Dancing Toward Christmas
I was an English major before I was a pastor, and sentimental as it is, I really like the writing of Charles Dickens. Mind you, no one would who’s actually read them would suggest that his works are overtly Christian. (He was most certainly influenced by the Social Gospel of 19th century Anglicanism, but he’s definitely not a proponent of orthodoxy.) Which is why I find it all the more interesting when film versions of “A Christmas Carol” give even so much as nod in the direction of the church – think Patrick Stewart stopping by the local parish for a few rousing carols before heading off to dinner with the family. For Dickens, the redemption of Ebeneezer Scrooge is clearly secular and humanist.
So, when in the final scene of the Albert Finney musical version of the tale, over-the-top prodigal Scrooge is transformed into Father Christmas and leads the parade of street urchins, tradesmen, bell ringers and Morris Dancers through the streets of London, we hardly need the insertion of vicars and choir boys to tell us what is going on. But the screenwriters and directors obviously thought it would provide a fitting touch, so they did.
Thereby providing us with a wonderfully ironic example of how when the church is out of touch with the people, the parade may just have to come to the church.
Two world views collide. And when the raucous celebration of Christmas, led by the greatest reprobate of all, confronts the precise piety of staid and proper worship, guess which prevails. It takes a moment or two for the choir boys to break ranks and join the parade, but they do. Even the nonplussed vicar manages a bit of modest (if out-of-tempo) participation. And, at least for a moment, the world is a better place.