“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all and infinitely more.” So wrote Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol. And what was that word? He had promised, “I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.”

Of course, Scrooge did not have this revelation until after encountering the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come–a fearful presence who showed Mr. Scrooge a dreadful portent of things to come based upon the cold-hearted life he had led. Yes, Ebenezer Scrooge was a miser, had a heart full of greed, and was indifferent to any of mankind who could not line his own pockets.

The gist of the story is showing us the life of this unlikeable man in one night as he is transported via three spirits (past, present and future) into a close examination of his life, most of which is tight-fisted and self-serving. We almost feel sorry for the boy we see who does not romp with his mates on the playground but find it harder to sympathize with the man who exhibits no joy and will not spare a farthing to any, though he has much money in the bank.

As Scrooge is forced to face who he has become at his own hands, he finally grasps that he could have made a difference in his own life and in the lives of others. And he desperately asks the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, “Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only? Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead, but if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!”

The happy ending is that Scrooge awakens to discover he has not missed Christmas Day and he immediately begins restoring his life to what it should have been all along. Most notably, he intercedes in the life of his good and faithful employee, Bob Cratchett, paying the mortgage on their home and raising Bob’s salary. The ultimate result is that Bob’s son, Tiny Tim–an incredibly ill child–is saved from untimely death due to the intervention of Ebenezer Scrooge.

I’ve talked to many people who dislike this story intensely, often because the of very Dickensian setting and the somberness of a good part of the telling. What’s beautiful about A Christmas Carol though is that it moves on from there. And out. Through the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge’s heart, we leave dirty, poverty-stricken, depressed London and enter into a bright and hopeful future.

And the overall message? It cannot be done without the Spirit. I’ll take the liberty of pointing out that would be the Holy Spirit. We must face ourselves, examine what needs to be changed, and allow the Spirit to transform us. What better season to walk this path than that of Christmas.

And for those of you who hate the story, I recommend the muppet version. Guaranteed to make you smile along the way.