Charles Dickens, the English author, has a thing about names. He was meticulous about the names of the characters in his stories. Often the name gives the reader insight into the character and the story. Probably one of the most well-known Dickens stories is A Christmas Carol. In it, Ebenezer Scrooge undergoes a transformation from a selfish miser to a man who knows how to “keep Christmas well.” The name Scrooge probably comes from the word “screw.” Dickens describes the unrepentant Scrooge as “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!” With each word, you can almost feel the tightening of a screw.
Given Dickens’ propensity to pick just the right name, why is Scrooge’s first name, Ebenezer? The word comes from Hebrew and literally means, “a stone of help.” It is mentioned three times in the book of 1 Samuel (4:1, 5:1, and 7:12). The Ebenezer seems to be a stone memorial set up after a victory over the Philistines. There are other such memorials mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 28, Joshua 4). They are like those historical markers that we sometimes see on the road. Something of historical value happened here. For the Israelites, these stones remind us that God did something amazing in this place.
Although I don’t have any stone memorials, I do have ebenezers in my life. There are moments in which God acted profoundly, and I have a story, a witness, of God’s grace. It may be a blessing, a victory over a struggle, a place of God’s presence. For example, I think about a particular worship service, a tearful night in college, the birth of my son, etc. They are mental ebenezers that remind me of God’s grace.
In A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge literally goes from death to life. With the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Scrooge stands at his own grave. He repents and is given a new life. His repentance means that Tiny Tim, the lame son of his clerk, also will not die. The motif of repentance, resurrection, and new life makes this story implicitly Christian. The man, Ebenezer, is himself an ebenezer. He is an archetype of the new creation in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The coming of Christ at Christmas brings victory, and like the old hymn, “Here I raise my Ebenezer.”
This Advent season, we are considering Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as a way to hear the biblical story anew. As we encounter Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and Jacob Marley, we hope to learn more about God’s gift of Jesus Christ, born in a manger, died on a cross, and risen from the dead.
Grace & Peace,