Dickens and Christmas

Have you heard about the movie: The Man Who Invented Christmas?

Chris Knight, chief film critic for the National Post, said, “The movie is based on Les Standiford’s long-winded historical non-fiction from 2008, The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits.” Knight also said of the movie, “By all rights, The Man Who Invented Christmas should be a humbug. Instead, it’s a humdinger.”

Charles John Huffam Dickens was a prolific writer. One article says he is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era, and that he created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters. Several of them are: Jack Dawkins, the pick-pocket in Oliver Twist; Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, and Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol; Mr. Pott, the editor in The Pickwick Papers; and David Copperfield in David Copperfield.

Dickens was a prolific writer. But did he invent Christmas? Humbug!

But some pagan activities did intermingle with the sacred celebration.

Another commentary is from Ronald Hutton, an historian at Bristol University in the UK. He said, “It’s a mistake to say that our modern Christmas tradition comes directly from pre-Christian paganism. However, you’d be equally wrong to believe that Christmas is a modern phenomenon. As Christians spread their religion into Europe in the first centuries A.D., they ran into people living by a variety of local and regional religious creeds.”

One report says: “A Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas evolved over two millennia into a worldwide religious and secular celebration, incorporating many pre-Christian, pagan traditions into the festivities along the way. Today, Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together and exchange gifts.”  (history.com/topics/christmas)

Philip Shaw, who researches early Germanic languages and Old English at Leicester University in the UK, said, “Early Christians wanted to convert pagans to Christianity, but they were also fascinated by their [pagan] traditions.”

Stephen Nissenbaum, author of “The Battle for Christmas”; Vintage, 1997) made a good case for an old Christmas celebration when he said, “If you want to show that Jesus was a real human being, not just somebody who appeared like a hologram, then what better way to think of him being born in a normal, humble human way than to celebrate his birth?”

Christmas celebrations developed independently around the world for almost 2,000 years. And why not? Jesus’ birth was probably one of the two most important events in the history of the world!

And that’s why we celebrate Christmas – God became man in order to redeem us and restore our fellowship with Himself. And he came as a baby, born in a manger.

But as mentioned previously, many of the Christmas festivities became corrupted. Instead of candlelight services or worship services, rowdy and drunken revelries became common. Therefore, many protestants rejected paganized Christmas celebrations. Early Protestants wanted to honor Jesus Christ, our Savior – not have a festivity which obscured Christ. Denouncing sin and frivolity, they gave necessities for life as gifts; avoiding superficial parties, they shared sacred meals.

But as some Protestants squelched the pagan revelry surrounding Christmas, they also put down anything associated with Christmas celebrations. They threw out the baby with the bathwater. In this case, they threw out observing the birth of Jesus with the pagan celebrations.

Enter Charles Dickens.

Noting societal debauchery, prevalent poverty, and abusive child labor in the 1840s, Dickens vowed to do something about it – and writing was what he did best. In six weeks, he wrote A Christmas Carol. If you’ve read it, you know why it became an immediate best-seller.

Dickens wanted to insert joy and gladness into a life filled with drudgery, dreariness and death. Without ignoring the seriousness of life, he portrayed the Spirit of Christmas filled with miracles and laughter. He also reminded society of the importance of blessing others by caring for those around them.

Did Dickens invent Christmas? No. But he did encourage joy and human-kindness, and inspired a positive change in society.

Jesus, who is God (John 1:1-3), came to earth to restore man’s relationship with himself. But he came as a baby (Matthew 1, Luke 1) so, as he grew, he could personally experience mankind’s trials, hardships, and joys.

Jesus loves you and desires for you to know him as he is today – God and Savior.

May the Lord bless you this Christmas season.

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