There are two stories that are perennial favorites this time of year, Charles Dickens The Christmas Carol and Handel’s Messiah. Tony Reinke compares and contrasts their two different approaches to the meaning of Christmas.
Dickens. “For Dickens, Christmas is about getting unshackled from materialism to appreciate all the blessed relationships we’ve been given.” Ultimately, he argues, Dickens end goal is to effect our horizontal gaze. Moral reform is the ultimate goal.
“Remember! — It is Christianity To Do Good always — even to those who do evil to us…If we do this, and remember the life and lessons of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and try to act up to them, we may confidently hope that God will forgive us our sins and mistakes, and enable us to live and die in Peace.”
Handel. Handel, on the other hand quotes extensively from the bible. Particularly, his quotes draw our gaze upward to the exalted Savior who died and rose again to save his people from sin, death, and hell.
“I’m grateful Handel closed with yet another reference to the finished work of Christ. His entire message is soaked with the substitutionary blood of Christ. Jesus was born to die in our place, and died to be raised from the dead, and was raised to guarantee our bodily resurrection. In Handel’s work our eternal hope gets firmly placed on the shoulders of the Christ-child born in Bethlehem. Messiah is a magnificent work.”
The ultimate difference is that Dicken’s wants his readers to reconsider their lives, but Handel wants his hearers to worship the Savior of sinners. The article is worth the read just to get to his conclusions.
“For Dickens, Christmas is a reminder that we are all Scrooges, self-centered ungrateful nobs who yet have some hope of appeasing God through our personal reform.
For Handel, Christmas reminds us that we are all sinners, we are “in Adam,” and for that we are helpless to stop God’s righteous judgment towards our sin. Yet there is One who has paid the price to quench God’s wrath on our behalf.”