The bicentennial of Dickens's birth provides a chance to understand why his 'A Christmas Carol' helped Christians refocus on the meaning of Christmas.
AP Photo/The Daily Sentinel, Andrew D. Brosig
The meaning of Christmas is most often told through the story of the Nativity, but coming in a close second is “A Christmas Carol.” The 19th-century tale by Charles Dickens helped elevate the celebration of the birth of Jesus – and the essence of his message.
The Christmas of 2011 is being used as a kickoff for a year-long celebration of Dickens. The English author was born 200 years ago this coming February. His other works, from “Oliver Twist” to “Great Expectations,” are masterpieces, but they don’t get nearly as much replay as the novella he wrote in 1843 with that hopeful message which takes the reader from Ebenezer Scrooge’s “Bah, humbug” to Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, everyone.”
The Dickens story tells of the transformation of the wealthy and cruel Scrooge from miserly to meek in just one Christmas Eve. For many, it also reinforces the kind of never-too-late redemption embedded in Christ’s message.
“A Christmas Carol” serves as a continual reminder of the need for compassion that lies at the heart of the Christ mission. The Dickens bicentenary will likely revisit a pivotal time in the author’s life when, at the age of 12, he was forced by his father’s sudden indebtedness to work in a shoe polish factory pasting labels on bottles.