Watching our favorite dramatized version of A Christmas Carol has become an annual tradition in our home in the days leading up to Christmas, as it undoubtedly is for countless others around the globe. I’ve never thought of it as having a specifically Christian message, and its popularity certainly transcends faith traditions, despite the word “Christmas” in the title. But is there more to the story than meets the eye?

Cheryl Kincaid is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Clifton, New Jersey, and the author of Hearing the Gospel through Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol.’ She writes that the famous Dickens story is more Christian than it appears.

According to Kincaid, the spirits who visit Scrooge correlate to the traditional lessons of Advent, as taught in the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer of 1559, the one in use during Dickens’s time. She writes that the story of the nativity “is in the preaching of the redeemed and changed life of Scrooge through his repentance…The Advent season teaches us that God is not willing to let us rest contentedly in our sins and destructive behavior. Christmas teaches us about a God who loves us too much to leave us alone. God’s Spirit interferes, prods, pokes and harasses us in the Advent’s lessons just as the spirits do to Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.”

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