I’m sure you’ve seen it, the magical and snowy world of Charles Dickens’ classic tale unfolding in a 30-second TV spot between football scores and next week’s weather. One of the things that makes “A Christmas Carol” impressive is how such a relatively small blip in a prolific author’s library of work could have this lasting of an impact. It’s probably one of the very few Victorian pieces of fiction that is still recognizable in today’s culture, and it is, without a doubt, one of the best Christmas stories ever written.
However, in the TV spot mentioned earlier, Disney makes a statement that is easily glossed over in the ho-hum of movie-lot exaggeration, but one that should be pretty ironic to Christians.
It calls “A Christmas Carol” the “Greatest Holiday Story of All Time” a statement that made me pause before flipping off the TV and going about my day. Really? The greatest of all time?
I’m pretty sure that Dickens wrote this story to bring focus back to the actual greatest story, you know, the one about a manger and angels in the heavens and the birth of our savior. Because this holiday season doesn’t mean anything without an awareness of who He is and what his birth meant, an understanding of why we have this holiday in the first place.
Christ came to give us freedom from our greed, life to our solitary lives and hope to a cold world, all of the things that the Ghosts of Christmas gave Ebenezer Scrooge. These ghosts are representatives of our need for spiritual guidance, and gave a clear vision for the kind of redeemed life that we are to live. They wouldn’t have had a reason to help Scrooge without a God of grace and love to serve, for mere human charity only goes so far before it is perverted. Charles Dickens, of all people, understood the truth of who we are without a savior, and showed that through Scrooge, one of the best pictures of fallen, sinful mankind ever created.
In the end, Scrooge found meaning, not just in roast geese and mistletoe and the singing of carols, but in what those carols mean. We sing “Joy to the World” because the Lord is come, and because truth resonates in them, and through our peace and joy. It doesn’t come through our own goodness, but through the Greatest Holiday Story of All Time, the one about how God loved us enough to come to Earth, to save us from ourselves, and to give us something to celebrate for the rest of Eternity.
Joy to the World, indeed!