In the 1984 version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Ebenezer Scrooge (played by George C. Scott) goes from being dead in his sins to alive with the spirit of Christmas. Join us as we discuss these Christian themes and so much more on this episode of the Finding Christ In Cinema podcast.
For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:
- 00:00:00 – Introduction and Previous Episode Recap
- 00:05:38 – Movie Discussion
- 00:27:57 – Listener Feedback
- 00:39:17 – Christian Themes in A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1984)
Key Texts for A Christmas Carol (1984)
Let these passages be your guide as you watch A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1984) with your friends and loved ones.
Matthew 9:10-13 (NASB)
Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew 7:1-2 NLT
Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.
A Christmas Carol and Love/Discipline Sandwich
Every Christmas season, Michael and I revisit Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, the holiday’s most famous ghost story. We approach our annual experience with this narrative as a form of liturgy. We come to it every year to remind ourselves of the truth and grace it espouses. Show me a hat on someone who doesn’t need to be reminded of truth and grace, and I’ll show you a floating hat.
As with every production of this tale that we cover, our focus is on Scrooge’s transformation. This year, however, we want to emphasize a point we believe is crucial to understanding how to correct someone who is doing something wrong and/or wrongly. That point is that correction, reproof, and godly discipline has to begin and end with grace and loving-kindness. Love is on the bottom, discipline in the middle, and more love on top: the love/discipline sandwich.
Ebenezer Scrooge is a frozen man. Dickens’s original text describes him as “[a] squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner.” What’s more is that “[t]he cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, and his thin lips blue.” He is a man dead in his sins, and, whether he admits it or not, he needs to be brought back to life.
Scrooge has but one source of love in his current life: his nephew Fred. Every year, Fred comes by the counting-house to invite Scrooge to Christmas dinner, and Scrooge refuses him every time. Fred pours out nothing but love and grace, and Scrooge denies it every time. This has been the crux of their relationship for as long as Fred can remember, but that never stops Fred from inviting his frozen uncle to the hearth.
What makes this year different, however, is that someone else visits Scrooge: his deceased business partner Jacob Marley. This tormented specter has a prophecy for Scrooge; if Scrooge doesn’t change his ways, he will end up with Marley’s same fate. Marley promises three spirits that will come to help Scrooge through his journey. Scrooge, of course, doesn’t believe anything will happen.
Much to Scrooge’s chagrin, the Spirits come in their own, timely (heh) manner. The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge through his formative years at school and his early years in business with the Fezziwigs. During the holidays, Scrooge’s father left him alone at school – a severe form of abandonment that wounds Scrooge beyond measure. Thankfully, Fezziwig isn’t as harsh, and for a time, becomes a second and better father to Scrooge.
These two locations are important to Scrooge because, as bleak as these times were, they were moments that in which Scrooge first knew true love. His sister Fan rescued him from desolation in school, and under Fezziwigs yoke did he meet Belle, the love of his life. Unfortunately, Scrooge is strong in the habit of repressing the truth, so he extinguishes the flame that the Ghost of Christmas Past brings, and quenches her totally.
The next Spirit isn’t as easy to suppresses. The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge what Christmas is like for the other people in his life. He shows Bob Cratchit and his family celebrating Christmas in their meager way. A small family meal with an even smaller goose is all they can afford. The fire isn’t big at all, but they keep themselves warm with their songs, laughter, and love. Even Bob’s crippled son Tiny Tim is lively with amorous joy.
Scrooge has a brief moment of sympathy for Tiny Tim whereas he didn’t in a previous scene. He ponders Tiny Tim’s fate and asks the Spirit if the boy will live. The Spirit responds with Scrooge’s own words: “If he’s going to die, then let him die and decrease the surplus population.” Scrooge immediately recognizes that the Spirit is using his own words against him. The Spirit furthers his point by bringing a bit of disciplinary truth into Scrooge’s perspective.
Scrooge feels the coals even more so when the Spirit shows him the two hideous children from underneath his robe. “Their names are Ignorance and Want,” cries the Spirit. “Beware of them, for on their brow is written the word DOOM. They spell the downfall of you and all who deny their existence.” Scrooge asks, “Have they no refuge? No resource?” The Spirit, using Scrooge’s words against him again, replies, “Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?”
The Ghost of Christmas Present vanishes, and the last Spirit more forebodingly steps forward. He is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, and he will show Scrooge what his future will be like if he doesn’t change: certain and final death. Scrooge, then, having his heart softened by the love and grace of his past and disciplined by the reality of the present, finds it within him to change his ways and keep Christmas in his heart all the year.
It starts by buying Bob Cratchit and his family the biggest turkey available for their Christmas dinner. Next, Scrooge finds the charity collectors and donates a flabbergasting amount to their cause when he had previously, viciously denied it. He then reconciles the relationship with his nephew Fred and has Christmas dinner with him. Finally, he doubles Bob Cratchit’s salary and becomes a second father to Tiny Tim. In one fell swoop, Ebenezer Scrooge transforms from a frozen miser to a new man hearty and filled with love.
It was only possible for Scrooge to change when his heart was softened by loving-kindness and then disciplined by truth. Let us remember to keep that in mind as we engage our fellow brothers and sisters this Christmas season. Be like Fred from A Christmas Carol and put loving-kindness at the forefront of all your holiday interminglings, and if called upon, be like the Ghost of Christmas Present and present (heh) the truth.
To close, a tweet from Timothy Keller:
Truth without love is imperious self-righteousness. Love without truth is cowardly self-indulgence.
— Timothy Keller (@timkellernyc) July 30, 2016
Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes – including links to articles discussed – by clicking here.
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