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Edmonton presentation of A Christmas Carol

Edmonton presentation of A Christmas Carol

I recently took in Edmonton Citadel Theatre’s presentation of Charles Dicken’s famous story, “A Christmas Carol.”

It is the first time my family and I enjoyed this annual live performance… and I was impressed with…. everything!

It is a story that cannot be told without reference to something ancient and joyful despite how Dickens conceives his main character. Read it out loud and keep up with his cadence:

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind- stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

Though there is no actual “singing of A Christmas Carol,” Dicken’s title divulges that the story itself is a song of Christmas praise.  Ever since this Carol was first published, many have copied, modified and made variations on the theme. But have you noticed the loss of the great notion of redemption, in favour of the more halloweenish image of ghosts, and the Hollywood arc of romance?

The songs of the seasons, too, have suffered the loss of the eternal in favour of contemporary, but how many praises can one sing to an overindulgent toy-slagging Santa? And how many smarmy snow draped bough flung crackling fire place romances can one endure? Is this really a love story strong enough to bear reality; is this what has replaced The Love Story of God’s own making?

Take, for example, the Christmas carol, “Oh Holy Night:”

Oh holy night! The stars are brightly shining; It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth!

Long lay the world in sin and error pining – Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope – the weary world rejoices – For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!…

I draw your attention to the line that goes, “long lay the world in sin and error pining…till He appeared – and the Soul felt its worth!” I love that line! I live that line. My own encounter with Christ’s appearance, is the experience of my soul beginning to feel its worth in response to the grace of God.  J.I Packer describes this as “love freely shown…contrary to [my] merit and indeed in defiance to [my] demerit” (Knowing God).  It is implicit that there needs to be some awareness of “the world in sin and error pining” – or more to the point – my awareness of my own sin.

Moderns do not appear to cosy up to the idea of sin. Sin has been besmirched by moralizing and pointing fingers in every direction but homeward.  And the idea is not better served by replacing it with a word like “evil” – since we might admit there is still evil in the world. The problem is, evil people don’t appear to recognize this in themselves, and we certainly wouldn’t admit to such a strong description for ourselves.

Therefore “sin” will have to do the heavy lifting to describe a life separate from goodness – being out of “right-relatedness” with the One who made us for Himself.  Perhaps the problem with Scrooge is that – though we can all see him as the “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner” Dickens makes him out to be – we can’t quite see this in ourselves.  No wonder it takes so much “special attention” to get Scrooge to see that to which he himself is blind.

But by the time he finally does see himself in some light of reality, he confesses:

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone.

I contend that “the holy wonder of the Lord is the beginning” of the great story to which you are invited. His appearance in worshipful awe or reverent dread is the start – not merely to a “good” life – but to a God-related life.  When this begins, we can start to “sponge away the writing on our own stoney heart”…and our soul can begin to feel its worth.

 Merry Christmas!