Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
And so the ghost of Jacob Marley begins Ebeneezer Scrooge’s journey of redemption. It was already too late for Marley; he was cursed to be able to see things in the world that he could once have influenced – the hungry poor, the cold homeless – but as a spirit was unable to intervene in any way to help. His gift to his old business partner Scrooge was this warning; ‘Act now in the true business of man; you have less time than you think.’ And it was certainly a better present than a tie pin, ink well or whatever else Marley may have bought Scrooge whilst he was alive.
I’ve always been a sucker for stories of redemption; I guess that idea of a second chance, right up to the very last second of the last minute, is something that runs deep in all of us. But the thing that appeals to me about ‘A Christmas Carol’ is that at the end of it all, Scrooge isn’t just spiritually redeemed – he’s also got the wherewithal to make a difference in the world, to try to right some of the wrongs in the world (which he has contributed to wholeheartedly in his single-minded pursuit of his money).
‘A Christmas Carol’ seems to be one of those stories that gets repeated makeovers in film and TV to suit the age; I’ve seen ‘classic’ versions, versions set in the world of a TV Executive, set in the 1930s depression, in a Noughties East End housing estate. Then there are the many films influenced by the idea – ‘Groundhog Day’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ spring to mind. Irrespective of the age, the dress or the story, the theme is universal – a selfish man on the road to perdition is redeemed by making the business of mankind his personal business.
The first gift of Christmas was a child, born to make mankind his business. Let’s see what we can do to follow that example. And, in the words of Tiny Tim, ‘God bless us, everyone’.