Thursday, 25 November 2010


Last night, Emma and I went to see A Christmas Carol at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds.

Like most people I was very familiar with the plot, having seen several different renditions of it over the years, so I wasn't hugely excited about seeing another one, but I have to say it was brilliantly done and I found it very enjoyable!

It's a classic redemption story.  Selfish, miserly, miserable Scrooge has no time for anyone or anything except his money and it seems the only thing that can shake him out of it is a good haunting!  Scrooge is visited first by the ghost of his late partner, Jacob Marley, who comes to warn him of pending doom if he doesn't change his ways.  He is then visited by 3 other spirits - the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future - who show him the current and final consequences of his behaviour.  These experiences shake Scrooge to the core and by the end of them he is a changed man who becomes joyfully generous toward all his fellows and fully appreciates the value of love and compassion over cold hard selfish greed.

This story reminded me first of the New Testament story of Zacchaeus.  Zacchaeus was a tax collector, which in first century Judea made him a very unpopular person.  Not only did he collect taxes on behalf of the hated Roman occupiers, but it was common for tax collectors to charge more than was really owed so they could keep a little extra for themselves.

Zacchaeus is curious to see this man Jesus who everyone is talking about, but he's too short to see what's going on - so he climbs a tree!  Jesus stops below the tree, identifies Zacchaeus by name and invites himself into his house!  Zacchaeus is delighted to have such a prestigious guest, but the crowd are not impressed - "He has gone to be the guest of a sinner"!  Zacchaeus however, seems to have had a major change of heart over the whole incident - "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Jesus' response: "Today salvation has come to this house".

The biggest difference between the 2 stories above is that Zacchaeus is changed by kindness rather than fear (although in Scrooge's case it could well be argued that the fear was actually a kindness to him).  Jesus doesn't seem averse to using the fear approach as well though when necessary - as this story shows, which seems very reminiscent of the fate of poor Jacob Marley:

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’

Parable told by Jesus - see Luke 16:19-31

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