Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Transcendent Carol

During my drive home I was listening to Dr. Mark Roberts talk about Dicken's A Christmas Carol, its significance and why it still retains the power to move. This little story has always held a fascination for me, and when Scrooge is transformed I've always felt the power, even in the movies. In fact, one that continues to do it for me is Mr. MaGoo's Christmas Carol -- not the most sophisticated rendering, but it tells the story, and with feeling. No doubt the wonderful voice of Jim Backus helps make this humble re-telling pretty moving for a 44 year old cartoon.

Although A Christmas Carol is not overtly religious (that was evidently thought sacreligious in regular fiction back then), it's power to move and even transform lives has that Christian tang to it. Dr. Roberts says that the key to this is that most Christian of teachings: Grace.

Three people show Scrooge grace in the course of this story: 1.) Jacob Marley, who, after all, didn't have to come back from the grave to help his business partner, 2.) Scrooge's nephew, who almost forces Christmas cheer on him, and 3.) most of all, Bob Cratchit. When the ghost takes Scrooge to Bob Cratchit's house, he gets to see a man who, despite all his trials, freely chooses to wish the best for the old miser he works for.

Added to this, in my opinion, is the transcendence of the story. This is not just a random thing; some spiritual purpose from beyond our cramped, beggerly existence invades Scrooge's life with the specific intent of transforming it. The universe, in some peculiar and mysterious way, cares for us.

This is not quite the full Christian message, but it is two of it's major strings: Grace and Transcendence. Transcendent grace. Somebody out there cares about us and is willing to go a great distance to do something about that. And, He tends to work through people.

"Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees!"

Dr. Robert's discussion can be found here.

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