What the Dickens! A Christmas Carol
Leader 1: This is a special night – Christmas Eve, the night before we celebrate the birth of a Jewish leader whose life and words have changed the minds and hearts of many to the side of goodness, generosity and caring.
Leader 2: In honor of that birth, tonight we tell the story of a man whose heart was changed toward goodness in the course of one extraordinary night.
Leader 1: We invite you now to join us in our opening words (#616, Singing the Living Tradition) by the great Unitarian Universalist Religious Educator Sophia Lyon Fahs.
*Gathering Song #253, "O Come, All Ye Faithful"
Chalice Lighting — During our service, we'll hear a classic story written by the great Unitarian writer Charles Dickens. We light our chalice with his words:
I have always thought of Christmas time,
when it has come round, as a good time;
a kind, forgiving, charitable time;
the only time I know of,
in the long calendar of the year,
when men and women seem by one consent
to open their shut-up hearts freely,
and to think of people below them
as if they really were fellow passengers.
We light our chalice tonight for all our fellow passengers in this life, that this holiday may bring lightness where there is heaviness, joy where there is sorrow.
*Hymn #235, "Deck the Hall"
A Christmas Carol, Part 1
Leader 1: In 1843, shortly after visiting Unitarians here in the United States, and shortly after joining a Unitarian church in his country, England, Charles Dickens wrote the beloved story called, “A Christmas Carol.”
Leader 2: It's about a man named Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge loved money above all other things. To him it was the most important thing in life – more important than family, friends, the people who worked for him or people in general.
Leader 1: Let’s see what Dickens said happened to Scrooge one fateful Christmas, let’s start our Christmas Eve play!
Narrator 1: Once upon a time, of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve day, old Ebenezer Scrooge sat busy in his money counting house. [sound effect, bell strikes three times]
Narrator 2: Outside in the cold, bleak weather, the city clocks had only just struck three in the afternoon, but it was quite dark already. Carriages and sleighs went by, the horses’ bells jingling in the winter air.
[sound effect jingling bells]
Narrator 1: Scrooge kept a careful eye upon his clerk, who sat at a dismal little desk, copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal.
Narrator 2: Meanwhile, the fog and darkness thickened, and the cold became piercing. Some carolers passed by outdoors, singing.
Choir: "God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen" [While the choir sings, Bob Cratchit looks up, listens, and smiles at Scrooge. Scrooge scowls at him and Cratchit returns to work.]
Scrooge: Christmas! Bah! Humbug! (opens the door) Go away, you miserable little beggars! Take your Christmas carols and get away from my door! (slams door)
Children’s Choir: Merry Christmas!
Scrooge: (to Bob Cratchit) I live in a world of fools! “Merry Christmas?” If I had my way everyone who said “Merry Christmas” would be cooked for his own Christmas dinner! Ha! Back to work!
Narrator 1: At length, the hour of closing arrived, and Bob Cratchit, the clerk, stood up and put on his scarf.
Scrooge: You’ll want all day off tomorrow, I suppose, it being Christmas Day?
Cratchit: If quite convenient, Sir.
Scrooge: It’s not convenient, and it’s not fair. I pay a day’s wages for no work.
Cratchit: But it’s only once a year.
Scrooge: A poor excuse for picking a man’s pockets every twenty-fifth of December! (putting on his coat) But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be sure to be here all the earlier the next morning.
Cratchit: I promise. Merry Christmas, sir! (leaves)
Scrooge: Merry Christmas? Bah! Humbug! Humbug, I say! (walks out, closes and locks door)
Leader 1: Something amazing was about to happen to Ebenezer Scrooge. A star of truth was about to shine in his life, and he had to find the courage to follow it. Let us rise now and sing “Within the Shining of a Star”
*Hymn #238, “Within the Shining of a Star"
A Christmas Carol, Part 2
Leader 1: How do you like the story so far? Charles Dickens, who wrote it, knew what was like to be poor. When he was 12 years old, his family lost all they had and were sent to a jail for poor people. Charles was sent to work in a factory, for ten hours a day, to help pay his family’s debts.
Leader 2: Later he worked as a clerk, like Bob Cratchit. He learned how hard things were for poor families. All his life Charles Dickens wrote books about how hard things were for poor people. He used his gift of story telling to help others. Let’s get back to the story,…
Narrator 1: Scrooge went home to his chambers which had once belonged to his dead business partner, Jacob Marley. They were a gloomy set of rooms in an old and dreary building where nobody lived but him.
Narrator 2: The yard around the building was so dark that Scrooge had to grope with his hands. As he found the doorknob and put key to lock, he saw not a knob but the face of Jacob Marley. [sound effects, key in lock, scary ghost noise, rattling chains]
Narrator 1: Scrooge had not given one thought to his former business partner Jacob Marley since his death seven years earlier. Startled, Scrooge looked upon the face of Jacob Marley and stared as it turned back again to just a knob.
Narrator 2: Scrooge put his hand upon the key, turned it sturdily, walked in, and lighted his candle.
Scrooge: Humbug (closes door with a bang)
Narrator 1: Scrooge walked through his rooms to see that all was right. (Scrooge acts this out as Narrator speaks.) Nobody under the table, nobody under the sofa and a small fire in the grate.
Narrator 2: Quite satisfied he put on his dressing gown and his night-cap, locked his sleeping room door and sat down before the fire.
Narrator 1: As Scrooge sat there, he heard a clanking noise, deep down below, as if some person were dragging a heavy chain in the cellar. [sound effect, chains]
Narrator 2: He heard the cellar door fly open with a booming sound, and then heard the noise coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door. [sound effects, loud boom, feet on stairs, chains becoming louder]
Scrooge: It’s humbug still!
Narrator 1: It was not a humbug (whatever that is). It was a ghost!
Narrator 2: Now don’t be scared, no one gets hurt in this play!
Narrator 1: I wasn’t scared. Humbug!
Narrator 2: Without a pause, the ghost came through the heavy door, and passed into the room before Scrooge’s eyes.
(Marley enters) [sound effects, chains and the rattling of a money box.]
Narrator 1: A chain clasped about the Ghost’s middle held ledgers…
Narrator 2: Those are books where people keep track of money
Narrator 1: deeds…
Narrator 2: Those are papers about who owns property
Narrator 1: and cash-boxes, keys, and padlocks made of steel.
Scrooge: Who are you?
Marley: In life I was your business partner, Jacob Marley.
Scrooge: Humbug, I tell you – humbug!
Marley: (Cries out and rattles his chains) Scrooge! Hear me!
[sound effects, chains]
Scrooge: (holding tight to his chair, scared at last) Dreadful Ghost, why do you trouble me?
Marley: I wear the chain I made in life. Each time I made money more important than people, each time I made some poor family lose their home, each time I sent a poor person to prison, I made another link in this chain – and now, in death, I must drag it after me. It is a dreadful burden, Scrooge!
Hear me! My time is nearly gone. I am here tonight to warn you, so that you have yet a chance of escaping my fate.
You will be haunted this very evening by Three Spirits. Expect the first when the bell tolls midnight.
Expect the second when it strikes two.
Expect the third when it strikes four in the morning!
For your own sake, remember what will pass!”
Scrooge: (weakly ) Bah.
Narrator 2: Scared and tired, Scrooge went straight to bed and fell into a fitful sleep.
Leader1: Ebenezer went to sleep to dream, perhaps of another midnight clear, when angels sang onto the earth. Let us rise now and sing.
*Hymn #244 It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
A Christmas Carol, Part 3
Leader1: Now I said the Scrooge loved money more than friends, but maybe he had one friend, anyway. Maybe this man Marley was his friend, because he came back to tell Scrooge the truth.
Leader2: Friends do that sometimes. Sometimes a good friend will tell us the truth about how we could be better people. Do you think Scrooge will listen to this friend, or to the ghosts that would come? Let’s see….
Narrator 1: Scrooge awoke when he heard the bell sounding the hour of midnight.
[sound effect, bell tolling twelve times, slowly]
Narrator 2: Light flashed in the room, and the curtains were drawn aside. Scrooge found himself face to face with an unearthly visitor. It wore a tunic of the purest white, and a lustrous belt, and the dress trimmed with summer flowers.
Ghost of Christmas Past: I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Narrator 2: As the Ghost spoke these words, she clasped Scrooge’s hand and they passed through the wall, and soon stood upon a country road with fields on either side.
[sound effect, transitional sound effect]
Scrooge: Good heavens! I was a boy here!
Narrator 1: Walking the road he recognized every gate, and post, and tree. Soon they came to a school.
Ghost of Christmas Past: The school is not quite deserted. A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.
Narrator 2: Scrooge beheld himself as a child, thin, cold, alone at Christmas time in the old school, with no one to care for him.
Scrooge: (sadly) I know the boy.
Narrator 1: Scrooge sobbed as he remembered what a sad child he had been, always alone on Christmas Day.
[sound effect, transitional sound effect]
Narrator 2: The Ghost grasped his hand again, then stopped at a warehouse door.
Scrooge: Oh! Fezziweg’s! I had my first job here.
Narrator 1: In they went and at the sight of an old gentleman sitting behind a high desk, Scrooge cried out
Scrooge: Why, it’s old Fezziwig! Bless his heart, it’s Fezziwig alive again!
Fezziweg: (lays down his pen and looks at his watch) Yo ho, there! Ebenezer! Dick!
Narrator 2: Scrooge’s former self, now a young man, came briskly in, accompanied by a fellow apprentice (they do)
Fezziweg: Yo ho, my boys! No more work tonight. Christmas Eve, Ebenezer. Christmas Eve, Dick.
Scrooge: Oh, the Christmas party! He threw such marvelous parties – plenty of cake, and punch and pie. It was glorious. (sourly) Of course it cost him a fortune.
Narrator 1: Scrooge could scarcely believe his eyes, seeing himself as he was then.
Narrator 2: As a jolly Christmas party began, Scrooge caught sight of a young girl, Fezziweg’s daughter, Belle. (the young adult Scrooge crosses to her, takes her hand)
Scrooge: Ah, Belle, as lovely as ever. She always took my breath away. That was before I took the job with Marley, and became infected with greed.
[sound effect, transitional sound effect]
Narrator 2: And then again, away Scrooge and the Ghost went. Again Scrooge saw himself; older now, a man in the prime of his life with an eager, greedy, restless motion in his eyes.
Narrator 1: He sat not alone but with Belle, who had tears trailing down her cheeks. He had loved this girl once, and they were to be married.
Scrooge: Oh Spirit, do not show me this day.
Girl: (to the young Scrooge). We cannot marry, Ebenezer. You do not love me as you did. I fear a golden idol replaces me and gain engrosses you.
Narrator 2: She rose and walked sadly away. Love of money had made him lose her. (young adult Ebenezer looks after her, then turns and walks away).
Scrooge: No, no! Don’t go Belle!
Ghost of Christmas Past: She cannot hear you.
Scrooge: (to his younger self, who can’t hear) Oh, foolish young man, to have prized money over that woman! (to the Spirit) Ghost! Remove me from this place.
Ghost of Christmas Past: I told you these were shadows of the things that have been. That they are what they are, do not blame me!
Scrooge: Remove me! I cannot bear it! Take me back. Haunt me no longer!
[transitional sound effect]
Narrator 1: Scrooge found himself in his own bedroom, and fell heavily back to sleep.
Leader1: When the star of truth shone into Scrooge’s life, he had the courage to follow and to see what treasures its light revealed. Some were painful, but valuable all the same.
Please remain seated as we sing together a song about treasures brought to a special child by earthly kings. Hymn #259 “We Three Kings”
*Hymn #259 “We Three Kings”
A Christmas Carol, Part 4
Leader1: Can you imagine seeing yourself as you once were? What a gift the spirit of Christmas Past gave Scrooge, helping him remember how he became the man he was.
Leader2: It was a painful gift for Scrooge. Let’s see how he was able to receive it and the gift of the next spirit.
Narrator 2: Scrooge woke in the middle of a great snore , knowing the bell was about to strike two. Trembling, he watched and waited.
[Sound effect, bell striking two]
Narrator 1: He saw a blaze of ruddy light, which was more alarming than a dozen ghosts. He got up softly and shuffled in his slippers to the adjoining room, from whence the light seemed to shine.
Ghost of Christmas Present: Ebenezer Scrooge, good fellow! Come in, come in! (Scrooge does so)
Narrator 2: Heaped upon the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, great joints of meat, long wreaths of sausages, mince pies,…
Narrator 1: I guess they weren’t vegetarians, were they? But there were also plum puddings, barrels of red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, and seething bowls of punch.
Narrator 2: Above it sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see.
Ghost of Christmas Present: I am the Ghost of Christmas Present.
Scrooge: Spirit, conduct me where you will.
[sound effect: transitional sound effect]
Narrator 1: Gone was the fine food and punch; gone was the room and warm fire. Instead Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present stood on the threshold of Bob Cratchit’s door.
Ghost of Christmas Present: Blessings on this house and all who dwell within!
Narrator 2: They went through to door as if it were merely a mist. Inside they found a merry bustle as the Cratchit family prepared for Christmas dinner.
Scrooge: Why it’s Bob Cratchit! This must be his house. This must be his family.
Narrator 1: The Cratchit children set chairs for everyone. Bob took his son, Tiny Tim beside him. Tiny Tim was small and thin and sickly. He could not walk very well, and needed a crutch to get along.
Scrooge: And who is that little fellow?
Ghost of Christmas Present: That is Tiny Tim.
Scrooge: Why is he walking with a crutch?
Ghost of Christmas Present: Ah, I fear that Tiny Tim is not well. He has been sickly all his young life.
Narrator 2: At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. Mrs. Cratchit brought in a small goose on a platter.
Tiny Tim: (beatiing on the table with the handle of his knife) Hurrah!
Cratchit: A toast to the founder of the feast, Ebenezer Scrooge (he raises his glass).
Mrs. Cratchit: Founder of the feast, indeed. How can he expect you to support a fine family on such a small salary?
Cratchit: My dear, it is Christmas and we are meant to be generous with all, even Mr. Scrooge.
Tiny Tim: To Mr. Scrooge, then! God bless him!
Cratchit: (drinks a toast) Yes, a Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!
Rest of the family: Merry Christmas! God bless us!
Tiny Tim: (last) God bless us every one!” (then he has a coughing fit, and everyone in the family looks worried)
Scrooge: Spirit, tell me if Tiny Tim will live.
Ghost of Christmas Present: I see a vacant seat in the poor chimney corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved.
Scrooge: But no, that cannot be. Can nothing be done?
Ghost of Christmas Present: If these shadows remain unaltered by the future, the child will die.
Leader1: Things are looking sad as Scrooge’s heart slowly opens. This is a gift of Christmas. Even when things are difficult, we believe in the messages it brings. Let us rise and sing #248 “O, We Believe in Christmas” to raise our spirits before our story continues.
*Hymn #248 “O, We Believe in Christmas”
A Christmas Carol, Part 5
Leader1: Because of the gift of truth from the Ghost of Christmas past, Scrooge has seen himself as a lonely child transformed into a man more inspired by greed than love.
Leader2: Because of the gift of the ghost of Christmas present, Scrooge has seen the hidden, home life of his worker, Bob Cratchit. He has seen a sickly child, who blesses everyone. This touches the old miser’s heart.
Leader1: It must have made Scrooge think – here was a boy whose life was even worse than his, except this child had a loving family. What gift do you think the next spirit will bring? And how will Scrooge react? Let’s find out.
[sound effect, bell striking four]
Narrator 1: Scrooge lifted his eyes, and beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming towards him. It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its form, and left nothing visible save one outstretched hand.
Scrooge: I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?
Narrator 2: The Ghost answered not, but pointed downward with its hand.
Scrooge: You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in time. Is that so, Spirit?
Narrator 1: Although used to ghostly company by this time, Scrooge feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled beneath him, and he found that he could hardly stand.
Scrooge: Lead on! Lead on! The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!
[sound effect: transitional sound effect]
Narrator 2: Scrooge looked to find himself outside the door of Bob Cratchit’s house once again.
[sound effect, children crying]
Scrooge: Why do they weep, Spirit?
Narrator 1: The spirit said nothing, just pointed to Bob Cratchit, coming up the street, head bowed down. Cratchit sighs, then squares his shoulders as he opens the door.
[sound effect: door opening]
Cratchit: (to his wife, as cheerfully as possible) Sorry I’m late, my dear. I was at the churchyard visiting Tiny Tim’s grave. I promised him I would visit it often.
Mrs. Cratchit: Oh, Bob (cries) I miss him so much.
Cratchit: So do I, my dear. So do we all. (the family gathers into a group hug)
Scrooge: (crying) That’s enough, cruel Spirit! Is there no hope that Tiny Tim could live?
Narrator 2: The Spirit said nothing, just raised one ghastly arm and pointed. The next moment, the Spirit and Scrooge stood in a graveyard. The Spirit pointed to one of the graves.
[sound effect: transitional sound effect]
Scrooge: What is this place? Is this where poor Tiny Tim is buried?
Narrator 1: The ghost said nothing, but merely pointed at a headstone.
Narrator 2: Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went. Following the finger, he read upon the stone of a neglected grave his own name.
Scrooge: Ebenezer Scrooge. No, Spirit! Oh no, no!
Narrator 1: The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Be did not stir, did not move.
Scrooge: Spirit! (clutching at its robes) hear me! I am not the man I was. Good Spirit, assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, if I change my life!
Narrator 2: The Spirit did not move.
Scrooge: I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!
Narrator 1: Holding up his hands in one last prayer, he saw an alteration in the Ghost’s hood and dress.
[sound effect: transitional sound effect]
Narrator 2: It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bed post.
Scrooge: I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future! The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley! Heaven and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees! Thank you for warning me! Thank you for giving me another chance!
Narrator 1: Running to the window, he opened it, put out his head and felt clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold.
Narrator 2: Golden sunlight, Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious. Glorious! Below in the street, the same carolers sang.
Children’s Choir “Good King Wenceslaus”
Scrooge: (listening to the song) And a good king he was! What a fitting tale of charity and kindness! Hey there, boy! What’s today?
Boy: Today? Why, it is CHRISTMAS DAY!
Scrooge: Saints be praised! Merry Christmas!
Boy: Merry Christmas!
Scrooge: Fine fellow, do you know if they’ve sold the prize Turkey hanging at the store? You know the one? It is as big as you!
Boy: It’s hanging there now.
Scrooge: Go and buy it and tell them to bring it here.
Boy: Yes sir, Mr. Scrooge! (to the audience) What’s gotten into him? It must be a Christmas miracle! (runs off)
Scrooge: (to himself, chuckling) I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s! He sha’n’t know who sends it. It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim.
Narrator 1: Scrooge dressed himself “all in his best”, and at last went out into the streets. Scrooge regarded everyone with a delighted smile.
Narrator 2: He went to church, and walked about, watched the people, patted children on the head, talked with beggars, and found that everything could yield him pleasure.
Leader1: Soon we will conclude our play, but first let us rise and sing together, in the spirit of this happy moment, #240 I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Hymn #240 I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
A Christmas Carol Concludes
Narrator 1: The day after Christmas, Scrooge was early at the office. He was waiting when Bob Cratchit entered, a little late. (Bob enters)
[sound effect, door opening and closing, bell rings]
Scrooge: (pretending to be angry) Mister Cratchit! What do you mean by coming in this late!
Cratchit: I’m very sorry, sir. It won’t happen again.
Scrooge: Bob Cratchit, I cannot stand this any longer. Therefore, I am going to… raise your salary! (laughs)
Cratchit: (puzzled) Raise it sir? Are you feeling well, Mr. Scrooge?
Scrooge: Better than ever in my whole life! A merry Christmas, Bob! (goes to him and shakes his hand) And may it be a merrier Christmas, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year!
Cratchit: (more surprised still) You are serious! And a Merry Christmas to you, too, sir! (shakes his hand back)
Scrooge: Not only do I intend to raise your salary, Bob Cratchet, I intend to provide Tiny Tim with the finest medical care that can be found.
Cratchit: Tiny Tim? How do you know about my son, sir?
Scrooge: Oh, never you mind, right now. I have quite a tale to tell, such as you would never believe! We will discuss all that this very afternoon, Bob, over a cup of Christmas punch! For now, let’s see what we can do for some of the poor people who rent apartments from me!
Narrator 2: Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father.
Narrator 1: He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good man, as the good old city knew.
Narrator 2: And it was always said of him, from that great night forward, that he knew how to keep Christmas well.
(full cast assembles on the chancel)
Narrator 1: May that be truly said of all of us!
Narrator 2: And so, as Tiny Tim observed…
Whole Cast: God Bless Us, Every One! (then they lead the next song)_
Song We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Leader1: And so our story concludes. Thank you to all who worked to make it happen!
*Closing Song “Silent Night”