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Friday, January 13, 2012

God Bless Us, Every One!


I try to read (or at least watch a good version of) Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol every Christmas.

I need to.

I need to be reminded that I'm not alone in this world, that going about my business just making sure my own wants and needs are met isn't the sum total of my life, that my willingness to give and care and love aren't dependent on what I receive in return. I need to remember that mercy, kindness and charity must start with me and that love is the only thing I can leave behind me. I need to remember to not forge my own "ponderous chain" of selfishness and insensitivity and hardheartedness.

As I watched this year though, I turned my attention from Scrooge and Bob Cratchit and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future and thought more about Fred.

Fred is Scrooge's nephew, the old man's opposite in every way. He's loving and open and generous. He goes out of his way, each and every Christmas it seems, to ask his uncle to come to his house for Christmas dinner. Every year, for who knows how many years, Scrooge sends him packing with a snarl and a sneer and a bah humbug.

And, yet, every year Fred comes back.

Every. Year.

And, at least in the year the story unfolds, Scrooge even goes as far as to claim he'd prefer to see his nephew in hell before coming to dinner with him. Of course, Dickens puts the matter quite delicately:

Scrooge said that he would see him–– yes, indeed he did. He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he would see him in that extremity first.


Clearly, nothing even remotely avuncular is intended.

Even so, Fred remains undaunted. "I want nothing from you," he tells his uncle. "I ask nothing of you; why cannot we be friends?"

Of course, Scrooge, being Scrooge as yet unreformed, sends him away, bidding him repeatedly and in more and more frustrated tones, "Good afternoon!"

Fred, knowing the response he got to his offer was never the point of his making it in the first place, leaves the room "without an angry word."

Later on, accompanied by the Spirt of Christmas Present, Scrooge sees the festivities going on at Fred's house and finds himself the topic of conversation. Fred, surrounded by laughing friends and his loving, "perfectly satisfactory" young wife, wisely observes of his uncle,"However, his offenses carry their own punishment, and I have nothing to say against him. Who suffers by his ill whims? Himself always!"

Fred pities his uncle, but he doesn't let the old man get in the way of his own enjoyment of the Christmas season. His joy isn't dependent on the results he gets, only in knowing he has done his part in offering love and mercy and acceptance to the old man.

It is a very Christlike attitude to take, and a healthy example to follow.

Jesus, as we all know, is often cursed and rejected and condemned by those He invites to come sup with Him. Still, his offer remains open to all who will accept it. We might snap and snarl and sneer at His offer. We might step back and narrow our eyes, wondering what He really wants from us. We might even call Him a humbug for even wanting to make the offer. But He makes it all the same. Over and over again.

And when we finally come?

Again, Fred and old Scrooge give us a lovely picture:

"It is I. Your Uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?"

Let him in! It's a mercy he didn't shake his arm off. He was at home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier. . . . Wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, won-der-ful happiness!


Fred never reproached his uncle. Fred never told him he'd had his chance already and turned it down and now it was too late. He didn't give him a grudging entry into the fellowship. No, he welcomed Scrooge with open arms and a still-open heart. He made Scrooge a real part of the family.

It's what Jesus offers all of us and what we ought to offer each other as we honor Christmas in our hearts and try to keep it all the year.


Is there someone you've been trying to reach with God's love over a long period of time?

What's your favorite version of A Christmas Carol/Scrooge?



DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, and Letters in the Attic, a contemporary mystery. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with four spoiled cats.

12 comments:

  1. DeAnna, I've decided I need to see a few Christmas Carol adaptations next year. I'd forgotten all about Fred.

    I can't answer your questions. I'm still stuck on avuncular. When I figure out what it means I plan on using it every day in conversation. :)

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  2. One of the best ways to tell someone's character is how they treat a person asking for forgiveness. Fred kind of reminds me of the father in the parable of the prodigal son. Once the move toward reconciliation is made it is like the hurts never occurred. Forgiveness freely given with no condemnation or resentment.

    So hard to do though!!

    I know I'm plebian, but my favorite version of A Christmas Carol is the Disney cartoon with Mickey, and Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck, et al.

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  3. DeAnna, this is a beautiful reminder of how we should offer Christlike forgiveness.

    I've enjoyed a variety of Scrooge movies. I didn't watch any this year, though. I can't think of a favorite version.

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  4. I like the Scrooge with Donald Duck. I see Lisa said the same thing.

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  5. Hmm, nice pick, DeAnna. I'd never thought of Fred as a figure of Christ, but yes, I think you made the case well. Always knocking gently at the door.

    My favorite version has to be the Muppets Christmas Carol, for which I have been repeatedly chastened for not preferring something more scholarly and adult. But since Donald Duck has repeated votes, I feel safe in expressing that opinion here.

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  6. @debra: "Avuncular" basically means acting like an uncle. I'm not sure why there's a fancy word for it. I don't know of a corresponding one for "aunt-like."

    @Lisa: You're so right. It's very hard to do. But I think, especially in the case of Christ, the love and the sadness at the break in fellowship are the foremost emotions, more than anger at whatever offense there has been. But, yes, it's hard.

    @everybody: I'm ashamed to say I haven't seen the Donald Duck or the Muppet versions, and I typically love well done kids' stuff. I must go check them out!

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  7. Deanna, what struck me about your post was the faithfulness Fred showed even though his offers were rejected time and time again, and with such vehemance.

    Reminds me of a time with my oldest daughter. After I'd tell her she had to do something (generally clean her room) or that she couldn't do something (go play with friends without having cleaned her room) she would scream, "I hate you, you're the worst mom in the world."

    Would be easy to take her vehemance personally. There were days I wanted to.

    Showing grace, compassion, and love in light of another's hostilty goes against our nature. Thankfully our nature was crucified with Christ, so it's not us who live but Christ in us. I remind myself of that when I want to take slight at another's hurtful words.

    Love and forgive as we would want to be loved and forgive.

    Fred was/is a great example.

    Thank you for the reminder!!

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  8. Yeah, I don't know why I hadn't really thought about Fred before, but he really is a sterling example of love and faithfulness and forgiveness.

    Maybe I noticed because, in the version I just saw, he was voiced by Colin Firth.

    :::sigh:::

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  9. Wonderful post, DeAnna. Inspiring thoughts about Fred...I'll be thinking about him in a different light.

    --Wait, did you say Colin Firth? Which version? Was it the Jim Carey version? There were some things I liked about that one.

    I like the Mickey Mouse version, but I confess I also like Scrooged.

    I have yet to see the Dora or Barbie versions, ;)

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  10. Yes, it was the Jim Carey version. I mostly liked it. It was scarier than I expected and sometimes a bit too "thrill ride" for my tastes. But I enjoyed it.

    There are Dora and Barbie versions? Jiminey!

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  11. This sounds good but I personally think that the idea of 'uncoditional love' can be taken to extremes. Is it truly 'loving' for a person to stand by passively and allow one person's actiosn to cause harm, pain or suffering to others when it is in out power to prevent this from happpening?

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  12. C.S Lewis once wrote "Forgiveness must be accepted as well as offered if it is to be complete". It was all well and good for Fred to be nice and kind to scrooge but unless and until he accepted Fred's forgiveness there could be no reconciliation.
    Too many Christians have a rather one-sided view of forgiveness which stresses only the act of offering forgiveness, but not the neccesity of accepting it.

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