The “auto-format” feature is helpful, but sometimes it is so annoying because it changes words so quickly! My husband and I were laughing about the “messed up” texts (from auto-format) we sent this weekend. His friend asked him what he was wearing on stage, and he meant to type, “I am wearing a dorky t-shirt and so is Chad,” but it came out, I am wearing a dorky teacher and so is Jack! And yesterday, I shared that song link, but instead of it reading “my boys rocked it today” – it came out as, “my body rocked it today” ha ha.
Well this was fun, but there are other times when mixing things up is not so funny – because it is misleading and maybe even wrong.
For example, my boys were in the play A Christmas Carol this past weekend.
The director changed some of the words in the script. I tried to speak up about it (twice) because come on now – why do we even need to change Dickens words??? Especially Scrooge’s most classic line, “If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” Well this was altered to say, “If they would rather die, they may as well do it because we have enough of these wretched creatures, anyhow.” (Cringe) Now the funny part is that my son knows some of the original lines and he had to go out of his way to memorize the incorrect ones. But he took it in stride and that helped me to chill as well.
Well – the play turned out VERY well – Even with a few of those changed lines, the overall outcome was a BIG success for many reasons – and one of those reasons is because the director still kept Dickens message nice and pure, which is that of Scrooge’s transformation from greedy and withdrawn to becoming empathetic and involved. This classic story was written as a way to RAISE AWARENESS about needs and how sharing resources makes the world better and people better! We are richer when we invest in others and A Christmas Carol is a story that is used as a wake-up call to how the “haves” can and should help the “have-nots.”
A few days ago, I was reading a famous author’s blog, and he actually summed up A Christmas Carol incorrectly! This well-meaning author was actually describing Scrooge, the musical (1970 film) and/or Scrooge the Musical, which ARE NOT the same as A Christmas Carol! They have different messages woven into the story – and while I do not have the time to give my entire critique about these altered musical renditions, there are two notable differences I want to point out because they involve possibly enjoying Christmas a bit more.
First, at the end of the musical adaptation, Scrooge goes around buying presents and taking on a Santa Clause role. Now you may think me scrooge-like to complain about this, but this is materialistic giving, and it is NOT the giving that Dickens had in his story. Instead, the original story addresses giving that is more heartfelt and specific – like it was an employer righting a wrong – and maybe correcting exploitation. In contrast, the musical versions associate and PROMOTE grandiose giving with Santa! Really?? A make-believe dude that some later say they lied about (very unethical). And this giving usually involves all these store bought gifts, which usually has a tone of excess or commercialization – you know, the store buying consumer type of thing. And so without realizing it – all the folks that sit there and watch these changed musical version endings, well they are being exposed to this SUGGESTED way of giving – because they have it modeled that “change for excellence” involves this type of giving. YUK!!! This kind of power trip, surface type of giving is what leaves people in the rat race and caught up in materialism! Yes, gifts are awesome – especially the unique ones that are dear to our heart – so believe me, I agree with that! But the corrupted ending in the musicals go against Dickens “giving” message – because Dickens was trying to free people up from feeling oppressed at Christmas – either oppressed with greed, want, or wrongly thinking that STUFF would make them (or others) happy! But the way the musical has materialism modeled almost sends the oppressive feel to those that think they have to buy things to impress and bless – but the giving of love is more than the giving of stuff – and in the original story, Scrooge does not SHOP for everyone! Instead, Scrooge provides a meal (a nice hearty goose) for a needy family (who is also an employee who he short-changed for years) – then he gives the GIFT OF HIMSELF to his nephew – and then invests time and gives specific care into tiny Tim.
So when it comes to giving this Christmas – give the gift of yourself – and really be “present” with those in your life right now – and for the ones that are difficult and challenging – ask God for the grace that only He can give – it works – believe me, I know! Of course give – and buy a few treasured gifts that make it fun, but DO NOT let subtle beliefs layered in materialism rob your joy. And for our family, we told our boys years ago that we will always try to NOT let Christmas be about stuff, stuff, stuff – we have a limit of gifts we like to give, and sometimes if we have additional items, we intentionally wait to give it in February or March. This has been a nice formula for balance.
Second, in Scrooge the musical, the writers of this altered version also corrupt Scrooge’s transformation by associating his positive change with drinking the “milk of human kindness.” And again, this sounds nice – But it is wrong!! And there we were one day, sitting in a church watching this musical performance with young kids, and then Scrooge starts using a substance to alter his mood and find elation. Now some may snicker and call this petty or minimize it, but talk to anybody who is fighting for sobriety or listen to those who can share about loss and the many wounds from that lifestyle – and you will see that the little things we have modeled DO MATTER – and they add up! (Check out the ROS blog or bye beer)
So sucking down the milk of human kindness??? – Well this Shakespeare borrowed term is not how Dickens depicted Scrooge’s change! You see, in the original story, Scrooge has a SPIRITUAL transformation – and he does NOT need to drink anything! His eyes are opened – he gets the epiphany straight and sober. But in the musical versions, Scrooge is chugging, slurping, even burping in one scene – and getting intoxicated in a drunken way from the big goblet with kindness in it –(sneaky) – which just models substance use for mood – and this is NOT what Dickens intended!
In closing, keep in mind that society’s readily available messages are not always healthy ones – and many of us may find Christmas more taxing than something to enjoy – so keep it simple – give reasonable gifts that mean something – and do not forget to give the gift of relationship (but draw needed boundaries too)! Gifts do not have to be bigger and better to show true love for someone – and remember the gift of God’s Son and what that did in the spiritual realm (it broke up strongholds and we have an advocate).
Be purposeful about what you do and don’t do! Oh, and Merry Christmas from me to you!
Edited update (January – 2014) – A week after posting this, the RZIM daily email arrived with an article from one of my very favorite writers, Jill Carattini, and it was about Dickens’ Scrooge!! She also superbly noted “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – which is one of the songs the my boys recorded last week too. The timing was spooky cool – and I had to share it here:
GOD REST YE MERRY by Jill Carattini
Encounters with frigid temperatures and wintry blends of snow and sleet frequent weather reports for many this time of year. Years lived in the pungent cold of Michigan allows me to relate with a shudder, albeit now from a warmer, southern place. But the worst descriptions of the searching, biting cold bring to mind a less personal memory.
“Foggier yet, and colder!” writes Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol. “Piercing, searching, biting cold.” The narration continues:
“If the good Saint Dunstan had but nipped the Evil Spirit’s nose with a touch of such weather as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose. The owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol: but at the first sound of—
‘God bless you, merry gentleman!
May nothing you dismay!’
Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.”(1)
The irony within this icy picture is not missed on Dickens’s careful detail. In the piercing, wearying cold stands the cheerful caroler while warm and sheltered sits the cold, cantankerous Scrooge.
The contrasting souls Dickens paints in this scene strike with an idea ripe for the reflections of Christmas and a coming new year, particularly for those who enter with greater apprehension than hope. Life often presents the mystery of this caroler. Somehow some of the warmest hearts belong to lives that have been surrounded by the darkest and coldest days. The words of the caroler and the familiar lines of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen amplify the contrast of bleak and merry men:
God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Saviour
Was born was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy
Though I thought it for many years, no thanks to Dickens, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen is not an address to “merry gentlemen.” It is not because Scrooge was grumpy that the words of the carol are unbefitting. The word “merry” has in fact come to mean something quite different than it did for the first hearers of this hymn. Where it now connotes jollity, it once meant “mighty” or “strong.” Similarly, the word “rest” signified not sleep or relaxation, but the more wholistic notion of being kept or made well. Thus, in more contemporary English, we might most soundly pronounce the title of this carol in the manner of a prayer: “God make you mighty.” What specifically makes us mighty is relayed in the story the song retells:
From God our heavenly Father a blessed angel came;
And unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same;
How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name.
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.
The most cynical responses to the Christmas story—the story of God’s Son born by name—often come from the most comfortable places. Yet for those living in cold and harsh realities, remembering that Christ the Savior was born to save the lost is often much more than a thought that warms them. It is far more like the sun that provides the very capacity for life. Mary’s song, as it is recorded in Luke, could hardly have been sung without the reality of hard times ahead; being pregnant without a husband as a woman in first century Palestine bore the stigma of adultery and the punishment of death. Yet Mary sang because the angel gave her a mighty, terrifying, expectant story to sing about: “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High… And his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:30-33).
The “comfort and joy” promised by the angel and proclaimed in this song is not an outburst of seasonal cheer or a call to passive contentment. Comfort, in the Christian story, comes from the mighty encounter of knowing hope by name, and joy the startling wonder of finding that hope has drawn near. Whether seized in the midst of warmth or darkness, God has made us mighty in the giving of Christ to a bleak world.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.