I love Christmas movies. I always have! That may because I love Christmas in general, the increased capacity for generosity, the influx of forgiveness, and the power for humanity to recognize God's deep love for us. But while I love Christmas and Christmas movies, not all of them are created equal. And while Elf, Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, and Home Alone are annual films I love to watch, none of them top the redemptive power of Charles Dickens' story A Christmas Carol brought to life.
In Dickens' epic tale, the enterprising cratchety old financier Ebenezer Scrooge refuses to help those in need, whether they are strangers or his own nephew, Bob Cratchit. But seven years after his death, the ghost of Jacob Marley returns to warn Scrooge that he'll be visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. And visit him, they do!
While the pain of Scrooge's past (and his mistakes) are laid bare, the audience is invited into a world of possibilities good and bad. We're shown a vision of how Christmas can be joyful even in the face of sorrow, and how different choices are made about the ways we spend our financial wealth. Scrooge has always seen his earnings as being his; now, he's challenged to see that he's been blessed to be a blessing.
While A Christmas Carol packs an emotional holiday punch, I've always valued the film for its redemptive process. While Scrooge's generosity changes, it's actually his heart that experiences the greatest growth (like Dr. Seuss' The Grinch). Yes, Scrooge delivers the prized Christmas turkey as a gift, but the change is about his attitude, his love of life, and his recognition of his fellow man.
Instead of being co-opted in the way that we name a person lacking generosity "a Scrooge," the story actually demands that we change the way our heart works. Will we experience a Christmas miracle, of our heart being changed, softened, and opened to others who aren't like us? Will we see the opportunity to bless others out of the many ways that God has blessed us? Will we recognize that God is moving and that we get to be part of that movement, the coming of the kingdom of God breaking through at Christmas?
For our sakes, I hope so.
[Just for the record, I prefer the George C. Scott version!]