Lessons From a Christmas Carol: The Mortality of Man

In the classic story of A Christmas Carol we find the main character Ebenezer Scrooge was a man in desperate need of redemption. He starts off as… well… a Scrooge. His position towards Christmas is begrudging at best and includes several humbugs. He is a miserable man who is completely self-absorbed and has no charity or care for his neighbor. At the end of the story we know that Scrooge is changed and has seemingly found redemption by applying the Christmas spirit to his whole life. 

Now, there is perhaps one glaring issue with this for the Christian, we know that real redemption doesn’t come through a Christmas Spirit it comes through Jesus Christ and Him alone! Nonetheless, I believe that there is a great truth about redemption that can be found in this story as it ultimately dimly reflects the truth of God’s word. Let’s look at a couple of texts. 

Luke 12:16-21 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. “And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ “So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ‘ “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. 

The truth that is reflected is that man must be confronted with his own mortality to truly be redeemed. Scrooge went through a significant process Christmas Eve night before he was finally confronted with his own mortality. Let’s examine the events of that night 

  • He was visited by his former business partner in this life Jacob Marley

This no doubt was a frightening sight to see his former friend in all of his misery, but it didn’t move Scrooge. Even with the long chains and miserable countenance on display it didn’t bring him to redemption. This is something that we need to understand, a person will not desire redemption if they only see the sins and mortality of others. It must be made personal. I believe we can see this displayed in Scripture. 

Luke 16:19-31 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. “But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, “desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, ‘for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ “Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ “And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ “But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ “

In this passage we see the rich man desperately pleading that someone may return from the dead to warn his family members of their impending doom. The answer to that was “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” This is basically what happened to Scrooge when his former friend came to warn him. I recall in the George C. Scott rendition he reasoned that the visit from the ghost was just from something he ate and had every intention of continuing in his path that would have led to destruction. 

  • He was visited from the ghost of Christmas past 

The first of the three spirits to visit him was the ghost of Christmas past. This spirit showed him all of the joys he used to have and his former life before he went down such a surly road. This is an interesting choice to try and convince someone of their need for redemption, yet it is a frequent ploy of the church to try and pull someone out of addictive sin. 

Often times people of the church will show an addict who has completely ruined their life, what their life was and then reassures them of what their life could be. This is often presented as a felt need gospel. Instead of focusing on their real problem – sin – they focus on a desired happiness that turns the gospel into a fulfillment of man’s desires instead of a fulfillment of God’s design. This ploy is a great convincer of deception, but it does not lead to true redemption, nor did it convince Scrooge that he should change. 

  • He was visited by the ghost of Christmas present 

At the strike of two Scrooge was visited by the ghost of Christmas present. This is my favorite interaction and I am always intrigued by the end of this visit when the children of men appear – Ignorance and Want. This spirit draws back the curtain of reality and shows the great misery Scrooge is in. It was true Scrooge was a miserable man, but this didn’t lead to his redemption. This spirit spoke to the reality of the current affairs of man and the great need to live by a particular set of rules (presented as awareness of your neighbor and charity) in order to have success in this life. 

In a similar fashion some of the greatest conservative thinkers of our day and age play the role of this spirit as they tell us of the feminization of mankind and the ever-present reality of a hierarchy in our society. This is perhaps most evident in a man named Jordan B. Peterson. Dr. Peterson is one of the sharpest minds I have ever observed and has done an incredible job of impacting many to live by a set of rules to gain success in what has become a miserable world.  I do not mean to sound ungrateful towards Dr. Peterson’s work, as I am very thankful for it and often enjoy listening to his debates and lectures, but his work falls short in the same was the second spirts does in A Christmas Carol. His work gets people close to redemption and they may seek to emulate redemption results in this present life, but it ignores the reality that man is an eternal soul and there is much more at stake than this current life. When presented with a present hope but not an eternal one many fizzle out as they are only changed on the level of habit and not on the level of their eternal soul. Ultimately, this falls short and doesn’t lead to redemption because it ignores the eternal need man has if he is truly to be changed.

  • The Ghost of what is to come

The final spirit to visit Scrooge is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. It is this eerie spirit that brought Scrooge to a place of understanding his need for redemption.  This spirit didn’t say much but showed Scrooge his own death. Scrooge was very hesitant to see whose tombstone it was that confronted him. This speaks greatly to the nature of man as mankind rarely wants to be confronted with the reality that we all will die one day. I believe this is why God spells it out for us in Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” Man will die. There has never been a man redeemed who has not had this truth confront them. 

This confrontation is rooted in the fact that all have sinned and that the wages of sin is death. When we realize what we have done and what we have rightly earned we can understand where we are heading – Hell – outside of redemption. For Scrooge it was seeing his tombstone and the insignificance of his life that caused him to turn his life around. In the real world it is the second part of Hebrews 9:27 that points us to our need for redemption, “after this (death) the judgement.” The ultimate mortality of man is that we will die on this earth, but we will also die forever in Hell if we do not find redemption! 

Scrooge and the man in Luke 12:16-21 had something in common, they didn’t realize their own mortality and judgement.

Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. “And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ “So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ‘ “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

When confronted with our own mortality and coming judgement we have the opportunity to turn towards Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Savior. A Christmas Carol gets it wrong in the true solution as it is merely a giving Christmas spirit that ultimately redeemed Scrooge, but the book wonderfully points out the reality a man must be confronted with if there is any hope of redemption. 

This Christmas season remember that your neighbor is in need of redemption and this redemption is only through Jesus Christ! Proclaim the truth of every man’s mortality and their impending judgement in order that they might see their need for redemption. Merry Christmas, and God bless us everyone! 

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