For most of us, when we hear the name Scrooge, images of a stingy, bitter old miser spring to mind. We think of the man who called Christmas a humbug. The man who said, “If I could work my will, those who go around with ‘Merry Christmas on their lips’, should be boiled in their own pudding.” Through the story told by Charles Dickens, we see a man who detached himself from the human race in every way that matters. He is neither charitable nor kind. His nephew asks what good does all his money do him? He doesn’t even make himself comfortable. The beginning and majority of the story show what kind of person Ebenezer Scrooge is, and how he became that way.
Sadly, it seems this is what most of us remember about A Christmas Carol. The beginning of the story we are told there is more, and we must understand that Scrooge’s partner, Jacob Marley, had been dead for seven years, or the story to be told will make no sense. The story walks us through the life of Ebenezer Scrooge, and we see that when he was young he loved life. He had been betrothed. But somewhere along the line he had lost sight of the things that made life enjoyable. He chose business and money over people and the possibility of a family. Even as an old man, he now seems to somewhat regret his choices. As the story progresses we are shown a stubborn and unwavering man. We see a man, who can’t or won’t face his life’s choices, and therein, his mistakes. When he meets the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, he can no longer deny where his life’s choices have led him. He begs for a second a chance. He says he will be better. He says he will keep the spirit of Christmas alive, that all three shall live within him, if he can just have a second chance. His plea his truly heartfelt, and he has truly seen the error of his ways. In this moment we see a man in despair, a man who regrets the choices he has made, a repentant man. We are led to believe that it is too late for Ebenezer Scrooge. But then he awakens on Christmas morning in his own bedchamber. His elation is full; he is as surprised, as we are, to find himself in familiar surroundings. He wastes no time, and sets out immediately to make good on his promise that he made in his moment of despair when he thought all was lost. As he goes about Christmas day with a song on his lips and skip in his step, we see a man who is full of joy and of life. A man who is aware of the mistakes he has made, and who ask for forgiveness of those he has wronged. At the end of the story we are told that Ebenezer Scrooge was better than his word. “It was said he knew how to keep Christmas and keep well, if any man possessed the knowledge.” We are told that he kept Christmas the whole year long, and that he became as good a friend, as good a master as the old city had ever seen. That he was like a second father to Tiny Tim. This is where the story leaves us, and this is what most of us miss. We miss the beauty, the miracle of what happened on that Christmas Eve. We are shown a man, who truly repented, a man who changed his ways. If we think about it, it’s almost like looking in a mirror. Aren’t we all striving to become a better version of ourselves?
As mortals, it seems that we are drawn to the tragedy of life. As we go through life it seems that far too often we see the pain of what someone endures and it becomes the only part of the story we focus on. Take for example the story of Job in the Bible. Here was a righteous man who loved God. He was a faithful man, and yet what do we remember about Job? We remember all the tragic things he endured. I think most of us miss that Job showed exemplary faith even in the face of tragedy. When he has lost everything, when his own family questioned his own faithfulness, he remained steadfast and true. He praised God and knew that whether rich or poor he still loved God, and he would not murmur against God. As mortals we seem to have a hard time focusing on the good that can come from tragedy; the personal growth that can be a direct result of going through difficult and hard times.
More to the point how many of us miss the magical part of A Christmas Carol? We focus on the Scrooge at the beginning of the story. When we call someone a Scrooge most of us are indirectly calling someone a miser; implying that they have no Christmas Spirit. Are we doing an injustice to the story, to what Scrooge became? Aren’t we missing the beauty of A Christmas Carol? We seem to miss the miracle that we can change, that we can become better. It is my hope that we will think about Ebenezer Scrooge in a new light. That we will remember that he became a changed man. I hope that the next time we think about calling someone a Scrooge that we will reconsider. That if we do call someone a Scrooge, it is because we have witnessed the kindness, the charity, and the goodwill that Scrooge showed after his fateful night.