Jesus’s Invitation in A CHRISTMAS CAROL | FCC 35

On this episode of Finding Christ in Cinema, we get back to 19th-Century England and look for Christian themes in Patrick Stewart’s version of A Christmas Carol. What can we learn from the Ghost of Christmas Present? Can we sit at his feet like we can for Jesus? All that and more in 3…2…1!

The Ghost of Christmas Present Represents Jesus Himself

Within Charles Dickens’s classic novella A Christmas Carol exists one of the best allegorical characters known in this life and in the life hereafter: the Ghost of Christmas Present. Described as a “jolly giant” by Dickens himself, this Spirit is the second of three total Spirits that visit Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve (not counting Jacob Marley’s ghost). After Scrooge finishes his tour with the first Spirit, he awakes in his bed to hear strange noises downstairs. When he investigates the place, he sees a closed door with a light beaming from behind it. He opens it to find our jolly, green Spirit who greets Scrooge with the familiar “Come forth, and know me better, man” benediction. Scrooge, not wanting to complicate things anymore than however complicated they already are, begrudgingly agrees to follow this festive being.

This is an image from A CHRISTMAS CAROL that features Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present.

The Spirit’s openness and welcoming attitude is just like Jesus’s own all-encompassing invitation for a world of potential followers and disciples:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Just as the Ghost of Christmas Present invites Scrooge on a trip to see how Christmas is kept around the world, Jesus invites us to join Him and see the world how it really is: a world in need of rescuing. Not only is He inviting us to His everlasting love and into the fold of His care, but He is also inviting to share in the fulfillment of the mission in spreading God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.

The Ghost of Christmas Present’s Indignation

Something else about the Ghost of Christmas Present that likens him to Jesus is his way of convicting Scrooge with the latter’s own words. The phenomenon is set up early in the film when two charity collectors stop by Scrooge’s business to ask for a donation. They are literally taking up the cause of the orphan and defending the rights of the widows by seeking financial sustenance from those who aren’t worried about money. Of course, as the two collectors are new to the neighborhood, they don’t see anything wrong with asking Scrooge for a contribution. They are quickly shut down when Scrooge suggests that if the poor want any help, they should either go to the prisons and the workhouse or die and “decrease the surplus population.”

This attitude is what incites the Ghost of Christmas Present to rebuke Scrooge. In the scene just before the bells tolls for that Spirit, Scrooge notices something protruding from underneath the Spirit’s robe. At first, he thinks it’s a claw, but it’s really the hand of a little boy called Ignorance. A little girl also emerges from underneath the robe, and her name is Want (18th and 19th-Century writers liked to capitalize abstract notions so as to personify them). The Spirit warns Scrooge that if these two children are left unaided, doom will engulf them all. Cut to the heart, Scrooge then asks the Spirit if there are any shelters or charities to care for the children. The Spirit finally responds by using Scrooge’s own words from the scene with the charity collectors (my favorite line in the whole story, personally): “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”

This is an image from the film A CHRISTMAS CAROL that features two charity collectors asking Scrooge for a donation.

The Spirit’s rebuking of Scrooge is similar to Jesus’s rebuking of the Pharisees:

As he spoke, a Pharisee invited Jesus to have a meal with him, so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was astonished when he saw that Jesus did not first wash his hands before the meal. But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Didn’t the one who made the outside make the inside as well? But give from your heart to those in need, and then everything will be clean for you. (Luke 11:37-41 NET).

Jesus wanted the Pharisees to see exactly how hypocritical they were behaving by essentially giving them a mirror to their actions and letting themselves see how atrocious their attitudes were. Later on in the passage, Jesus continues to rebuke the Pharisees even as they try to defend themselves. Of course, the Pharisees weren’t cut to the heart like Scrooge was; then again the Pharisees didn’t have to be visited by three Spirits on Christmas Eve.

The Ghost of Christmas Present’s solution for Scrooge is also just like Jesus’s solution for the Pharisees: “Give from your heart to those in need.” Don’t do it on Christmas just because it’s Christmas, and don’t just do it to look good on the outside. That’s deceptive, dishonest, and insincere. Do it, instead, because you love the Lord your God with everything within you and because you love your neighbor as yourself (of course, even as I write this, I’m feeling the conviction myself).

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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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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. He has his M.A. in Theatre Arts and is always looking for a way to use good stories to soften people's hearts.
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  • Aren’t we all a lot like Scrooge at times…I mean, really, a lot of the time if we are honest with ourselves. I am glad you aired this podcast in time for Christmas because it is quite convicting. “Are there no prisons? are there no work houses?” could easily be translated into the American Vulgate as…”Is there no Welfare? Is there no Unemployment Compensation”. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a conservative-minded person, but I believe we as Christians have forgotten to love people who we think are “unworthy” because they are out of work or not trying hard enough. How dare we?!? Who do we think we are!?! Who can really understand someone else’s plight.
    It is an indictment against the Church that the government is caring for the needy within the Christian community as well as outside of it and not we ourselves. That is OUR job, and we have ceded that territory to the government because it is messy and expensive while we build larger and larger buildings that are dormant 5 days of the week.
    I don’t do enough in this regard and it shames me. God Bless Charles Dickens for writing something that would convict me. God forgive us for neglecting to minister to the needy within the shadow of our churches.
    Now, getting back to the story: Look at the people left in Scrooge’s life: his nephew and his employee. His other contacts were the other businessmen at the trading house. His nephew needed Scrooge. He needed him to be someone he could look up to and renew the bond of family with, but Scrooge denied him this. Bob Cratchit needed Scrooge too. he needed Scrooge to be a compassionate leader at his place of work and someone he could emulate. Scrooge’s business associates needed him as well. They needed a Christ-like presence that did not do things because they were lawful/legal, but rather because they were good and right even though they might not be “good for business”. I will call his night with the three spirits his conversion experience or his “Road to Damascus”. Because of this his nephew gains an uncle, Bob Cratchit (and Tiny Tim) will be blessed and flourish and I believe Scrooge’s comtemporaries will see what it really means to be filled with the Spirit of CHRISTmas. Most of all it is Scrooge who will blessed above and beyond all he could have ever imagined from all of these relationships. And that is just how it works with Our Lord; you will be blessed far more when you bless others. So did Scrogge have regrets about his past? Yes, but he has the rest of his life to live the right way. Thanks again for a masterful production that is sheer genius. I really enjoy your back and forth banter and especially all the clips at the end of the show. It would be awesome if with each show you could add at least one. By and large my favorite is “It’s a mad-house, a mad-house!”
    God Bless us all, every one,
    Ron of the Red Oaks

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