Chesterton, Dickens, and Comfort in the Fog

G. K. Chesterton called Charles Dickens the poet of fog. In A Christmas Carol, for example, London’s fog serves as a backdrop from which characters emerge with lamps and light.

When Scrooge is first greeted by the caroling of “God rest ye merry, gentlemen,” he responds such that “the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog.”

Dickens’s fog is not dismal or dark, Chesterton says, but rather something that draws in and, in the case of Scrooge, corners. Fog “makes the world small, in the same spirit as in that common and happy cry that the world is small, meaning it is full of friends.” The fog of London brings messengers to Scrooge and eventually sees him return to friends.

Chesterton is picking up on the theme of comfort. Comfort, after all, “belongs peculiarly to Christmas; above all it belongs preeminently to Dickens.” The fog draws Scrooge inward, to a place of comfort. For inside there are fires and feasts. Chesterton explains:

The beauty and the real blessing of the story do not lie in the mechanical plot of it, the repentance of Scrooge, probable or improbable; they lie in the great furnace of real happiness that glows through Scrooge and everything round him.

Our Contemporary Fog

Our day is a fog. Bleak headlines and cultural conflicts fill our streets and airwaves. Confusion pervades. Yet we often fail to see this fog as a reminder to move to places of comfort, places with fires and friends, places that arrive naturally at this time of year.

George MacDonald called Christmas Day the “one day that blesses all the year.” Because at the heart of Christmas is a message of comfort—the heralding of a kingdom that brings “tidings of comfort and joy.”

The promise of a Messiah-King came in a blessing from the patriarch Jacob to his son Judah, that through him a king would reign (Gen. 49:10). Chris Bruno explains:

It was into this broken family line that God promised the scepter of kingship, the ruler’s staff. But the descendant of Judah would not only be the king of Israel, he would also be a king over the nations.

God’s people saw part of this prophecy fulfilled with the rise of King David, about whom Nathan said: God will “establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam. 7:13). Yet David revealed only part of what was yet still to come.

“The Old Testament ends with the messianic promise unfulfilled,” Andreas Köstenberger writes, but the New Testament “begins…

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