One of my all time favorite stories is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I was given a book last year entitled Inventing Scrooge, an historical account of the purpose and process Dickens used in writing his timeless classic. His motivation was to bring attention to the neglected poor in England, of the government’s failed policies to effectively deal with the crisis of poverty, lack of education, coupled with the fraudulent practices of the poor houses and the cold hearted greed of the industrialists, many of whom were members of parliament at the time.
It is hard to image the social conditions of the day, except as we see them portrayed in many plays and movies. Still, with the exception of the Salvation Army and other evangelicals, ministry to the poor and destitute due to spiritual complacency dominated England.
Dickens was raised in a home that inspired the Cratchit family. His father was loving, a hard worker, but a poor financial manager and often squandered resources to a point in which the family was relegated to a poor house for a time. Through these experiences, Dickens knew first-hand the trials of destitution. Even in his success as a writer affording financial prosperity, he never forgot where he came from and those who were still locked in destitution’s grip.
Dickens tried to affect politics through speeches and essays, but to little affect until one day he happened upon the idea of writing a short story that would reveal root of the problem. He would use the characters in his story to reveal the nature of both good and evil, and of the possibility of true change in a person’s heart and how that could turn the tide for a whole nation, one family at a time. He would leverage the traditional affections of people during Christmas by using the holiday as the stage for the story.
The success of the book goes without saying. The variations of the story in plays and movies continue to this day. It is a story of redemption, of second chances. May we remember that the original plot was given through Jesus Christ and the gospel. He is the real power in lasting change.