Dickens begins his tale by introducing two characters: Marley and Scrooge. Dickens uses 331 words to tell us that Marley is dead. In our day of fast food, microwave meals, drive-thru windows (we even abbreviate through), and one sentence paragraphs, 331 words might seem a little much to relay the fact that someone was dead. But I won’t get too bent out of shape about it if you don’t.
He spends the rest of the introduction telling us about Scrooge, who is very much alive—or is he? Notice the words Dickens uses to describe Scrooge: He was shriveled, stiff, and had blue lips. Is this a description of someone alive? Maybe a walking dead—didn’t know zombies were around in the 1800s did you? Also notice that no one talked to him; it is as if he was a ghost when he made his way through town. Even the dogs knew enough to avoid him and recognize the evil he represented.
Whether Scrooge was alive or dead, Dickens wants us to understand two things about Scrooge: he was alone, and he was stingy. Whether the aloneness led to the stinginess or the stinginess led to the aloneness, I’ll let you decide, but we must understand that this was Scrooge.
And yet we should know that the first of Scrooge’s conditions is not a state that man is supposed to be in. In Genesis, God repeats over and over that the creation is good. But finally in Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” We were created to be in fellowship with others. This should not surprise us since God is Trinity, three-in-one, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.
And so from the beginning we learn that Scrooge is outside what is good, and he is satisfied in that state: “But what did Scrooge care!”
But into Scrooge’s and our aloneness, God did something miraculous. He showed up. He came to be with us—people like Scrooge. Why? He was Immanuel—God with us. That’s who he was. And he was who he was despite us. Despite our Scrooginess. And don’t think for a moment that we were any better than Scrooge here. Whether Dickens wants us to believe Scrooge was a dead man walking or not, Paul definitely wants us to know that we were dead men and women walking before Christ changed us. “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you formerly walked.”
So let the introduction to A Christmas Carol remind you of who you were. And then rejoice in the fact that God came to earth to do something about that.