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.
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?”
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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