The Christmas Carol: Do We Believe in the Miracle of Transformation?

transformationI love reading about the holiday rituals of my readers.

If you follow my Facebook Page you’ve seen discussions about our different rituals there. If you’d like to share yours, please comment below so we can all enjoy them.

One of my personal rituals developed on its own, the way the best ones often do.

Every year, if I’m lucky enough to find one, I watch a different version of The Christmas Carol. I’ve seen the traditional versions, some nearly as old as film itself, and many more recent. I’ve seen a staged version set during World War II, and listened to a concert on public radio of songs from musical versions throughout the years. I’ve seen the Muppets and Mr. Magoo. And yes, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, the first animated holiday television special ever, is my favorite for both the sweetness of the story and the music.

This year we watched a version filmed in the UK and enjoyed Scrooge as a loan shark who more or less sends poor Marley to his death when he tells a drug boss where to find him.

Every single time I see this story and at the end of every version, I end up teary-eyed, even though Scrooge’s final transformation is never a surprise.

Transformation is a beautiful thing indeed.

Have you witnessed transformation personally, either in your own life or in someone else’s? Have you watched someone you’ve almost given up on change their life? A neighbor told me recently that drug addicts never change and there’s no point in believing they will, as if one opioid dose too many means someone is forever beyond hope. Or twenty. Or a hundred. What’s the magic number when the hope of transformation disappears?

And yet despite that pessimistic outlook, addicts can and do change. The NIH website says: “According to research that tracks individuals in treatment over extended periods, most people who get into and remain in treatment stop using drugs, decrease their criminal activity, and improve their occupational, social, and psychological functioning.”

I can’t imagine how hard it must be to rely on drugs and then stop using them. Sadly there are no ghosts of past, present or future to help, only addiction counselors, friends and family. Recovery takes hard work, the reality of relapse, the support of loved ones and time. It also takes a belief in the reality of transformation.

Who else do we demonize?

According to Michael Gerson, columnist for the Washington Post, prisoners receive the same absence of concern. He says: “With no other group dependent on government care does the discourse begin, ‘Well, who cares?'”

Gerson goes on to say that yes, there are violent, vicious characters who deserve to be in prison. But then he adds that there are good reasons to care about what happens there. Do we believe that every life has value? Do we believe that the way we treat prisoners determines their level of bitterness and criminality when they are free again? Do we realize how many people are touched by the lives of criminals, like their children, and will be affected by the way prisoners are treated?

Gerson was instructed in these matters by the late Chuck Colson, who at one time was a particularly ruthless and devious special counsel to President Richard Nixon, and who later became prisoner 23226. During his incarceration Colson learned he had an extraordinary talent for relating to inmates, and he accepted a Christian calling to speak to and for them. Gerson’s editorial is brilliant. I hope you’ll read it here.

Do we believe Colson transformed his life and ended it by doing tremendous good? Do we believe in Ebenezer Scrooge? How about Saul of Tarsus and other Biblical figures who changed to become prophets and leaders?

How about Charlotte in One Mountain Away, or Tessa, Helen and Nancy in Wedding Ring? Transformation is a theme in almost all my books, and one I’m proud to write about.

I  believe in transformation. I love The Christmas Carol because it reminds me each year, in all its guises, that people can change, not just other people, but me, as well. I can’t think of a more fitting message at this time of year, no matter what else you believe.

I hope your Christmas to come or your Hanukkah just past has or will be a holiday of transforming love in your life. I am grateful for all of you, for the stories you tell me, and for your interest in my own. Happy holidays to all.

PS: The Christmas Carol is 175 years old today–12/20/2018


  1. Nelda Steffen on December 20, 2018 at 10:56 am

    Please do not fall into the words Happy Holidays but use Merry Christmas because of Christ we would not have Christmas.

    • Emilie Richards on December 20, 2018 at 11:12 am

      The word “holiday” comes from the Old English words for “holy days.” I respect and appreciate all winter holy day traditions, including Christmas, which actually has incorporated many of the pagan traditions centered around the winter solstice, like mistletoe, holly, adorning a tree and others. I think being inclusive of other religions at this time of year is the best way to celebrate the hope and joy associated with the birth of Jesus. In no way does wishing anyone happy holidays change that. It binds us closer together, surely the point of all our celebrations.

  2. Denise on December 20, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    Very well said Emilie Richards, very well said. Thank you too for your insightful message. I have seen amazing transformations in people in my life. There is always hope.

  3. Lynn Ross on December 20, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    Beautifully stated, Emilie! I say, “Happy Holy-days” or “Blessed Holy-days” myself, because they are all holy to me.

  4. Lynn Ross on December 20, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    Wonderful post as always, Emilie! Regarding our ability to transform, I definitely do believe in transformation. It is a difficult and ongoing process, and it takes as long as it takes, and we are never finished. I have never been addicted to anything, but I have had a great transformation in my own personal being. I have also seen others transform, and I have worked to help people transform. However, first, the person must see the need to change and want to change. Until we reach that point, transformation is impossible.

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