Dicken’s A Christmas Carol speaks to all of us at Christmas time by raising the central issue of human life: priorities. What do we really prioritize each day? The story’s powerful and perpetual appeal comes from how well it raises this question, especially regarding business and homelife.

Using the Christmas setting to perfect effect, this tale highlights two specific aspects of priorities that are perhaps more pressing today than when Dickens wrote. We should not be misled by the seemingly exaggerated lines of the sketch of Scrooge. Many if not most of us today can see something of ourselves in Scrooge’s terrifying self-discovery.

The two aspects, which in the end really come down to one—as do all matters of priority—are how we do business and how we do homelife. The first is powerfully set forth in the words of Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s deceased business partner who has come back to warn him. To Marley’s mournful words that “no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity missed,” Scrooge objects, “But you were always a good man of business, Jacob.”

Marley’s response is a first-rate moral challenge for all of us:

‘Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!’

Significantly, the specter proceeds to say, “At this time of the rolling year I suffer most.” “Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!”

Indeed, there are poor homes all around us. And without diminishing a proper focus on those in need of alms, we can notice here that often it is our own home that is poor. And will a heavenly light turn the hearts of fathers to their own children, and wife, in their own home?

That the most direct casualty of our lack of right priorities in ‘business’ is our own home life becomes clear in the second, complementary focus of Scrooge’s journey.

In the next Stave of the ghost of Christmas past, Scrooge revisits his breaking-up with the woman he was to have married and then her later happy marriage to a man quite unlike himself. The poignancy is deep and can cut close to the bone. The young Scrooge was not yet a monster. But the long-term consequences of his wrong priorities early in life now become evident. Mercifully, perhaps, he did not marry, and so he learns his lesson by seeing what he could have had, rather than by seeing a family he has failed.

Here is the culmination of his viewing the family life of the woman he was to have married:

And now Scrooge looked on more attentively than ever, when the master of the house, having his daughter leaning fondly on him, sat down with her and her mother at his own fireside; and when he thought that such another creature, quite as graceful and as full of promise, might have called him father, and been a spring-time in the haggard winter of his life, his sight grew dim indeed.

Of course, upon this stunning revelation, the great question for him, as for all of us, is what to do now? The rest of the story will bring this to light. And we witness how his sight ‘growing dim’ here, undoubtedly by tears, is precisely part of the healing transformation through which he comes to see. Often tears are such a healing salve for our vision.

Subtly, gently, powerfully, the story of Scrooge patterns for all of us a path forward. Living in regret is not the answer. It is never too late. We can begin again today, by the grace of God (and often through some unlikely instruments He chooses to use). We can rediscover what matters most in life, and what this demands of us every day. In business; at home; and everywhere we go.

At the climax of Scrooge’s journey, we rejoice in his choice—for that it surely was: his own, free choice.
“What’s today, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge.
“Today!” replied the boy. “Why, Christmas Day.”
“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself.
And the rest is, well, history.

Every day can be Christmas Day. Scrooge saw that; and he just kept going forward. “And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” Indeed! For he kept Christmas every day of his life. By putting first things first.
“May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!” ~ ~ ~ HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS

Transform Your Christmas with Stories. Here is a SHORT VIDEO with tips for Reading Aloud at Christmas. ALSO: go to our SPOTIFY account for my reading of some wonderful Christmas stories. You can jump-start your own story time with these audio-downloads. Gather around the fire and listen together!

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Image: Bradley Whitford as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (Luke Fontana)


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