Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Christmas Carol (conclusion)

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).

In the last devotion, we were looking at Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  Today we conclude our examination of this very familiar narrative.

When the Fifth Act opens, Scrooge is relieved to discover that it is Christmas morning—there is still time to salvage the holiday.  Ebenezer is a changed man; he credits heaven and Christmas-time for his new appreciation of life.  He is filled with laughter and nervous energy.  He pays a boy on the street to get the biggest dressed bird at the butcher shop and take it to the Cratchet home.  He dresses himself in his finest clothes and walks the streets, greeting everyone with a huge smile and holiday wishes.  He makes a huge donation to charity.  He visits church.  And finally he gathers his courage to visit his nephew’s home, and spends a joy-filled day with his relatives. The next morning, Scrooge greets Cratchet at work with surprising news—he gives his employee a raise and takes the family under his wing, becoming a second father to Tiny Tim and ensuring him the care necessary not only to survive but to thrive.  Dickens says that Ebenezer finished life well loved as a caring man devoted to philanthropy.

So ends the story.  Sadly, although raised in the Christian faith, Dickens missed the most important thing about conversion.  Regret over sin does not result in radical transformation; neither does fear of death.  Regret and fear prepare us for a change, make us desperate for a way out, a way up, but no sinner has what it takes to shed corruption on his own.  Forgiveness comes from Jesus.  Rescue from hell is only possible through the agency of God’s Son.  Conversion from life in darkness to really and honestly living in the light of heaven only comes from Jesus taking hold of your heart and guiding you to place your life in His care.  Although Christmas and heaven and the devil are all mentioned, Jesus is not given His proper due for turning Scrooge from a bitter old fool to a man filled with genuine love for family and his fellow man.  Charles Dickens placed the supernatural in ghosts, when the real supernatural power to change hearts resides in our Savior alone, the Son of God from whom Christmas draws its name.  If you see some version of A Christmas Carol this year, appreciate it for the brilliant piece of fiction that it is.  But I urge you to remember that without Jesus, no one can experience the kind of transformation that we see in Scrooge.  It is Christ alone who changes lives forever.

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