As I write this, it’s the evening of Dec. 23, and the Christmas shopping and traveling rush is approaching maximum intensity. If you’re still short one gift, I may have just the thing.
Available in paperback and for the Kindle (from Amazon.com) and the Nook (from BN.com), “The First Christmas Carol,” the debut novel from North Carolina writer Marianne Jordan, blends Charles Dickens’ 1843 classic novella with the Biblical story of the Nativity.
Luckily for Jordan, Ebenezer is a Hebrew name, so the miser of Dickens’ story is transformed under his original moniker from a Victorian-era London merchant into the First Century owner of a Bethlehem inn. On the first Christmas Eve, a young couple is turned away from his fully booked establishment — but soon finds help from his assistant, with Dickens’ Bob Crachit becoming Aaron (but Tiny Tim remains Timothy).
Instead of the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future, angels, beginning with Gabriel, visit Ebenezer. While Dickens frightens the miser with visions of his own demise, this version strikes at his heart by taking him ultimately to Calvary.
Jordan makes liberal use of Dickens’ plot and his original dialogue — by the way, if you think the various movie adaptations have great lines, read the original and realize Dickens would have made a great screenwriter.
As for the Biblical content, it’s all in there, with a few flourishes from the author, but “The First Christmas Carol” is true to the spirit of the Scriptural original.
It’s a charming little book, if you can keep reminding yourself that Ebenezer is a first-century Jew and will at no point don a black top hat and red waistcoat and sally forth into a snowy morning to the sound of child carolers.
While it’s not strictly a children’s book, the writing in “The First Christmas Carol” is spare and straightforward, and should appeal to older grade-schoolers and up, especially when paired with the relevant Bible passages and Dickens’ tale, which is well worth reading.
But, if you must watch a movie version, I reserve a spot in my heart for CBS’ 1984 version of “A Christmas Carol,” starring George C. Scott, and featuring Edward Woodward in a ripping rendition of the Ghost of Christmas Present (stilts, chest wig and all).
If you prefer something shorter, here’s a 1971 animated version done for television, but which went on to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Subject.
Richard Williams (who did the animation on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”) directed, and the producer was Chuck Jones, the man behind many Looney Tunes cartoons and the director of the 1966 TV version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (the only one worth watching, in my book).
So, as my Christmas gift to you, here’s “A Christmas Carol,” followed by “The Grinch.” And always remember, “Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp.”
God Bless Us, Every One.