Last night, I had an encounter more glorious than I’ve had in months. My wife and I resurrected a bit of our past, beckoned the part of our lives when time and energy were not in so meager supply, and attended a spectacular dramatic rendition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I’ve lost count, but I believe this may be the fifth time my wife and I have seen the play, brilliantly performed by Seattle’s ACT Theatre. We used to go every year, but missed the previous two, mostly because I’m lousy at planning anything, especially date nights, and if you wait too long to buy tickets for this show, you’ll likely not find any available that you can afford. This year, I planned. So glad I did.
I would start by saying that I’ve never regretted any of the occasions we’ve chosen to invest ourselves in this remarkable experience. That said, the level of satisfaction one experiences is inevitably measured by the authenticity brought to the Scrooge character, who is most often portrayed by a different actor each year. This year’s Scrooge actor nailed it. The most difficult facet of Scrooge’s character to pull off is to portray a proper level of selfishness and nastiness in the early parts, while making his steady march toward redemption throughout and at the end, believable. Actor R. Hamilton Wright portrayed this progression brilliantly. Best Scrooge EVER.
Of course, the true magic of A Christmas Carol is in the story. Aside from the mastery of the production, I gained greater appreciation this year because of my growing fondness for the life and work of Charles Dickens. It was only a year ago that I finally read the original story itself, and as the saying perpetually goes, “the book was better”. In this case, one could state that – above hundreds of movies and television shows and countless other stories based on the Dickens masterpiece – the book is superior, and the point is driven home further when one examines the background that birthed A Christmas Carol.
I learned more of the background last night while poring over the theatre program. A Christmas Carol was written as far more than just a entertainment piece. It was an intentional statement, a blinding light shone through the besetting shadows of ignorance of the time. Penned in lieu of a pamphlet that Dickens had pledged to write on behalf of London’s poor, Dickens is quoted as saying of A Christmas Carol, “…when you see what I do, and where, and how, you will certainly feel that a Sledge hammer has come down with twenty times the force – twenty thousand times the force – I could exert by following out my previous idea.” I would suggest that Dickens underestimated the potency of his little tale, if that be possible, for it holds no less power today than it did well over a century ago; it still carries the force of more than all the world’s Sledge hammers combined.
The story’s power and influence are understandable in light of the fact that, even as Dickens’ prose has been borrowed and adapted a million times over, he was merely borrowing his theme from that of the Larger Gospel Story. And though I admire Dickens’ storytelling talent with great awe, I am more enamored with his clear stature as a prophet of God. His behavior often mirrored that of the Old Testament prophets. A family member said of him while relaying her observance of the penning of A Christmas Carol, “He wept and laughed, and wept again, and excited himself in the most extraordinary manner…it consumed all his energy and attention until it was out of his system.” Lord, do I ever know that feeling. I know many of us do.
These discharged thoughts on Dickens lead me to this: I have some stuff in me, “consuming my energy and attention” to the degree that I’m having difficulty functioning in any normal capacity. So I’m taking this week to try and flesh out a thing or two. I’m off work. I have no agenda, other than to make myself an available conduit for the healing of Christ, both for me and through me, to others. And because blogging can often feel like a job, I’m going to make myself scarce for a time in the cyberworld, as well. I’ll try and catch up with folks in a week or so. In the meantime, I pray you find Peace and Courage as we approach this Christmas. And may God bless us…oh, you know the rest.