"Man of the worldly mind, do you believe in me or not!?"
(A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)
Christmas. The Holiday Season. It's a wonderful, or awful time of the year depending on your circumstances at the current time in your life. Personally, it is my favorite time of year.
Every year around this time I turn into a kid again. I get excited and giddy (yes I said giddy...I know) about the Christmas music, the hustle and bustle of people shopping for their loved ones, Christmas movies that mean a lot to me and give me all those nostalgia feels. It's all around a great time of year for me.
(And if you do find yourself on the opposite end of the spectrum during this time of year, I understand and promise that this journal entry is for you too)
As a child my excitement of Christmas revolved around one thing: Santa. That's right, the fat jolly guy himself was so mysteriously glorious to me that all I had to do was begin to think about him and the fact that he would be visiting my house this year to bring me all my favorite toys was enough to prevent any chance of sleep on the nights just before Christmas, let alone Christmas Eve itself!! Once I got a little older and found out that all the wonderful things I believed about the big red guy were not as true as I wished them to be, Christmas was not so magical for a while. It was nice to get presents for sure, but as I got older and was able to buy more things that I wanted throughout the year, the appeal of Christmas being centered around gifts began to lose it's luster as well.
Then in my early twenties, I began taking my Christian faith more seriously. I began seriously considering what the Bible was saying. I began studying it in it's original context and asking more questions than I had answers for and I would not give up searching for those answers until I either found them, or had peace with the fact that there aren't answers at this point in time, but one day there would be. During this process however something began to happen inside me. What I know as The Holy Spirit, began changing how I thought; how I looked at life; how I treated people and what things became important to me and what things became less important. One of the things that became more important to me was Christmas time. I began to regain my childlike wonder of the season, but for a different reason.
The more I learn about Jesus and the more I am being changed by God, the more wonderful Christmas becomes for me. It's no longer about the presents, it's no longer about the lights or the music (although I do love all those things and more). It's about the hero of our story vanquishing evil by coming through the unseen realm and into ours to become one of us to save us from the evil outside and inside of us all.
So what in the world does that have to do with horror?
I'm glad you asked.
Horror is a VERY important genre because it shows us many truths about our world (seen and unseen). I will dive more deeply into that in my next entry "The Importance of The Horror Genre", but for now I will simply state that horror deserves our attention and it must be taken seriously if we are to learn anything in this life worth knowing.
Christmastime in our culture as we know it currently is about Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men. It's about family and spending time with those we love and giving gifts and charity to not only those we love, but those less fortunate than ourselves. It's about thinking outside of our little bubbles and to quote Dickens', "A Christmas Carol", it's a time when people, "open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."
And for those of us who are Christians, it is about the Savior of the world coming down to save us all from ourselves so we can trust him, be in relationship with him, and therefore from that relationship, genuinely understand and feel that sentiment (as quoted above) that Scrooge's nephew, Fred boldly proclaimed to his uncle in Scrooge's counting house on Christmas Eve.
What brings Christmas & Horror together very well is the story I have brought up. The truths of, "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens are quite wonderful, yet also quite horrifying. Even though A Christmas Carol is not distinctly "Christian" and is more of a morality tale, there are so many Christian truths to be found in this story.
The first horror of the story is Scrooge himself. He is a perfect representation of what a human can turn into if he does not know and is freed by Christ. C.S. Lewis described it perfectly in his book, "The Great Divorce" as he referred to those who never trust in God, but continue on their path of complaining and selfishness, would turn into a creature called a Grumble and would therefore cease to be human. Scrooge fits this description perfectly. At the beginning of the story he is well on his way to completely changing into this Grumble creature and there is little humanity left in him.
We all face this danger. We all have this part of us (some larger than others) that leans in the Grumble direction which leads to hopelessness. We have a part of us that is broken and no matter how much we try we cannot fix it on our own. We can try to fix it with many different things, but eventually, things grow old and people die and we are left alone with our grumblings and if we are not rescued from this pattern, we will either in this life or the next, lose our humanity.
The second horror we find in Scrooge's tale is his old business partner, Jacob Marley. I used to be frightened of this scene in the story, and although it can and should be very scary if done well, I now feel more sorrow for Marley than fear. Marley represents someone who never turned away from the path of being a Grumble. He never realized how inhuman he was until it was too late. A few years ago as I was watching the George C. Scott version (which in my opinion is the absolute best) of this tale, I realized something absolutely terrifying and completely awful.
Marley is in what we think of when we say, "Hell." Now to be clear, Biblically Hell is the final destination of those who reject Jesus. So to be accurate Marley is in Sheol (the land of the dead). But nevertheless, he is in constant torment and is constantly wandering the earth viewing things he cannot share, but might have shared and turned to happiness. The pain that exudes from this poor apparition is, in my opinion best played out by Frank Finlay in the 1984 TV movie that stars George C Scott as Scrooge. Knowing where Marley is and what he is going through, take a moment and watch this short, but profound scene here.
The horror of Marley's Ghost is that so many people on this earth are bound to this fate. People are currently on their way to becoming just like Marley and going through what he goes through with no rest and no hope for the rest of eternity. Another horror is the fact that Marley comes to Scrooge and Scrooge doesn't believe in him and then after Marley departs, he completely dismisses their meeting by saying it was simply something Scrooge ate and it was all a humbug. Jesus warns of this in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The Rich Man begs for someone from the Unseen Realm to visit his brothers and warn them of his fate so that they might not be doomed to it and Abraham tells the man that if they do not believe now, they would not be convinced even if someone were to rise from the dead.
The third and final horror is not necessarily a horror per se, but can be depending on the occasion. A Christmas Carol harkens back to the tradition of telling Ghost stories at Christmas; that Christmastime is a time of year when the veil between the unseen realm and our realm gets a little thinner. We see this in Dicken's three spirits that visit Scrooge. They are there proving to Scrooge that there is something more than his physical world. There is something more mysterious and much larger out there that he cannot explain nor can he fully comprehend.
We too are faced with this same reality. In our western culture, we tend to dismiss or explain away what most would call supernatural. Yet if you do research and hear people's first hand stories, you would discover that this world may not be what you thought it was. As a Christian I hold the Bible in highest regards and it affirms that this truth in Dicken's tale is very real. The Unseen Realm is just as real as you or me and the relationship between it and our realm is much more crucial and consequential than we realize.
So the importance of horror at Christmastime is knowing that there is a real enemy. It partially resides within us and it partially resides outside of us. The hopelessness we faced was that of Jacob Marley. We would forever roam chained to the torture of our own selfish choices. Then a hero came. The Rescuer of our tale. You see, we must understand the horror of our situation before we can understand the happiness of the hope that is offered to us. In Memoirs of an Angel that is why I make sure I approach the series from a horror perspective. I want the world and The Dark Kingdom (demons and fallen gods) to look terrifying and to be awful. That way when the angelic and holy divine beings led by God show up, we see how amazingly good they are.
We must know the horror before we can appreciate the hope.
And Christmas brings that ultimate hope. It brings that light in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome.
So with a full heart I say Merry Christmas to you all and plead with you to look deeper into such things before it's too late.