Marley was dead, to begin with.

I’ve always been a huge fan of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I try to read it every year during the Christmas season – for the longest time I would read a worn out paperback I’ve had since high school, until last Christmas when my mother-in-law got me this beautifully illustrated hardcover:

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I just finished it last week, and once again it’s got me all fired up for Christmas.

A Christmas Carol has been retold and reworked countless times. And Scrooge, one of the best characters in all of literature, has been portrayed by everyone from Michael Caine to Bill Murray. If you’re not familiar with the story, stop reading this post (where spoilers abound). Go to the library and grab a copy. It’s a quick read – you can probably knock it out in two nights, finishing on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, which is perfect timing.

If you’d rather see the story than read it, well then ideally you would go to Lewisburg, West Virginia to see it at the Greenbrier Valley Theatre, which is by far my favorite adaptation. If that’s not an option, pretty much all of the films are great. The 1984 version with George C. Scott is hard to beat if you’re looking for a movie that faithfully adheres to the story. However, my personal favorite came ten years later in 1994 with A Flintstone’s Christmas Carol:

I realize it’s not the most conventional choice, but I’ve literally watched this movie every Christmas for the past twenty years. Two reasons I make my family watch this movie with me:

  1. I am adamant that my little girls are going to have some idea of who Fred Flinstone is, other than just a chewable multivitamin, and
  2. It’s got a fun metastory component to it. Rather than just being A Christmas Carol with Flintstone characters, the story is about the Bedrock Community Theater putting on a production of A Christmas Carol, with Fred getting the lead role as Scrooge. It starts to get to his head, leading him to become more Scrooge-like in his personal life, and so you’ve got two redemption stories going on at once.

And that word, redemption, is why I love the story so much.”Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”

I am not the man I was – none of us are. People can change for the better, and that change can happen regardless of external circumstances. Because when Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning, clutching his bedpost that just moments ago was the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, the bed-curtains are still there. Jacob Marley is still dead, Bob Cratchit is still poor. Scrooge has still spent decades of his life pushing people away, fearing the world too much. The only thing that’s changed is his perspective.

I’ve woken up from terrible nightmares, and it’s a wonderful feeling when you realize that it was all just a dream. Dickens captures that feeling, and the final chapter of the book is positively giddy, with Scrooge struggling to shave while dancing, surprising his nephew at Christmas dinner, and my personal favorite, feigning anger at his clerk Bob Cratchit for arriving late the day after Christmas before raising his salary and agreeing to take care of his family.

It’s such a hopeful story. Changing our perspective, and in turn our lives, is something that feels so elusive and yet is always within our grasp. We can be the people we want to be. And reading this book helps remind me of that. Maybe it will do the same for you, too.

“And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”

3 thoughts on “Marley was dead, to begin with.

  1. Another well written and insightful post. Our book club here in The Arbor read it for our December selection and I don’t think anyone got to the heart of the story better than you have. God bless us every one!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David!

    Our book club read this for December, at your father’s suggestion. We couldn’t find our copy, so we bought another. It has a digital reproduction of the original manuscript on the left-facing page, and the print on the right. It is remarkable, given the short time span in which Dickens wrote this, how precise and particular he was in his word choice.

    Yes, redemption. And, care for others less fortunate. A timely message for the birthday of the One Who came to save.

    Thanks for this!

    Liked by 1 person

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