Theme: Lighten the Burden of Another
Hollywood always saves its best for last. The end of the year, especially the Christmas holiday, sees the release of major films which will be celebrated in the following January to March award season.
On December 1st 2017, a small independent film opened without much fanfare, leaving the theaters in some major cities even before Christmas Day. The lucky few who saw The Man Who Invented Christmas in this short window of time were treated to a movie worth celebrating. Advertised as a biopic telling the story of how Charles Dickens created his beloved A Christmas Carol, it is in reality a beautiful apologia for the true meaning of Christmas.
Fans, Flops, Fear, Failure, Father
The movie opens in 1842 with the famous author, Charles Dickens, being wildly celebrated while on a tour of America. Sixteen months and three flops later he is back in London in financial distress, facing his fears of failure. To add to all his difficulties, his wife announces she is pregnant with another child, and his estranged father and mother show up and make themselves comfortable as his houseguests.
In this disturbed state it is no wonder dreams and memories begin to surface allowing his past to enter his present. Chasing one such memory down a dark path, he stumbles upon a cemetery and a single mourner who utters the word humbug as he walks away. Hearing this, an idea begins to percolate in Charles’ imagination and soon he is in the midst of writing a short book on Christmas. Once his characters are named, they start appearing and dialoguing with him . . . literally. They are composites drawn from people he meets in the present, people he has known in the past and, most surprisingly, Charles himself.
Under great time and financial constraints (he has decided to publish the book himself), disturbed by constant interruptions and aggravated by his father’s presence, he reaches an impasse in his ability to finish the book.
Sharing his partial manuscript with Tara, the children’s maid and John Forster his friend, he discovers they both agree the story is brilliant but are adamantly opposed to his allowing Tiny Tim to die. As Forster says, “It’s Christmas; if Tiny Tim dies, what’s the point?”
The question Charles poses back to his friend is: could a man like Scrooge, who has worshipped money all his life, who trusts no one, who is afraid of being exposed - could he become a different person overnight? Without realizing it, he is talking about himself.
The reason Charles cannot write a good ending is because he is trapped in a bad story. His flashback memories take him to Warren’s Blacking Warehouse where he was forced to work as a twelve year old child. His father’s reckless ways with money not only put him there but became the drag and chain upon his life. The secret self which no one is allowed to know or question explodes, and in a fit of rage banishes his father and Tara and destroys his own library.
The black hole in his soul has opened and there is no where to go but back into the memory and to this place. Accompanied by the accusatorial Scrooge who now mocks him as the famous author who really is: the squalid, wretch, factory boy, the nothing nobody debtor’s son, abandoned by his father who failed him time and time again. “Yes you know me”, Scrooge taunts Charles as they stand in the darkened warehouse. “I’m the crack in the heart, the stain in the soul and I’ll never leave you . . . people don’t change. You are useless like your father!”
Lighten the Burden of Another
This last charge snaps something in Charles; he emphatically refutes Scrooge with words his father taught him as a child . . . “No one is useless in the world who lightens the burden of another”. With this, a grave opens and Scrooge walks in but as it begins to close in on him he pleads with Charles. “I don’t want to die like this; alone, unloved, forgotten . . . it’s never too late. I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all year. I beg you to let me do some good.”
And so in a night Charles was transformed and joyfully went home to write Stave 5; the happy ending he could not write until he had gone into the past and been set free from the dark stain in his soul. He kept his word about Christmas, inviting his parents back into his home and heart; he re-hired Tara the maid and promised in his Christmas toast to welcome everyone with the gift of friendship.
The Man Who Invented Christmas
The man who invented Christmas is Jesus Christ.1 He is the Author who entered his own story in the Incarnation. He went down into the grave of all mankind and dealt with the dark stain in the soul, the crack in the heart, when he died on the cross. In His Resurrection, he pioneered the way through death into life in the New Creation.
To all who follow him by dying to self, he lightens the burden removing their sin and restores them to God the Father. The ghost of the past can no longer enter their present and determine their future. He is the Author and there is a happy ending for all who keep Christ in their heart.
- Invented as in originated. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.