence said to him at one point, “George you’ve really had a wonderful life.”
Here are some more lessons from Matt Lewis’s “7 enduring Lesson from “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Our life has a purpose and we have no idea the significance of our life.
Keeping up with the Jones is for saps Georges ambition to be more than he is causes much unhappiness and frustration. We must learn to appreciate what we have. A good question to ask is, how are we defining our worth these days?
Bad guys don’t always get punished…we unfortunately know that. What we can do about it is be in our integrity ourselves and know that each person carries their own burdens and pays for their own errors.
Don’t always hire relatives obvious
Appreciate how blessed you truly are and see the real importance in life—family, friends, faith.
Know how to give a good toast “A toast to the richest man in town.” That richness is not about money, but about the people in our lives. And earlier at the house blessing…” Bread that this house may never go hunger, salt, that life may always have flavour, and wine, that joy & prosperity may reign forever.”
Marry the right person “someone who will help you find your answers”
If you want even more lesson from this film, look for the book, 52 little lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life” by Bob Welsh
It has wonderful chapters like; “There’s no impact without contact,” “When criticized, consider the source,” & “ Life’s greatest adventure are people not places or things.”
This film Inspires us to live better lives, to recognize what really matters, and to be people of honour & integrity.
What did you find from the movie?