That curmudgeonly exclamation is perhaps one of the most famous quotes in the English language. It instantly conjures an image of an old, miserable man in a Christmas setting who frightens off dogs, children and beggars and is not even willing to spend a little money to stay warm in the winter weather. We’re talking about none other than Ebenezer Scrooge, of course.
So what can we learn from such a miser?
Plenty, says a journalist who specializes in weaving tales of life lessons based on classic literature and films.
Bob Welch has written a new book titled, “52 Little Lessons From A Christmas Carol.” The publisher is Thomas Nelson.
The Oregon journalism professor has previously written “52 Little Lessons” books based on George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and Jean Valjean from “Les Misérables.” Readers of my site may recall I reviewed the “Les Miz” book last fall.
Each of the 52 lessons is about three or four pages in length, making them very readable. Welch acknowledges that there are “a fair share of how-not-to-live lessons” in addition to how-to-live lessons. “We learn from both. Scripture is filled with both,” he writes. “We read about the good Samaritan helping a man who’s been beaten in order to learn from someone who does the right thing. We read about a Pharisee who lauds his self-perceived righteousness and snubs a lowly tax collector in order to learn from someone who does the wrong thing.”
I had the privilege of speaking to Welch recently. Both times I have interviewed him, I have come away with a new appreciation for a piece of classic literature and a renewed strength of applying a Christian worldview to life situations.
Welch told me that one of his challenges in writing the book was that “A Christmas Carol” is a very short story compared to “Les Miz.” The former is between 40-50 pages, while Welch has compared the latter to a “brick” at more than 1,400 pages.
“At first I thought there was no way I can extract 52 lessons from the story.” After looking more closely at the book, he saw the lessons were more subtle. He feels that this lessons book may be the best of the trilogy.
While studying the book, Welch learned how important faith was to Charles Dickens. “He was definitely a Christian. He infused the book with the themes of good and evil.” Even though Scrooge treated Bob Cratchit and Fred shabbily, the men never returned evil for evil. Dickens was not popular in his time, Welch said. The Church of England was a Pharisee-like organization that looked down on Dickens as a “swashbuckler” who was tough on the rich.
“He was not afraid to call people out on the carpet, saying we have a responsibility to take care of the poor like Jesus.” The political system looked upon the poor as “wasted space.” Dickens wanted to write a political book at the time, but he figured he would reach more people with “A Christmas Carol.”
Lessons 9 and 10 were two that stuck out in my mind. Lesson 9 is titled, “Business Isn’t Life.” Marley’s Ghost points out to Scrooge that while Marley was alive, he should have spent time helping his fellow man instead of focusing only on business.
“Obviously, Marley is an enlightened spirit even though it’s too late for him, but what he’s telling Scrooge is, it’s not too late for you,” Welch said. “Comments like that are subtle ways of pointing people to rather than trusting in themselves and money and things, to trust in God and give your lives to bigger things.”
In 10, “You Make the Chains That Shackle You,” we read where the ghost realized that the living Marley was enslaved to greed and we, the readers, are asked to consider what may be enslaving us. “We all wear chains to one degree of our own making, whether it be addiction or bitterness,” Welch said. “The whole point of the story there is there is a little bit of Scrooge in all of us.
One of Welch’s favorite lessons is 39: “Grace Changes Everything.” Welch said, “That’s the catalyst to everything. People who don’t realize God’s grace don’t realize … God can empower them to change. The sins of our past are forgiven, if we are willing to accept it.”
Welch came to respect the character of Scrooge as his book developed.
“I tend to think Scrooge has gotten a bad rap,” Welch said. “He’s kind of a hero of mine now. He was willing to examine his life and humble himself and start over.”
Would that we all were capable of such humility.