First sentence: MARLEY WAS DEAD, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.
A Christmas Carol is a familiar story--much like the gospels. Is it too familiar a story to pack a punch or two? It doesn't have to be. The truth is--like it or not--we are more like Scrooge than we want to admit. We may not hate Christmas. We may not be super-obsessed with money. We may even consider ourselves good, charitable people. But the truth is that we are all sinners; perhaps I should amend that to we are sinners one and all. At best we can say our pet sins differ from his. All of us need a ghostly encounter to reconcile us with ourselves, the world, and God. I would point out, however, that we need a Holy Ghost encounter, and not one from Marley and the three ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.
In the first stave, readers are introduced to Scrooge's world. We see him at work and at home. We are witnesses to Scrooge's interactions. Dickens does plenty of telling, but he also does plenty of showing. At the close of Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his business partner, Marley. Scrooge is warned of his future fate and promised three spiritual visitors. In the second stave, Scrooge is visited by the first spirit, that of Christmas past. In the third stave, Scrooge is visited by the second spirit, that of Christmas present. In the fourth stave, Scrooge is visited by the third spirit, that of Christmas future. In the fifth stave, it is Christmas morning. Readers are reintroduced to Scrooge; once again, we see him going about his business. Has his outlook on life changed? Is Scrooge a new man?
When I first read A Christmas Carol, I was less than impressed with this "Christ-less" Christmas story. I still loved the Muppet Christmas Carol; I still loved the idea of loving this one. But I found grace to be missing; here was Scrooge a brand new man with a brand new outlook, but no profession or confession of belief or trust in the one true God. The message was not Jesus paid it all; all to him I owe. The emphasis was not that Christ was sufficient--that Scrooge's only hope in life or death was Christ alone. The emphasis seemed to be on outward change, on works. On reflection this time around, I see A Christmas Carol more like the letter of James than any of the four gospels. In spiritual terms, what we're dealing with is not justification--how to be made right with God, how to be saved--but sanctification--how to live life rightly.
Here are a few scriptures to keep in mind as you read A Christmas Carol:
- Matthew 22:36-40
- Luke 10:25-37
- Matthew 5:43-48
- John 13:34-35
- Luke 16:19-31
- 1 John 3:14-18
- James 2:14-17
- James 4:17
- James 5:1-4
My tip for reading A Christmas Carol: try to read it as if for the first time.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible