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Posts Tagged ‘Charles Dickens’

The Further Adventures of Ebenezer ScroogeI know, I know — there are only two days left until Christmas.  But if you’re looking for a nice little holiday read that can be easily begun and finished in one sitting, you might consider Charlie Lovett’s The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Set 20 years after the events of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Lovett’s novel introduces us to a Scrooge who still puts people off, but because of his indefatigable enthusiasm rather than because of his miserly cruelty.  We find him annoying the denizens of London (more…)

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Mr._Fezziwig's_BallFans of “A Christmas Carol” will remember that Scrooge is bothered by the light that the Ghost of Christmas Past brings, and asks that the spirit place the cap it carries on its head to diminish it.

“What(?)” exclaimed the Ghost, “would you so soon put out, with worldly hands, the light I give? Is it not enough that you are one of those whose passions made this cap, and force me through whole trains of years to wear it low upon my brow!” (A Christmas Carol, Stave II)

What Dickens’ specific religious persuasion was I’m not sure, but I can’t help but think he might have been influenced, at least in part, by Christ’s words in John’s Gospel:

And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. (John 3: 19-20 — bold mine)

Besides being linked to the mystery of time, the past is also a judgement.  How many of us cringe at the memory of past faults, whether serious or trivial?  How often do past embarrassments creep into our minds, causing us to blush?

The thing about the past is that it is set in stone.  It cannot be changed.  The past can be forgiven, but not erased.  A person can be redeemed and changed, but past actions cannot be turned into past non-actions.  The train of effects set in motion by a particular action can be arrested and fixed, but the action itself cannot be undone.

In Scrooge’s case, as well as in ours often enough, to confront the past is to face the forgotten, the wrong turn(s) that led to current problems.

Scrooge’s journey into his own past uncovers much that has been repressed — childhood loneliness, among other things.  Most significant, however, is a matter of guilt.  We learn that he was engaged to a woman named Belle, whom he spurned for the idol of money.

Ultimately, Scrooge’s miserly accumulation of wealth and the psychological distance he puts between himself and humanity are forms of protection against his own past — just as humanity’s wars, factions, attachments, etc. protect us against the memory of the Fall.

We can probably assume that the sequential location of the past among the three modes of time is not the only reason for the Ghost of Christmas Past having the first spot in Scrooge’s journey of redemption.  Oftentimes, it is in facing the past, acknowledging the problems that lie hidden, that we get the ball rolling on the healing process (after all, how are we going to know how to heal if we don’t even know what to heal?).

That is one of Christianity’s greatest secrets.  In Genesis, we have the revelation of both our origin — God’s all-loving creation of the world out of nothing, culminating in the creation of mankind, with whom He desires fellowship — and our root problem — mankind’s disobedience to and estrangement from his Creator and Father.

When we turn to God and acknowledge this, as well as our own individual sins, then we can begin to heal.  Not only that, but God Himself comes down to us to get everything started, before we even take our first steps.  That’s the real Christmas present.

Image from Wikipedia

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Ghost_of_Christmas_PastThis is a follow-up to my post of Youtuber Brett Fawcett’s reflections on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” last week.

Brett’s video is excellent, in this blogger’s humble opinion — but he did neglect to offer any reflections on the Ghost of Christmas Past, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to fill in the gap.

It’s interesting how many faces this particular specter has had in the story’s various adaptations, ranging from a little girl in “The Muppet Christmas Carol” to an elderly man in the Alastair Sim version.  To be sure, this is arguably the hardest of Dickens’ ghosts to get a handle on, yet at the same time the one that presents the most options for creativity.

When I finally read Dickens’ unabridged classic at age 13, I was taken by the Ghost of Christmas Past’s very ethereal and otherworldly character.  Dickens’ description offers a vision of one who is neither male nor female, and yet has the qualities of both; neither old nor young, yet both indescribably ancient and yet young with a youth that could rejuvenate the dawn.

Here is my take: Whereas the Ghost of Christmas Present represents, as Fawcett said, “Father Christmas” — or the “Christmas spirit” — and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come represents the “angel of death,” the Ghost of Christmas Past represents the mystery of time.

I would suggest that it is the past, more than either of the other modes of time, that makes us aware of this mystery.  What is peculiar about the past is that it has actuality, but not the immediate accessibility of the present. So it’s going to take on a more mysterious quality for us.

But there is something else as well.  We live always in the present, to be sure.  But the more aware we become of ourselves (growing from infancy to maturity), the more aware we become of our present and our past.  We become aware of events and realities that, in various ways, contribute to and influence the present situation.  It seems that we first learn this in reference to ourselves, and then eventually to cultures, etc.  And from that, we infer that present realities contribute to an as-yet unrealized mode of time — namely, the future.  In short, I would suggest (and I’m no philosopher or developmental psychologist, so take my words with a grain of salt) that perhaps our sense of time develops out of our sense of the past.

Finally, our fascination with the mystery of time is largely teleological in nature.  In layman’s terms, this means it pertains to our deepest questions about:

  • Where we came from;
  • Where we’re going; and
  • What the meaning of everything is in the meantime

ApocalypseI will conclude by attempting a very basic summary of how Christians understand time: Time pertains to creation’s movement, under God’s providential guidance, toward the “summing up” of all things in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:10).  What this will look like in the end, “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived” (1 Cor. 2:9).

This is a destiny that involves the whole cosmos, but also each human being individually.  Our story is His story, our time a longing for His eternity.

I’ll look closer at Dickens’ “time-honored” ghost in part two.

Images from Wikipedia

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An interesting take on everybody’s favorite Christmas classic from my favorite Youtuber, Brett Fawcett:

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