Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Revival of A Christmas Carol

Nearly every December, I make a point to read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. This ghostly tale of Ebenezer Scrooge has been portrayed in nearly every art form imaginable multiple times over. Still, I find this book fresh and invigorating.
It is Dickens' Christmas song, every chapter being a stave or stanza. His tune is certainly distinct, for it is composed with humor, horror, and heart. Some of my favorite parts of reading it are Dickens' rich descriptions of the celebration of Christmas: from the meager meal of the Cratchits to the games and laughter of Scrooge's nephew to shipmates reflecting warmly on the wild ocean waves of Christmas cheer. I simply cannot read this book without wanting to find friends and family as soon as possible and celebrate like children again. Indeed, Dickens's tale did more than revive Scrooge's cold heart. It was a revival that swept across England and the United States to celebrate Christmas with childlike abandon. 

But this tale holds a different revival for me. The most potent moment of the story is not when Scrooge wakes with joy Christmas morning to find he has been given a second chance, nor when he buys the prized turkey and sends it to Bob Cratchit's. It is when he arrives at his nephew's house for dinner. There is a hesitancy, a feeling of guilt and dread that he does not belong in this place after all he has said and done. I believe Disney's most recent adaption captures this perfectly:

I start crying every time I read or watch this moment. He has stubbornly resisted his nephew's warm generosity time and again, cursing him to his face. In Scrooge's utter humility and remorse for his sin, he brings no offering of money or gift to lavish on his nephew, for he sees now that all this time it is he who has been the pauper. His nephew is the one who is rich. He brings only himself, his only condition is "if you'll have me." Dickens says, "He was home in 5 minutes." This wayward child of an old man is forgiven and accepted with an uproar of joy, gladness, and laughter. He is loved.

I come back to this story for this moment of revival, because here is what Tolkien referred to as "a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God." Fred is certainly no Aslan, but there Christ stands all the same. Christ comes to my heart, cheerily extending the invitation to dine with him. How often have I refused him, cursing him with my actions if not my words! Still the invitation stands. I wonder whether he truly loves me after all I have done. I wonder if he will have me. He cannot rush to me quick enough! He cannot embrace me heartily enough! All is forgiven, and I get to feast in celebration with Christ and his church. I am deeply loved by Jesus.

I grew up thinking revival was the name we gave to a week of services at church that were supposed to convict us of sin and turn our hearts back to God. But I know now that revival happens whenever my heart collides with the beautiful heart of Christ, when I am reminded again that I am deeply loved and that changes everything. And if I learned anything from Hutchmoot 2014, Christ can revive me through a sermon or a story, in a manger in Bethlehem or in Fred's Christmas home in London. The starlight that drew the wisemen to Christ's dwelling is refracted throughout all creation, even in the pages of Dickens' Christmas song.

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