Mankind Was Scrooge’s Business (and George Bailey’s, Too)

Two of our favorite Christmas stories teach us that no one can be redeemed in isolation.

This year marks the 175th anniversary of the publication of Charles Dickens’s “ghostly little book,” A Christmas Carol. Over the years, it has become so pervasive that even those who haven’t read this story of a miser’s redemption or caught one of the many film, stage, or television adaptations know what a “Scrooge” is, what Tiny Tim represents, and what’s so terrifying about the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

Aside from being a groundbreaking and classic story in its own right, Dickens’s A Christmas Carol helped to create an entire genre: the secular Christmas story. (By “secular” I don’t mean “anti-religious” or even “non-religious” but simply a Christmas story where the focus is not directly on the birth of Christ.) Without the influence of Dickens’s powerful little tale, we might never have had Frank Capra’s beloved 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life.

But there’s more than a genre linking the two stories together. In fact, as the National Post puts it, “one story is the inverse of the other.” Ebenezer Scrooge must journey through time and space to understand the impact of his bad deeds, George Bailey to understand the impact of his good ones. Each story ends in the saving of its protagonist—one from selfishness and greed, the other from suicidal despair—and his return to life with a transformed outlook.

Mixed Messages?

But that raises a question: Why would it be equally helpful for a person to look back on bad deeds and on good ones? Why are both Ebenezer and George so changed when the experiences they go through are practically the opposite of each other?

A Christian, in particular, …

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