The One Who Invented Christmas

The house was finally quiet after a wonderfully chaotic Thanksgiving Day. 

My daughter-in-law Candice suggested we watch one of her favorite Christmas movies, The Man Who Invented Christmas. The movie is based on the life of Charles Dickens as he penned his most famous novel, A Christmas Carol.

The movie was a fascinating look at the life and work of Dickens in 1843, the year he wrote his best seller in just one month. Dickens was in a financial crisis, and many people, his publisher included, were beginning to think he was a blocked, washed-up author. His past few books had not done well in the stores. Dickens actually had to pay to publish his Christmas story because his publisher said that Christmas was no longer a good topic in the industry. 

The movie is an adaptation of true events and an interesting look into the life, mind, and imagination of a gifted writer. How did Dickens invent and describe such interesting characters? What prompted Dickens to write A Christmas Carol? Why was he driven to extremes in his personal life during those days? 

I won’t give away those answers because you might want to watch this movie, if you haven’t already. The Man Who Invented Christmas was released in 2017, and I don’t know how I missed it. 

Maybe you did too?  

Did you know that you’re in A Christmas Carol?

I’ve always been a fan of great literature, and the movie was an interesting look at how some great literature was written. I can’t imagine using parchment paper, a fountain pen, and ink to create a book. I wonder what Dickens would have accomplished if he’d had a computer. 

Maybe if Dickens had owned a computer, he would have spent less time imagining, thinking, and planning his words. He spent a lot of time pacing the floor and walking the streets of London before he began carefully and meticulously writing each word in ink and waiting for each page to dry. I spend as much time deleting my words as I do writing them. Dickens didn’t have that luxury. 

One thing the movie makes clear is that each character in the movie was a reflection of Dickens himself. In other words: 

  • All of us are a Scrooge at some level, but there is hope. 
  • All of us know a Jacob Marley who died before finding redemption. 
  • We all can be Mrs. Cratchit and speak our minds more bluntly than we should. 
  • All of us know a Bob Cratchit who is faithfully doing his or her best. 
  • And everyone needs to pay attention to the pure-hearted Tiny Tim, who reminds us of the most important things in life. 

We can see a small part of ourselves in every character of A Christmas Carol. And we can all choose to remember why Christmas truly matters. 

A modern-day Christmas Carol?

If Dickens were writing his novel today, what would it look like? 

In the London of 1843, there was no middle class. People either had a lot or very little. Many of the poor resorted to crime in order to feed their families. If caught, their children suffered in the workhouses. Dickens had firsthand knowledge of those workhouses, and that’s why the subject is discussed in many of his novels. 

In 1843, many of the wealthy ignored, looked down upon, and abused those they didn’t see as worthy. But there are still Tiny Tims who serve as reminders of the real value of the Christmas season. 

Today, many of our priorities are revealed by the Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads that filled our inboxes this past week. Our calendar entries are a detailed list of what we believe matters. Our expenditures this month will paint a picture of our values. 

Do those thoughts give you peace, or make you cringe just a little? 

Wait, who invented Christmas?

I thought the movie title, The Man Who Invented Christmas, was an interesting choice. My first thought when I saw the title was “That’s Jesus, not Charles Dickens.” Even great literature doesn’t always point to the true meaning of the holiday. 

God invented Christmas. He wrote the story that has been the heart of the holiday for centuries. Charles Dickens turned God’s work into a book about good works. I think culture has been confusing the difference for a long time. 

“For God so love the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). That is the theme of the biblical Christmas story. 

The characters are more vivid than Dickens’: 

  • A group of shepherds who were the poorest people in society. 
  • An unmarried teen who is told she will give birth to God’s son. 
  • A fiancé who chooses to faithfully believe and serve. 
  • An innkeeper who finds a place for people in need. 
  • An evil king who tries to protect his throne by murdering innocent babies. 
  • Wise men who leave everything at home in order to search for the newborn King. 
  • And the all-powerful God of the universe who humbly reduces himself to be a dependent baby so that every person has the chance to choose eternity in heaven.  

A Christmas Carol is an amazing work of fictional literature. The biblical Christmas story is an amazing work of history. 

Take time today to consider his characters and the message he was providing the world. It’s similar to Dickens’ effort, but God’s message is holy and perfect. The Apostle Paul related that message well when he wrote, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). 

What will your Christmas story be this year?

We can all find ourselves in the characters of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. We can also find ourselves in the people who lived and experienced the biblical Christmas story. And all of us can use both stories as reminders of the deepest meanings of this holiday season.   

We are surrounded by, and one of, a cast of characters in our culture today. As Christians, we need to remember why we exist and that we are called to serve. We are God’s workmanship. We have been gifted to accomplish good works, which God long ago prepared for us. 

What has God planned for your Christmas season this year? 

Consider your past, your present, and your future. Ebenezer Scrooge did, and look how that journey changed him! 

Let’s remember the God who invented Christmas and why he did. Who knows? It only took Charles Dickens a month to write his most famous novel. 

What might we accomplish this December?