|"I didn't start this."
Christmas can be anything to anyone, but why? The Rad Trad, for one, blames Dickens.
At the theaters is a film aptly entitled The Man Who Invented Christmas, an imaginative telling of Charles Dickens' inspiration for the novella A Christmas Carol. The enduring tale of the miser who reforms his sinning ways after the visitation of four phantasms has truly earned Dickens the title The Man Who Invented Christmas, or at least Christmas as we know it.
A Christmas Carol possesses a Christian spirit of goodness that reflects the generally Christian people of mid-19th century, early industrial England where it was penned to paper, yet it is not a Christian tale. It is a self-made man's plea to the charity of other self-made men not to abandon the destitute to the cruel remedies of the emerging welfare state. Dickens escaped Scrooge's workhouses without the classical liberal sureness that anyone who deserves better than his current state can divine a way to obtain it on his own. So, the novella becomes a plea to Christian charity in an era of growing welfare, growing greed, growing government involvement in social structure, and growing factory business. The reader is left with the impression that his Christmas duty is, like Jacob Marley's, "kindness, benevolence, mercy, forbearance."
What of the Son of God?
He does not make an appearance in this work, either by name or intimation. Nor does any mention of the Deist's God, so in vogue in those days. Nor does any mention of Christianity. "God", "Nativity", "Incarnation", and "Jesus" are words that appear no where in any edition of the novella. Various film adaptations have noticed this void and filled it as best and ask awkwardly as they can. The original talkie movie with Reginald Owen finds the Cratchits and the nephew, Fred, meeting after church services; George C. Scott's 1984 version has Tiny Tim hoping that on Christmas church-goers may think of Christ when they see his own ailment; and a recent Patrick Stewart film makes Scrooge watch people around the world sing Silent Night and even finds the miser in service the following morning! Imagine, he found his religion in less time that did Saint Paul, who had to wait for Ananias to baptize him.
|"I will not itemize charitable giving in my returns this year, Spirit!"
Scrooge's conversion is to a love that Saint Thomas Aquinas might find agreeable. Scrooge does "will the good of another". His love, however, is not for God's sake or God's creation, it is for the sake of the created ones themselves. Perhaps this is what makes A Christmas Carol so enduring after the Sexual Revolution, Vietnam, Facebook, and the age of millennials. The sinner is a man who did not see the good in everyone and his conversion experience is that now he does. Coupled with a few specters, this Christmas tale stays safely in the realm of fiction—unlike the supernatural revelation of the Gospel, wherein God's hand touches earth and becomes Man's bridegroom (cf. Origen, Sarum Christmas Eve Mattins). The most supernatural element of A Christmas Carol is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, who is a thinly veiled Angel of Death. Otherwise, the novella, intended to move people to charity in a decreasingly Christian society, is a modern day inoculation against believing anything out of the ordinary has happened on December 25.
Might we paraphrase Tiny Tim with "God bless us, no one"?