Author Charles Dickens, in his classic tale, A Christmas Carol, precisely names the famed main character, Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge. The word “Ebenezer” is taken from the book of Samuel in the Bible. It means “stone of help”, and it symbolizes fresh beginnings. The name “Scrooge” is formed from the word “scrounger” which means to live off of others, a taker. Dickens describes him well in the opening chapter.
“Oh! But he (Scrooge) was a tight-fisted hand at the grind- stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!”-A Christmas Carol
Dicken’s story tells a tale of redemption from “Scrooge” to “Ebenezer” that seems to play and replay in my personal Christmas story. It is the battle between thinking of my own personal interests or that of another’s. Such is the tale I will tell you. It is a time in my life when Christmas brought shadows instead of light. I can easily modify some opening lines from Dickens’s writings to reflect my mindset.
“External gifts of love and trials of misfortune had little influence on me.
It seemed no warmth could warm; no wintry weather could chill me.”
I existed in an unfeeling state, indifferent to those around me. I may sound harsh in my appraisal of myself. But as I have grown older, I have learned, if I take the time to understand who I am when I am not yielded to Him, it hurries me to cry for help. In other words, I might as well be truthful in my personal assessment. It drives me to my knees faster.
If you were privileged to the ghost of Christmas Past’s visit with me, he would have pointed out events and my responses that rendered me in the unfeeling state I described. You may have offered compassion to me in my plight as the scenes unfolded. You may have even shed tears as light shown on dark events. Many trials were out of my control. Loss and grief had clouded my vision of Christmas present. Failed expectations on my part and from others left me going through the motions. The Christmas songs of my childhood played their familiar tunes while secret tears dotted many gatherings and sleepless nights. For years, I dreaded the Christmas season.
About ten years ago and days before Christmas, I stood in a department store with the familiar Christmas knot in my stomach. “Peace on earth, good will towards men….” sang through the store speaker.
My inner Scrooge reared its sinister voice. Peace on earth? Good will towards men? I don’t see it! To a gracious God, who listens and hears the cry of His children’s heart, I began to make my case questioning the angel’s proclamation.
If there is peace on earth, why do I see wars?
If there is good will towards men, why do I see so many people hurting each other?
If there is peace on earth, why am I not enjoying Christmas as a Christian?
If there is good will towards men, why would someone do______to me?
I rehearsed the relational offenses I had experienced.
As you can note, the statements are all about me (which is the definition of Scrooge) and not about Jesus. Recalling God’s words in song, brought light to my soul and transformation of heart.
“Then suddenly there appeared with the angel an army of the troops of heaven (a heavenly knighthood), praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest [heaven], and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased [men of goodwill, of His favor].” -Luke 2:13-15 Amplified Version
For the first time, I realized this verse came at a pivotal point in history. For years God’s people turned their backs on Him. Countless passages compare the relationship between God and His people as adulterous, one of the most painful conflicts one can experience. The chasm of conflict widened as man’s heart hardened toward his creator and refused to seek God’s forgiveness.
And then like a loving, passionate husband desiring the heart of his bride, He risks it all. He sends His beloved son to earth, to die for the sins of man, to redeem the adulterous bride and bring peace to the torn relationship.
The angel’s announcement invites me to peace with God. A more modern translation of the angel’s proclamation could have read, “Who wants to work out this riff between God and man? Who wants to have a relationship with God? He is coming to you even though you have turned your backs on Him! Look, God is making the first move to solve it. God is offering peace in the midst of this ugly conflict. Everyone, don’t miss His offer!”
Standing in the department store, reflecting on the angel’s words, I discovered that Christmas is the ultimate story of conflict resolution. And I realized, much of my scroogeness revolved around unresolved conflict. And I had to face where I contributed. I can’t control what others do or don’t do. I can only be responsible for my actions.
Insults? Did I gossip? Did I forgive?
Slander? Did I fret? Did I go to them?
Bitterness? Did I walk away? Did I write them off?
Anger? Did I answer harshly? Sarcastically?
Failed expectations? Did I pout? Did I withdraw? Did I blame?
Trials of life? Did I complain? Did I bear it alone?
Transformation was beginning to happen inside of me.
I love the end of A Christmas Carol. With comic relief, Dickens describes the transformation of Scrooge. He is giddy and overcome with joy. He is generous and free. He is exploding with gratitude, reveling in merriment that he has been given a fresh new beginning. His first name had been restored, Ebenezer. He became a giver instead of a taker.
“I will start anew. I will make amends and I will make quite certain that the story ends on a note of hope, on a strong amen. And I’ll thank the world and remember when I was able to begin again!” -Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol
I love the end to my own Christmas tale. The joy of my salvation was restored. Scrooge is not alone with giddy merriment of the Christmas season. That year and every year after that, in honor of my God-given “Ebenezer” moment, I put on a Santa hat the day after Thanksgiving. It is my helmet of salvation. It is my personal reminder of His grace and my role as an ambassador of His grace. I do not take it off until January 1.
There is something about a Santa hat that sparks Christmas cheer and conversations. One time a child thought I was Mrs. Claus and asked me to tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas. Another time while waiting in line, the customer before me chewed out the poor clerk behind the counter. In my Santa hat, I offered the clerk encouraging words and a smile. She thanked me over and over again. And although our family is on a tight budget, I keep a roll of small bills and pass them out to all the Salvation Army Santas I see, no matter how many times I go in and out of the store. But more importantly, with God’s help, my Santa hat reminds me to be a giver and not a taker in all my relationships. The angel’s announcement is an invitation to accept God’s offer to my personal conflict with God. As a Christ follower, I accept His invitation to peace. And now, I have the privilege of extending the same peace and grace to everyone.
Don’t misunderstand me. I still experience conflict and the trials of life. I am grateful that God has much to say in His word about conflict resolution and bringing peace to tough situations. Also, Peacemaker Ministries has been an invaluable help to me. I have been a longtime subscriber to their blog. They offer weekly practical tips and encouragement, rooted in Biblical principles about embracing my role as a peacemaker. However, I will warn you! Their blog always arrive in my inbox at the wrong time! Usually, when I am experiencing conflict.
The opening line in the beautiful hymn, Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing is my new response to the stress of conflict at Christmas, “Here I raise my Ebenezer”.
It is my new beginning.
Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come; and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; he, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.
My inner scrooge has been redeemed. My response to conflict is my Christmas gift to the world! I join the angels from that heavenly night and wish for you and your family…Peace on Earth
From Our Home to Yours,