Let’s start by tweaking the story a bit by turning the ghosts into angels who accompany Mr. Scrooge on his Christmas Eve journey. The first angel takes Scrooge on a trip through his past. By witnessing events of his past, he can begin to understand how he came to be the person he is now. He is so wounded by the fact that his father “bears him a grudge,” no wonder he is bitter and crabby! Seeing that is illuminating enough, but then seeing how loving his sister is, the goodness of his apprenticeship and how happily he was surrounded by loving people, he sees how far he has come from that happiness. He had experienced joy in his life, but it was long ago and the choices he made pushed the joy even further away. By seeing the woman that he loved and yet rejected, he can see how his own actions determined his sad fate. By visiting his past in a safe and loving presence (the angel), could he learn from those mistakes? If we do not learn from past mistakes, aren’t we doomed to repeat them? If we can grab a wee period of silent reflection this week, can we sit with God and think about our Christmases past? Where was God in those times of joy? Of disappointment? What can we learn?
The second angel takes Mr. Scrooge on a trip through present-day Christmas and opens his eyes to the world. He is oblivious to the suffering around him, even to the life of poverty his own associate is living. Thanks to Mr. Scrooge, Bob Cratchit and his family are living in want, under Scrooge's very nose. Yet, despite their meager circumstances, the Cratchit home is filled with love. A love that, even with all his wealth, Scrooge does not have in his life. The angel also shows Scrooge a glimpse of the “surplus population” as Scrooge calls the poor and needy. By seeing them as real human beings, he put faces to their need and even the hardest of hearts can begin to soften. God often urges us to open our eyes to those around us, even those we see daily. Are they real humans to us or just "surplus population?" Often we don’t understand others who are different from us and, what we do not understand, we tend to fear and avoid. Could this second angel open our eyes along with Mr. Scrooge?
The third angel, showing what could happen in the future, teaches Mr. Scrooge that there are consequences to his selfish actions. We can learn it too, although we should have learned it as kids. How we treat others will come back around, somehow, as Scrooge is shown. We can look to the Gospels and see how Jesus teaches the same message. The Prodigal Son ends his wild escapade hungry and poor. He learned and returned, humbled and sorrowful. The Good Samaritan shows his worth by caring for a stranger, with little concern for himself and is lauded as the perfect example of how to live a life of compassion. Jesus taught that it is never too late to turn your life around and do it differently, and Mr. Scrooge learns a similar lesson. When he awakens from his terrifying encounter with the last angel, it is just dawn on Christmas Day. He has an opportunity to live this Christmas better, by generously living the day, and also by changing his life from then on.
Charles Dickens published “A Christmas Carol” in December, 1843…a long time ago. But the lessons are still powerful, spiritual, and need to be learned in our world today. How can we learn with Scrooge and his team of angels and live this Christmas full of love and compassion? It's never too late!