Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts


Christmas According to Dickens: What Transformed Ebenezer Scrooge? What Transforms Us? (Part 2)

posted by Mark D. Roberts

Yesterday, I began to gather together the strands of this series and weave some conclusions about what transforms us. I suggested that:

• Transformation begins when something interrupts our ordinary experience.
• Transformation comes through pain.
• Transformation comes through children.

Today I want to add to further reflections on what changes us.

Transformation is a result of seeing with a fresh perspective.

As I explained earlier in this series, seven years before he wrote A Christmas Carol, Dickens wrote a short story about a grouchy man who is changed through his interaction with goblins on Christmas Eve. Part of what altered Gabriel Grub was the beating he took from the goblins. They literally knocked some sense into him. Scrooge, on the contrary, experiences no physical pummeling from the Spirits who visit him. They work their wonders simply by showing Scrooge scenes of Christmas past, present, and future. This enables Scrooge to see life from a fresh perspective, and as a result, he resolves to become a changed man.

Part of what Scrooge saw wasn’t new. In fact, some of it was his own past. Yet he was seeing from the perspective of an outsider, and this altered his vision. Part of what Scrooge saw was new to him. For example, prior to his travels with the Ghost of Christmas Present he had never observed the Cratchit family’s Christmas celebrations, so joyful even though so humble.

It seems clear that Dickens believed in the transforming power of fresh perspective. He wrote A Christmas Carol not only because he needed additional income, but also and especially because he wanted people to experience the joy of Christmas, and especially the joy that comes from generosity, both in giving and in receiving. Dickens hoped that his little book would function in the lives of his readers much as the Spirits functioned in the life of Ebenezer Scrooge. There is ample evidence that his hopes have been fulfilled thousands if not millions of times over since 1843.

I’ve also witnessed the power of a fresh perspective to change lives. For example, during my tenure as pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, several hundred members went to a small community in northern Mexico called El Niño in order to assist the poor who live there. When they returned, they often saw life differently and acted differently too. They saw in a new way, for example, how richly blessed they were financially. Many resolved to live more simply and to give away more than they had before in order to help the poor.

Transformation requires supernatural help.

There’s no question that Ebenezer Scrooge needed supernatural assistance in order to change his ways. Apart from Jacob Marley’s intervention, Scrooge would have continued to forge for himself a hellishly-long chain which he’d be forced to drag about for eternity. Yet because the Spirit of his former partner interrupted Scrooge and sent the three Christmas Spirits, Scrooge’s life was renewed.

I’m not enough of an expert on Dickens to know whether he would agree with the claim that transformation requires supernatural help. Though he was a theist of sorts, Dickens didn’t share many of my Christian convictions. He may have believed that literature, unaided by spirits of any kind, was powerful enough to effect change in the Ebenezer Scrooges of this world. Nevertheless, I believe that profound, lasting human transformation does indeed require supernatural assistance, namely that of the Holy Spirit.

The good news for those of us who are in need of transformation, and to some extent that means all of us, is that God’s Spirit is in the renewal and reformation business. According to the New Testament, the Holy Spirit “gives life,” offers “renewal,” and leads us into “new life” (2 Cor 3:6; Titus 3:5; Rom 7:6). The Spirit draws us to confess Jesus as Lord (1 Cor 12:3) and then empowers us to live in a whole new way (Rom 8). The Spirit of God also helps us see with fresh perspective, opening our minds and touching our hearts. And, unlike the Spirits in A Christmas Carol, this Spirit doesn’t disappear when Christmas is over. Though I’m quite sure it wasn’t Dickens’ intended purpose, my reading of A Christmas Carol produces in me an enhanced desire and a more fervent resolve to live this life less by my own strength and more by the power of God’s Spirit. In this way, my own “Scroogishness” might be transformed, by God’s grace.



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ann hilliard

posted January 7, 2011 at 9:00 am


Dr. Roberts –
Thank you so much for your series on A Christmas Carol! Reading and re-reading your commentary has become a valued Christmas tradition for me. I especially love your insight about Scrooge’s re-view of his lonely childhood. Revisiting those scenes awakened in him compassion for the solitary and neglected child he himself had been. This experience softened his heart and prepared him for the visions of “Christmas present,” where joy and celebration reign. The implication for me is that when I see an adult whom I love and am praying for make poor choices, I envision those choice as resulting from a difficult and painful childhood. This helps me have so much more compassion, and allows me to pray with faith and tenderness that they too will respond to God’s grace and experience new life.



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Toayminator

posted January 8, 2011 at 3:49 pm


Really enjoyed this series, Mark. Thanks. And Happy New Year.



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Alexius Scott

posted January 13, 2011 at 7:00 pm


May I Use this for my Essay in my 8 th grade class for a project for a myaccess.com?



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iMonk Zeitgeist

posted January 16, 2011 at 5:12 pm


At some point during Christmas 2010, I was wondering what all the non-Christians actually celebrate at Christmas? When I went to the card shop to buy some Christmas cards the answer was right in front of me. Among other cards, I found “Season’s Greetings” and “Xmas” cards. Christmas has become XMAS(it’s not just a different spelling, it’s a different meaning) an occasion to celebrate love, family, compassion etc. although I’m not sure what “season” refers to, my guess would be – Xmas season; the season of love(?) for all the people who are not celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
What is Christmas all about? Is Christmas not about Jesus Christ’s birth? Both, some people could argue, but if the event did not happen, we would not have Christmas at all, so it is all about the birth of Jesus Christ. Even Christians have difficulties getting it not confused nowadays. The question is who started or created the confusion? When one writes a story called “Christmas Carol”, but Jesus Christ is not mentioned once in the whole story; how can this be a Christmas Carol!? Yet it is very appealing, because it is always fascinating when ghosts appear and transform humans somehow, hence the impact. Did Jesus Christ not help those who were constant visited by demons, casting them out? What is a Christmas Ghost or Ghost of Christmas? -never heard of any type of “Christ ghosts”. Make no mistake this has nothing to do with Christmas; in fact it is quite the contrary! There is only one ghost and that is the Holy Ghost! Charles Dickens has certainly made an impact on the way we celebrate Christmas and if we Christians are not careful we end up celebrating only XMAS too.
iMonk Zeitgeist



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Why not help a local business by making use of a local ‘man
and his van’ to move the weighty goods.



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posted March 17, 2014 at 9:03 pm


I wish that people would realise how dangerous gas
burning appliances can be. An annual gas safety inspection would save lives.



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