Ebenezer

The bright and beautiful days of Christmas linger just behind us over the horizon. For most of us the mystical magic of Christmas still lingers in the air even as we grudgingly begin the take down the decorations and lights as a New Year approaches.

In 1843, prolific author Charles Dickens penned a classic holiday story entitled “A Christmas Carol” which unforgettable characters like the dutiful Bob Cratchit and his disabled son Tiny Tim, but without doubt the most memorable character through the ages has been Ebenezer Scrooge, the villain turned hero by the power and the mystery of Christmas and the spirit of generosity.

When Dickens closed his eyes and created Scrooge in his vivid imagination I suspect he has too many real characters in his life to draw from in his past dealings with the human race. Sadly the human heart can be “prone to wander” as Robert Robinson, the 18th century hymn writer aptly noted in his classic hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” which he composed at the ripe old age of twenty-two.

When Dickens created the dark character of Scrooge in the opening pages of his classic he described him as follows:

“Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”

 Do you know this man? Worst yet, have you been this dark and greedy?

Being a master wordsmith, Dickens appropriately chose the name “Scrooge” for this brooding man. The name “Scrooge” literally means to be “squeezed.” Greed was literally squeezing the life out of the old man, but in the story his night visitors were going to give him another hard “squeeze” for his own good. Yes, sometimes all of us need a good “squeeze” to be reminded about what is really important in life.

 

Interestingly enough, Scrooge’s first name does not come up until late in the story when the ghost of his old business partner shows up urging the old man to change saying,“I am here to-night to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer.”

 If you love old hymn you probably recognized the name “Ebenezer”. Once again from the classic hymn “Come, Thou Fount” in which Robinson wrote, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, here by thy help I’ve come.”

 The name “Ebenezer” emerges out of the colorful Hebrew language.  In Samuel 7:12, the old judge Samuel places a stone in the presence of the people to continually remind them of God’s goodness and faithfulness. He names the stone “Ebenezer” which literally means “a stone of help.” In other words, we would not be here without God’s help.

I suspect now you see the mastery of Dickens in the naming of old Scrooge, who found himself that fateful night squeezed by the hand of God into the image of the man he was meant to be—a loving, generous, kind hearted man who transformed Christmas for Tiny Tim by  the warming of his stone cold heart. Yes, God continues to be in the heart warming business. I know I would not be where I am today without his HELP! What about you?

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