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.”