Wed. Oct 21st, 2020

“Marley was dead: to begin with … as dead as a door-nail.”
Poor Jacob Marley didn’t survive the first two paragraphs of Charles Dickens’ famous work, “A Christmas Carol.” Yet, it’s his death and unexplainable appearance to his business partner, Ebenezer Scrooge, which sets the scene for Scrooge’s Christmas conversion.
A few years ago, I opined on social media that I didn’t understand the line in the Christmas song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” that after hosting parties, toasting marshmallows and caroling out in the snow that “there’ll be scary ghost stories.” Of all the Christmas parties I had attended over the years, we didn’t grab our hot chocolate and start telling ghost stories. A friend rightly pointed out that Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” remains a ghost story centered on Christmas.
There are many adaptations of this famous tale, but in our house the versions that get the most airtime during this time of year star Mr. Magoo or the Muppets with a sprinkling of Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s overworked and underpaid employee. It was during a recent viewing of the Muppet edition that prompted a reflection.
Scrooge is visited by the three spirits of Christmas past, present, and future. It’s the ghost of Christmas yet to come that really spooks the miserable miser, as he sees a vision that shows he has died alone and reviled by those around him. Making matters worse is the death of Tiny Tim, the ill child of Bob Cratchit.
Spoiler alert — which I wonder if we need from a novel released in 1843 followed by the hundreds of adaptations of stage and screen, but either way — Scrooge, moved by the events that have transpired, swears to change and live the spirit of Christmas, becoming a father figure to Tiny Tim in the process.
While Michael Caine and Kermit the Frog were singing the final song, I stopped and thought, “Scrooge will die eventually. Tiny Tim will die as well. I will die, too.” As sure as our birth begins our lives, we all will pass away at some point.
During this season of Advent, while preparing for the Christ child to come at Christmas, we also prepare our hearts and souls for when Christ will return in glory, when we will meet our maker. Death can be a difficult topic, especially at a joyous time of year like Christmas.
Where do we find the spirit of Christmas like Scrooge? What gives us hope that our sufferings and death will not be in vain? The answer to both of these questions is Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who calls to each of us, “Arise,” as He does to the synagogue official’s daughter (Mark 5:41). It is Jesus who asks for the stone to be rolled back, who is not afraid of the stench of sin and death, and calls Lazarus by name to come out of the tomb (John 11:43).
Like Scrooge and Tiny Tim, the official’s daughter and Lazarus will die, but Jesus shows us that God has power over sin and death. His perfect love casts out fear. St. Paul writes to the Philippians, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your request known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)
I have encountered young people with crippling anxiety and depression. Recent research reveals that more young people are suffering with anxiety and mental illnesses than ever before. While anxiety and depression rises, suicide has also gone up as they feel no way out or no other option than to end their lives. So while many young people do not often think about their own mortality, there are many who contemplate their own passing, whether at their own hand, or by sicknesses like cancer, or after the death of a friend or loved one.
The Christ child that we will encounter in the manger will grow up. The infant Jesus will become a man who suffers and dies. But Jesus conquers our sin and death, and while it is true that each of us will die, we live in the hope of the Resurrection. Death does not have the final word – Jesus does.
Hope is what Scrooge experienced in “A Christmas Carol,” but I am unsure whether he realized it or not that his hope was actually in the person of Jesus Christ. When we live the spirit of Christmas all year, we are experiencing the grace that God bestows on us so that we may choose to love Him in return.
In this Advent and Christmas season, let us pray that our hearts are prepared for the second coming of Christ, that even in our deaths we may glorify Him, and that we may join Tiny Tim’s lasting sentiment — God bless us, every one.
— Adam Ganucheau is the Director of the Office of Youth Ministry for the Archdiocese of Mobile. He may be emailed at aganucheau@mobarch.org
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By Editor

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