". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


‘A Christmas Carol,’ Conversion, and Christ

December 23, 2023

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is reading the ghostly novella “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. Written in 1843, the 31-year-old wrote the holiday classic in a mere six weeks. This incredible work of literature has become one of the most popular Christmas stories of all time. If you have never read it, I highly encourage you to start the tradition this year. But whether you have yet to read this tale or your memory of it is a bit hazy, here is a summary.

Once upon a time on Christmas Eve, a wealthy old man named Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by the ghost of his old business partner Jacob Marley and three spirits of Christmas past, present, and future. The goal of their haunting visit? To convert this cold-hearted “covetous old sinner” who spent Christmas miserably busy with the affairs of his counting-house and treating all who were merry and full of joy with contempt. Over the course of their night with Scrooge, they met success by softening his heart and forever changing him into a man full of generosity and jolly Christmas spirit.

A series of shadows of things that had been, images of the things that were, and visions of that which was to come combined to pierce through the calloused heart of Ebenezer. Marley’s ghost explained that he visited Scrooge that night to warn him. “[Y]ou have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A chance and hope of procuring, Ebenezer.” He was given an opportunity to become a better man than he was, indeed, the man he was created to be. This tight-fisted miser impervious to the needs of his fellow man was granted an opportunity to look outside of himself. It was demonstrated to him, in a night uniquely tailored, that life was not about himself or his wealth.

Scrooge and Marley had been busy about their business of attaining personal gain when they should have been busy about the business of the One who founded Christmas. Scrooge realized the consequences of his greed most when the Spirit of Christmas Present told him of the fate of none other than the crippled son of Bob Cratchit, his clerk. The child, Tiny Tim, would not live to see another Christmas. His father could not afford the medical care he needed. Upon hearing this, the stony-hearted Scrooge hung his head “and was overcome with penitence and grief.”

What strikes me every time I read this story is the possibility of conversion, the hope of change. It might be tempting to dismiss the wonder of it all, since you know the end of the story. But imagine you were someone who knew Scrooge before the spirits visited him. Imagine for a moment that you were Bob Cratchit, Fred, or one walking along the granite sett streets who saw the blind man’s dog run away from the greedy, mean-spirited man! What hope is there for one so hard-hearted and off-putting as Scrooge? Many chances to do right he has had, yet cold, frozen, and stiff as ever.

We would like to think of ourselves as any other character in Dickens’s story than Scrooge. Yet Scripture reveals to us the truth of who we are before Christ. Ephesians 2:1 enlightens us, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins ... by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” We were dead, “to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.” Later in Ephesians 2 we learn that we were separated, alienated, and strangers “having no hope and without God in the world.”

Without the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we have no hope. If Christ has not come, we would be doomed, fettered with a ponderous chain of sin, selfishness, and greed. Shrouded in darkness, lacking in peace, and doomed to God’s just wrath. Just like Scrooge, “solitary as an oyster,” we would forever grope along in the darkness along the meaningless yard of life. Thankfully, the story doesn’t end here.

Over 1,800 years before Scrooge cried “Humbug!” an angelic host of heaven announced to shepherds that a Savior “who is Christ the Lord” was born. A star led wise men from the east to the place where the Child and his mother Mary were. Light had come into the world. Hope had been born. Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, had come to save His people from their sins. He would do so by taking on the wrath of God when He died on the cross. Hope was secured when He in the resurrection conquered death and the grave. “It is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

The turnaround was triggered. What we celebrate at Christmas time is the hope for salvation, the opportunity for change. Just as Scrooge would find hope for conversion in Cratchit’s child Tiny Tim, so we may find hope for conversion in the Child born to us on Christmas day. “What reason have you to be merry?” Jesus is the reason. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).

If we hope to keep Christmas well, may we remember with Tiny Tim the hope we have in the One who “made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.” Let us “joy in the God of our salvation” (Habakkuk 3:18). Let us share the good news that because of the love of Christ conversion is possible. Let us live all throughout the year for the glory of the Child for whom Christmas is all about. If we do these things, we will, like the converted Scrooge, keep Christmas well.

And so, as Tiny Tim observed, “God bless us, every one.”