Monday, December 21, 2009

A Christmas Carol

Around Christmas it seems like every other movie is a remake of Charles Dickens’s The Christmas Carol. He struck story gold when he penned that story and even if he’d never written A Tale of Two Cities or Oliver Twist he’d have gone down as a master storyteller simply because of this one tale.

Begun in October of 1843, Dickens completed the story in just six weeks. He published it in December of the same year, and though he didn’t make nearly as much money off the royalties of that first printing as he wanted, it was still an immediate success. For once popular and literary tastes converged.

In a way that newborn novella caused a revolution. The story is credited with returning joy to a holiday that had become increasingly muted, even somber. The not-so-veiled social commentary on the industrialists of the day was said to hit like a sledgehammer. And at least one newspaper credited the tale with a significant increase in giving to the poor.

For all the cutting edge power that the story had in its day, the story has now been reduced to cliché. When everyone from Hallmark to Disney, to HBO has copied the idea in every conceivable medium it would be all but impossible for the story not to be trite.

Is there any hope that we could still suck some meaning from the marrow of this story?

The message may not be as radical as it once was, but I do think that some of the lessons are evergreen. Have we lived, so that a visit from the ghosts of Christmas past, present or future would hold no terror for us? Do we revel in ‘stuff’ or in people? Would our passing make a difference to someone?

Does our attitude reflect miserly Scrooge, sorrowful Marley, compassionate Bob Cratchit or even the cheerful, forgiving nephew.

Do you keep Christmas in your heart? What does that even mean?

To me, that means recalling the birth of Christ. That the great God, creator of the universe who holds the seas in the palm of his hand, would deign to robe himself in flesh and descend to earth as a newborn, not a powerful warrior king, but an impoverished infant, reliant on the care of human parents to meet his every need. That boggles my mind.

Why would he do that? It all comes back to who he is. He is love. It is his essence. And so it is also the essence of Christmas. It is every virtue, from humility to generosity, from forgiveness to thankfulness. Keeping that in our heart changes us, just as it changed Scrooge. I need Christmas. I need that joyful reminder of all that God wants for us. Of his plan and action in our lives.

Two questions to you, what does it mean to you to keep Christmas in your heart? And, can you think of any name better than Fezziwig?

In the immortal words of Tiny Tim. “God Bless us every one.”

3 comments:

Debra E Marvin said...

Lisa, why are you making me think?

I hope Christmas is in my heart because Christ is there. I just need a reminder pretty often.

You've challenged me and I'm going to find another Dickens character name to match Fezziwig. I read somewhere that the screen writers and director of Bleak House (the mini series) had to cut down characters to a reasonable amount. Seems old Chuck had at least 80 in that book and each one was probably as rich in 'character' as the next.

Lisa Karon Richardson said...

Martin Chuzzlewit perhaps?

So far I haven't had the problem of too many characters. But Dickens was a master wasn't he?

Susanne Dietze said...

Lisa, thanks for the post! We're Christmas Carol, er, nuts around here. I tried to think of a better word than "nuts." Didn't work.

I think Fezziwig is the best name...can't think of a more fun appellation of Dickens'.

Hope you're having a wonderful week!

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