The Ghost of Christmas Present is aging fast


Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of those stories that bears retelling. I remember watching the 1951 version starring Alistair Sim on TV as a child and being terrified of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.  When the Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge Marley’s deathbed scene I think I learned the meaning of mortality before I ever heard the word. It was my first sobering visit with one of Dickens’ ghosts.

I think the Muppets might tell it best, though Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse both do credible jobs. The most recent Disney offering starring Jim Carrey is pretty good as is the BBC version.  And I sort of liked Bill Murray’s modern version, Scrooged. With each viewing one of the ghosts has had something different to show me.

Until last night I had not seen the 1999 version starring Patrick Stewart as Scrooge. This time the Ghost that spoke to me was the Ghost of Christmas Present. He’s a sort of a Bacchanal Father Christmas whose joy is so infectious that it influences Scrooge as much as the joy in the loving homes they visit together. As the evening wanes he becomes more like Father Time than Father Christmas. The aging present is a powerful reminder that time passes so quickly and cannot be reclaimed.

Scrooge needed to process past regrets or see the effect on the future his greed and selfishness would have, but the present is when change happens. The events of the night before transform Scrooge. The next morning he could have rationalized that his nephew wasn’t expecting him, that he shouldn’t horn in on the  Cratchits, that he needed time to process, but instead he got up, manned up, and showed up for Christmas Present. He is awkward and unsure how to be a generous, joyous Scrooge after all those years of greed and selfishness but he doesn’t waste one more moment.

The movie ends with Scrooge saying that he wants to “keep Christmas all the year through.”  It isn’t enough to realize the need for change or even to follow through on the things we feel convicted to change. That change has to remain a present tense experience.

The Ghost of Christmas Present reminded me that time will keep passing. Each year the Ghost of Christmas Present will age and another Christmas day will pass that cannot be reclaimed. Christmas is not the time for regret or fear but for hope and reconciliation, for joy and generosity. The present brings the party. Joy is a “now” experience. Sing and dance, hug and laugh, give gifts and rejoice.

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