Dickens seems to have experienced Christmas in the way many others do, as a time for remembering loved ones who have died. Therefore Christmas itself can lead to the remembrance of death. What seems to have altered Scrooge's character, however, is not merely the fact of his mortality, but also the fact that his sad death accentuates the worthlessness of his life.
Death, it seems to me, does have a way of refocusing our vision, helping us see what matters most in life. I've frequently had this experience as I participate in memorial services, something I do quite often as a pastor. Considering the death of someone else, and the things said about that person post mortem, cause me to examine the value of my own life. When my days on this earth have passed, will I have lived my life to the fullest?
Moreover, confronting one's own mortality can, indeed, lead to personal transformation. I think of people I've known who have had serious cancer, and who, in the aftermath, have decided to live with new priorities. Yet Christians believe that moving from death to life isn't something we can will into existence, but requires the regenerating work of God.
Finally, the theme of "death within Christmas" is also central to Christian theology. Though we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, we remember that His birth was a precursor to His death on the cross. It's common to interpret the gift of myrrh as a symbolic foretaste of Christ's death, since myrrh was used for embalming (see John 19:39). So, from a Christian point of view, the presence of death in A Christmas Carol makes sense.
Mark D. Roberts, as Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence for Laity Lodge, is an advisor and frequent contributor to TheHighCalling.org. A Presbyterian pastor, Mark earned his Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard University. He has written six books, including No Holds Barred: Wrestling with God in Prayer (WaterBrook, 2005). This series of reflections on A Christmas Carol were previously posted on his blog, www.markdroberts.com, and are reprinted with permission.