A Fresh Look at a Christmas Classic
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”Ebenezer Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens
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A Christmas Carol. One of the most well-known and well-loved Christmas books of all time. Ask almost anyone and they could give you the big picture of this story – even children can give you the big picture thanks to all the cartoon version that have come out of this tale. For heaven’s sake, even the Muppets have taken on this beloved Christmas classic!
But how many of us have actually read the original? How many of us have sat down and immersed ourselves in Dickens’ words, losing yourself in the language and the story line?
I realized the other day that it had been ages since I’ve read the words for myself. My copy of the book was sitting on the shelf, snuggled in between Jane Austen and L.M. Montgomery, just waiting for me to dive in. So, I picked up my copy and started reading it once again. The setting seemed perfect as I snuggled into my couch next to the softly lit Christmas tree.
A Cheery Start
Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that…Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.Charles Dickens, ‘A Christmas Carol’
When it comes to Christmas stories, the vast majority of them typically don’t begin this way, right? It’s almost like you open the book in expectation of enjoying a wonderful classic tale and then you get smacked in the face with reality. It’s enough to make you wonder whether you should keep reading…
But you can’t let it go. There’s this need to figure out where Dickens is going with this. And then in the first section, you’re transported. All of a sudden, you’re in London with Scrooge, living what he lived, feeling what he felt.
And yet, you can only understand it, you can only feel it through the descriptions and attention to detail that Dickens gives. At first glance you may wonder why he’s going on and on about the fog on that dull, bitterly cold Christmas Eve. But yet the more I began to lose myself in the story, the more it began to make sense.
Dickens is a master at bringing you along with the story, allowing you to feel and see what the character feels and sees – so much so that I found myself shivering and reaching for a blanket and a cup of tea as I was reading about Scrooge’s walk home through the bitter cold!
Not What You Expect
And yet, when the words ‘A Christmas Carol’ are said, the first thought that springs to mind isn’t Scrooge’s walk home through the cold of that fateful Christmas Eve, but the spirits that visit him that night. And yet, it’s so easy to forget that without the cold walk home, without understanding the hardness of Scrooge’s heart, you cannot know the depth of the desperate need for the spirits to intervene.
I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.Charles Dickens, ‘A Christmas Carol’
Have you ever stopped to think how disorienting the visits of the spirits were for Scrooge? The attention to detail that Dickens gives to the clocks and the hour of the night stands in stark contrast with what you typically think of as a normal night’s rest. It almost seems to carry this idea that Scrooge needed to be thrown off his game completely. That even the opportunity to control the situation had to be taken away so Scrooge can better see the things that are being revealed to him.
Take, for example, when the spirits actually arrive. There seems to be this thought that the spirits arrived on the hour: the first one at 1am, the second at 2am and the third at 3am. Yet, Dickens somehow manages to turn the concept of linear time on its head. He has the spirit of Christmas Past and the spirit of Christmas Present arrive at 1am – at the same hour on the same night, yet they arrive at different times! It is an incredible concept that would be impossible anywhere else, yet as Dickens masterfully tells this story, it never occurs to you, the reader, to question it.
And yet, a question is raised: How often do you pause and look around you at all the different things that are happening? How often do you take a step back and reflect on what is most important? These are hard questions, no doubt! And yet, I can’t help thinking that we all need to be thrown off our game a little bit to be able to see more clearly.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the routine. It’s so easy to go through the motions each and every day. To get up, get your coffee, feed the kids, work through your school lessons, clean the house, feed the children again, attempt to get even one thing marked off your to do list (forget the 8 other items that landed on it today alone!), put the kids to bed, then collapse into your own bed only to get up and do it all over again tomorrow!
Truth be told, we all need this message. We all need this reminder that life is not just about existing. Life is not just about completing a list of tasks. But sometimes it takes an event so out of your control, so game changing, so out of the ordinary to make you stop and pay attention.
My Friend, don’t wait for that event in your life! Instead, learn from Ebenezer Scrooge.
The Ghost of Christmas Past
As you meet each spirit within the pages of this book, Dickens describes them in unwavering detail. You feel like you’re sitting right beside Scrooge as he’s looking at the spirit trying to make sense of this fantastic reality that he somehow find himself in. Yet, Dickens tells us not only the story of how Scrooge encounters the spirits, but also how he relived the memories of his past, came face-to-face with the reality of his present, and took an honest look at the projections of his future.
How many of us need this reminder? Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we all need to go to sleep and wait for the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future to arrive and pay us a visit! That would be a night to remember if it did happen! What I am saying is that there are great benefits in looking back. And not only looking back over the year that has just been completed, but over the whole of your life. Seeing with fresh eyes the areas where you have succeeded and celebrating those successes! Seeing the areas where improvement can be made and deciding whether or not to work on those areas. And, yes, even seeing the areas where you have failed. You see, if you don’t acknowledge your failures and seek to learn from them, there’s a much higher chance that you’ll continue to make the same mistake over and over again.
I’m not a big proponent of living in the past, but at the same time, you cannot forget your past. The events and circumstances and lessons you’ve learned up to this point in your life have helped to shape you into the person you are today. That’s not something to be forgotten! On the contrary, it needs to be acknowledged – the good times celebrated and the lessons drawn from both the good times and the bad times. You need to know where you’ve been to be able to set your course for moving forward.
The Ghost of Christmas Present
And yet, you can’t stop simply with a look backwards. What would Scrooge be if he was only visited by the ghost of Christmas Past? The story would be incomplete! If you only look back, your story is incomplete, too. You have to take a look around you and see not only where you’ve been, but where you are and where you’re going.
But what’s interesting is when the Ghost of Christmas Present shows up, he doesn’t show Scrooge his own life as much as he shows him the lives of others. They spend more time discovering what the Cratchits life currently looks like and how Scrooge’s nephew is celebrating the holidays. And yet, these pictures into other’s lives are very telling when they’re held up next to the cold, dark, dreary life that Scrooge leads.
Now, I’m not trying to say that you lead a cold, dark, dreary life like Scrooge did. The point I want you to see here is that by looking outside of himself, Scrooge gained perspective. And by taking your eyes off of yourself and looking around you, you too can gain perspective.
It’s so easy to get lost in what’s happening in the here and now. To lose sight of those things and those people around you and get tunnel vision on your own struggles. But do you know the biggest problem with tunnel vision? The more you only look at your own problems, the bigger and more insurmountable your problems start to feel! And when you keep looking at just the struggles you’re going through, pretty soon you start to feel like you can never overcome them. You start to feel lost and discouraged, frustrated and trapped.
But I have good news for you: It doesn’t have to be this way! Oh, it takes effort to get out of tunnel vision mode, don’t get me wrong! But the effort is well worth it! When you intentionally lift your eyes and focus on other people, on things other than your own problems, your struggles will start to regain their proper place.
Now, I’m not saying your struggles aren’t real! They are real and they do need to be dealt with! Please don’t think I’m saying that if you don’t look at them, they will magically disappear like they were never there in the first place. That’s not it at all! What I am saying is that when the only thing you look at is the struggle, the struggle grows in your mind to epic proportions. And when you pull back and gain perspective, your struggle comes back into its proper place.
The Ghost of Christmas Future
Do you want to hear some absolutely incredible news? You have the power to change the trajectory of your life!
Just like Scrooge had his famous epiphany after meeting the Ghost of Christmas Future and started implementing changes in his life, you have the power to make changes in your life. Oh, it may be impossible to alter your circumstances sometimes, but you can alter your attitude about your circumstances. It may be impossible for you to make big, sweeping, about-face type of changes overnight, but it is possible for you to start taking that first tiny step towards that big change. And each step you take brings you closer towards that goal, that change. When you start taking steps in the right direction, when you keep moving in the right direction, you can rest in the fact that you are closer to that big goal of yours today than you were yesterday.
Some people think that making a decision to change is the deciding factor in making the change happen. But that’s not quite true. Making a decision is the first step in making a change. But, the change won’t happen until you begin to do something about it. Until you take that first step in the right direction. Until you start implementing, doing what you’ve learned, everything you’ve learned will remain a theory.
That’s the most beautiful part of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Scrooge doesn’t just see where he’s been. He doesn’t just have his perspective broadened. He doesn’t just say he will change. He does it! As soon as he wakes up, he takes action! He took big strides towards change in the first few moments of waking up after meeting the spirits. He followed through on his decisions and put his plan into action.
One more thing I want to bring out: Just because Scrooge was able to make big, monumental changes to his life within hours of waking up, doesn’t mean you have to make the same massive steps. If you’re able to take a big leap towards your big goal, go for it! But if you’re only able to take a baby step in the right direction, that’s perfect! The point is not how much change you’re able to make in the smallest amount of time. The point is you’re starting to move and moving in the right direction.
Wrap It with a Bow
How many times have you read and re-read, heard and re-heard this classic story? Yet at the same time, in every reading, in every adaptation, in every telling, in every hearing, there are more gems of truth and wisdom to be discovered hiding between the pages. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve read this incredible work. It matters how often you’ve really paid attention to the message it brings, seemingly fresh and new each Christmas for over 175 years.
If you have never picked up a physical copy of this book and lost yourself in the story, I encourage you to read it for yourself this Christmas season – it’s never too late!
So, my Friend, in the spirit of Christmas, I’ll leave you with the words of Tiny Tim,
May God bless us, every one!Charles Dickens, ‘A Christmas Carol’
A couple years ago, a movie came out based on ‘A Christmas Carol.’ This one was different because it wasn’t based on the story itself, like most adaptations, but it’s based on the life of Charles Dickens and how he wrote this incredible book. If you’ve never watched ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas,’ you should! Find a copy of the movie and make a night of it!
- The Most Important Part of the Christmas Season
- The Changing of the Seasons of Life
- Finding Perspective When You Feel You Have None
- Discovering the Legends of Christmas
Looking for some of the books or materials mentioned on this page? Click on the photo below to purchase your own copy today.
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.