Thursday, December 19, 2013
Christmas Changes by Martin Wiles
The 1984 version of A Christmas Carol featuring George C. Scott is my all time favorite movie. Clive Donner—editor of the 1951 version entitled Scrooge, directed this made for television movie about a miserly old gentleman who thought Christmas was humbug but who later changed his mind and lifestyle after a visitation by three ghosts.
Ebenezer Scrooge was a money lender whose sole life goal was amassing more money. His partner Jacob Marley had died seven years earlier, and Scrooge was now running the business from a dark damp lower level room with one employee, Bob Cratchit. Scrooge’s sister had also died leaving behind a single living relative, Fred Hollywell. Fred faithfully petitioned his uncle to dine with them each Christmas, but his response was always the same: “Bah humbug.”
But the spirits sent the ghost of Scrooge’s old partner to warn him about his destiny if he didn’t mend his ways. Marley informed Scrooge he would be visited by three apparitions: the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present, and the ghost of Christmas future. Sure enough, they all appeared in succession.
Scrooge’s first two visitors made little impact on his view of the season. The third, however, commanded his attention. When he ushered Scrooge into his bedroom and showed him a covered figure on the bed, Scrooge stood aghast. But when he took him to the cemetery and showed him his grave, Scrooge was overwhelmed with grief and promised to change his ways if allowed to live.
Not knowing whether his request was granted or not, Scrooge awoke the next morning—Christmas morning, and finds that indeed he has been given another chance. True to his word, he begins celebrating Christmas like few others had mastered.
(Up until this point, I’ve not shed a tear, but they are about to begin flowing. And it’s also here that I wish the writers would have extended the movie. I long to see more of what Christmas changes would have been lavished on others because of Scrooge’s altered ways.)
Scrooge quickly dressed and bounded to the window. By chance, he caught a glimpse of a town boy playing in the snow. “Hello there,” he called. After discovering that it is indeed Christmas morning, he ordered the young lad to run quickly to the poultice, retrieve the prize turkey on display, and deliver it to Bob Cratchit. The Cratchit family is overwhelmed by the gift and its size. They had no idea who might perpetrate such kindness.
On his way to visit his nephew, Scrooge encountered two men who had earlier tried to convince him as a man of means to donate a sum of money to help the poor during the holiday season. Scrooge had promptly snubbed their requests. Now he whispered in their ear what he wanted to contribute. By their reaction, it must have been an enormous sum.
Scrooge then meandered to his nephew’s home where he is met with delight but surprise. Previously, he had scowled at his nephew’s interpretation of Christmas and denounced his choice to marry a poor girl. But now he apologizes for lost time and his coarse remarks: “Well, I've come for three reasons. First, to beg your pardon for the things I said about Christmas. That was a humbug Fred.”
The crowning moment appears the day after Christmas, the day he had instructed Bob Cratchit not to be late for work. After all, he had just paid him for a day he hadn’t worked. As usual, Bob arrived a few minutes late. Scrooge waited eagerly. With his normal raspy voice, he summoned Cratchit to his desk and scolded him for his tardiness. At the moment Cratchit imagines he is about to lose his position, Scrooge flung him a bag of money and informed him his salary has been doubled. Not only that, but he would see to it that his crippled son walked again. And to cap off the surprise, he instructed Cratchit to order some coal before they froze to death.
The Christmas changes that Scrooge underwent may seem farfetched but truly they aren’t. I see or hear about them every year as the Thanksgiving season passes and the Christmas season approaches. People begin to express their joy and appreciation in unusual but refreshing ways. Retailers lower prices, churches enter prisons and feed prisoners, musical programs are prevalent, people are kinder, priorities are re-considered, families forgive and assemble together, friends are re-united, and for a brief moment the world’s people demonstrate the very real possibility that they could actually live together in peace.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, also encountered various Christmas changes. She went from being a young unmarried Jewish girl to an unmarried pregnant woman living in a time period when this was unacceptable behavior. Her fiancé was required to believe this was the result of God’s doing rather than an act of unfaithfulness. Joseph was no doubt the butt of many jokes and Mary the topic of town gossip. But she accepted the angel’s word as truth. The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35 NLT)
But the most marvelous Christmas change is the one that can occur in a person’s heart when they let God’s gift enter. Sinners are changed to saints, the unforgiven to forgiven, and the dirty to cleansed. Whereas the future was bleak like Ebenezer Scrooge’s, it is now bright and beautiful. Have you undergone your Christmas change?
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