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“Let us examine and probe our ways and let us return to the LORD.”  Lamentations 3:40.

Every year I watch one of my favorite Christmas movies, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. There are various versions of this classic story, however, the one I watch is the one where George C. Scott plays the part of Scrooge. It is a powerful rendition of this Christmas movie. As I watched it last Christmas, I became aware there was a very interesting message in the movie I had not seen before. And it has nothing really to do with Christmas, but it is a very Christian message. I will start by giving a very quick overview of the story.

It is Christmas Eve. The camera pans the town, showing all the people singing Christmas Carols, wishing each other well, and just enjoying the holiday. By contrast, we move to the office of Ebenezer Scrooge, and we see a cranky old man who hates Christmas and has no desire to celebrate it, and no interest in helping anyone but himself. This small part of the movie says it all. ”Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone. Scrooge was a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” Scrooge’s nephew comes in to wish his uncle a Merry Christmas, but Ebenezer rebuffs him, calling Christmas a humbug. And the word humbug has the following meanings:

Something intended to deceive, a hoax or fraud. A person who claims to be other than what he or she actually is, an impostor, nonsense, rubbish.

What Ebenezer Scrooge was saying is that Christmas is a fraudulent holiday for the purpose of deceiving people into buying things they did not need or giving them to people who did not need them, and with money they did not have. If this was all there was to Christmas, I probably would not celebrate it myself.

He then tells Bob Cratchit, his only employee, that he can have the whole day of Christmas off with pay, even though he felt Bob was stealing his money by not working for it. Then he leaves to go to the exchange and meets two men who asks Ebenezer for a donation to the poor. Scrooge asks about the prisons and workhouses which the government set up for the poor. He is told that many would rather die than go there.  At which Scrooge says in one of the most famous lines of the story, “‘If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.’” Scrooge was a hard hearted man. He then goes home, walking down a lonely street, goes into his fairly large home, walks up to his bedroom, and once in, scans the room in fear, then locks the door with various locks. His room is a cold, stark and lonely place, uninviting in all ways. He fixes himself a meager dinner and then surprisingly receives a visit from his former and deceased partner Jacob Marley who says he was there for Ebenezer’s redemption and that Scrooge would be visited by three Ghosts. Let me summarize the three visitations. While he is with these three ghosts, he can see and hear everything, but other than the ghosts, no one can see or hear him.

First Ghost – The Ghost of Christmas Past, Scrooges Past

Here we see Ebenezer as a child. While his friends are having fun, he is alone and abandoned by his friends and family, He was sent off to boarding school as a young boy because his father resented him for surviving his birth while his mother did not. He was given the opportunity to go home, but only for three days, when he would then be sent to apprentice with a Mr. Fezziwig. There he meets Belle, a beautiful young lady, and they fall in love, and during the Christmas Eve party, he sees how Mr. Fezziwig earned the loyalty and love of his apprentices by spending a small amount of money but giving them a very enjoyable night. However, she leaves him because he was more interested in money than her personally. The ghost shows Ebenezer Belle, now married to a very  successful and loving man, and having four kids. She mentions she pities Ebenezer, which he detested.  What we see here is a young man who probably desired to please his father by being financially successful, which he attains, but loses everything else in the process.

Second Ghost – Ghost of Christmas Present

This Ghost takes him to the streets on Christmas day, shows him all the people having a good time, buying food to prepare a Christmas meal, but all Scrooge sees is commerce, buying and selling. They go to the house of Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s employee, and they see the family making Christmas dinner, taking part in all the family traditions, and again, all he sees is money, asking how he could provide all this on his salary. He sees Tiny Tim, their youngest son, who is crippled and has other physical problems which threatens his very life. Tim keeps saying he feels stronger every day, but in actuality he is growing weaker. A memorable line here is, Bob Cratchit speaking of Tiny Tim, “‘he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.’”  Scrooge asked the ghost if Tiny Tim would survive, which prompts the answer, if things go forward as they are now heading, he will die. The ghost then takes Scrooge to the house of his nephew, who had invited him to his home for dinner. The main conversation was on the greediness of Scrooge and how sad his life really was.  Lastly, he takes him to a place where the homeless live, scraping out a meager living as best they can. The ghost leaves him there, with Scrooge saying how he did not like that place and wanted to go home.

Third Ghost – Ghost of Christmas Future

This is the specter Scrooge feared the most. What he saw were people laughing and joking about the death of some man. No respect was paid, in fact, many looted the man’s home, taking his possessions to sell in order to make a little money.  Scrooge saw the body in his own bed, thereby figuring the man who died was probably himself. He then asked the ghost to show him some true emotion and compassion, so the ghost takes him again to the house of Bob Cratchit and sees the family crying and mourning over the death of Tiny Tim. Next, Ebenezer asks the ghost for the identity of the dead man, and it takes him to the grave, with the name Ebenezer Scrooge, only seen after he wipes away the snow that covered the name. Scrooge then cries out, saying he will change, and when he wakes up, it is Christmas morning and he is truly a changed man, who becomes more generous than any man had ever been, and he also pays for all doctor and hospital bills for Tiny Tim.

So, what is the revelation I received? It is this. Ebenezer Scrooge was given the opportunity to see himself as he truly was, through the eyes of those who knew him. He saw a cranky, unloving, uncaring man who did nothing for anyone else. He saw how this prevented him from developing true friendships, and how it affected his relationship with everyone he was acquainted with. He finally saw how people perceived him and how his life would end unceremoniously, with all his possessions stolen, and no one wanting to go to his funeral, unless of course either food was served, or they were paid to attend. He understood that in the pursuit of wealth and power, he had actually lost everything that had real value in his life. He was a sad and lonely man, and he realized the words of Jacob Marley, during his ghostly visitation, were true.  ”‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!’”

It is important that we examine ourselves and see who we really are, and not necessarily who we think we are. If we could see ourselves as others do, would we like what we saw?  I have taken the time to look back a ways at myself and I must say, I was not overly pleased. I saw things I hoped no one else saw. I realized the picture I had of myself was in many ways humbug, as noted above, a person who claims to be other than what he or she really is. And I wondered how others view me. Do they see me as someone I do not know? I began to pray that God would help me be true to what I declare. That I not only talk the talk, but I walk it also. That those areas God does not like, I would yield myself completely to Christ and allow Him to change me into what he wants, and not what I desire. It is a tough thing to do, but change is not possible if we do not see a need to change. And if we all examine ourselves, using the Word of God as our prism, we will then see things we may not like and allow God to remove them from us. We will see some things we like and allow God to strengthen those areas and use them for His glory. But if we do take the time but allow ourselves to be continually self-deluded by our pride and do not look beyond our own masks to see the real person, we are doomed to stay as we are.

You have probably heard the following saying, “God loves us where we are, but loves us too much to allow us to stay there.” God has a plan He has set in motion since the initial fall in the garden. And He wants us to yield ourselves completely to Him, as instruments in His loving hands. But in order to be useful, we must be conformed to the image of Christ, and in order for us to be conformed, we must change, and in order to change, we must see a need to change, and desire it. He is waiting to help us through this process. And if we totally sell out and give our all, we, just as Ebenezer Scrooge, can be transformed from humbug to a beautiful person who shares the love of God to all, especially those in need, even to the detriment of our own desires.

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