The lasting relevance of Dickens’ Christmas tale of 1843

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Home > Media > News > The lasting relevance of Dickens’ Christmas tale of 1843
The lasting relevance of Dickens’ Christmas tale of 1843

By Ben Smith, Director of Life, Marriage and Family

As we prepare for Christmas 2017, a recently released movie, The Man Who Invented Christmas, helps us understand the sensation that Charles Dickens created in the English Christmas of 1843 with the release of A Christmas Carol.

The famous central character of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge, is described as being “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner”. His famous saying in response to the joy of Christmas is ‘Bah, humbug!’ This expression still echoes in our own age. His cold hearted ways rippled out into his community and impacted the people he employed, the clients who he helped finance and many others. He exploited his financial power with little regard for the vulnerable, such as Tiny Tim.

Tiny Tim was the youngest son of Scrooge’s employee, Bob Cratchit. He represents all that is good and innocent but vulnerable in the world, at the other end of the spectrum to Scrooge. Scrooge’s miserly ways were impacting on the Cratchit family’s ability to afford Tiny Tim’s medical care, so his health was fragile.

Scrooge’s Christmas Eve encounter with Ghost of Christmas Future revealed to him the possibility of Tiny Tim’s death as a consequence of his miserly wage-paying practices. This revelation awakened his dulled conscience and thawed his cold heart. He woke up on Christmas Day a new man with a social conscience.

A Christmas Carol can be a lesson for us all. We can get caught up in the technological and bureaucratic world we live in and lose sight of the plight of the poor and vulnerable in our midst. The season of Advent gives us an opportunity to take stock of our lives so that when we see the goodness and beauty of the innocent and vulnerable baby Jesus in the manger, we can wake up on Christmas Day as a new person with our hearts and minds transformed.

A Christmas Carol also highlights the importance of family life. Scrooge’s interaction with the love manifest in the Cratchit family was able to touch his heart. Despite their material poverty, the warmth of Christmas joy radiated out of each member of the Cratchit family – even more than their fireplace. So for us, even though our families experience forms of poverty, just like the Holy Family, the joy of love in the family can heal the hearts of all who we encounter this Christmas.