Friday, December 24, 2010

Marley's Lament and What Scrooge Really Did on Christmas Day

If Hamlet's father never appeared as a ghost, Shakespeare would have no story (so to speak). Similarly, if Jacob Marley had not appeared to Scrooge, there would have been no story. Sadly, important elements of Scrooge and Marley's conversation and Scrooge's response on Christmas Morning have been lost as interest in the text has diminished.

First, Marley communicated something vitally important to Scrooge that Christmas Eve, and I want to make certain that as many who read this, understand Marley's greatest lament:

"'But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,' faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

'Business!' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. 'Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!'

It held up its chain at arm's length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again."

This is where most people, screenwriters particularly leave off. Here is the rest of what Marley said:

"'At this time of the rolling year,' the spectre said, 'I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!'

Scrooge was very much dismayed to hear the spectre going on at this rate, and began to quake exceedingly."

Marley laments that he never raised his eyes to the reason for the star which led the Wise Men to worship. Marley also laments that he failed in the comprehensive ocean of his business, which was to point others to Christ, and Scrooge shook to hear it.

Second, look carefully at what Scrooge did on Christmas morning. He did NOT go straight to his nephew Fred’s house, as movies and plays lead us to believe. Here is what he did:

"He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk--that anything--could give him so much happiness. In the afternoon he turned his steps towards his nephew's house."

Did you see it?  He went to church, then he got among the people and talked to them. What questions was he asking, I wonder? Clearly, it was not the walk alone that gave him pleasure, but what he did while walking among men.

Merry, Merry Christmas. 
And God Bless Us, Every One.

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