Written by ECS English and History Teacher, Mike Brown.
As a child, my favorite Christmas programs included, A Charlie Brown Christmas (though we are not related), How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol. As an adult, The Muppet Christmas Carol replaced the Magoo cartoon as my preferred version of Dickens’ famous tale. In what has become a biennial tradition, our 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts classes recently kicked off the Christmas season by watching the superb play, A Christmas Carol, at the ACT Theatre in Seattle. In addition to greatly entertaining the students and adults who attended, the play provided our classes with the opportunity to explore and discuss the basics of our Christian faith.
In recent decades, many churches have “adapted” Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol into a presentation of the Gospel message. Hundreds of churches have even presented a musical version called The Gospel According to Scrooge. It is understandable, then, that many people assume that Dicken’s original tale is a secular story that, with some effort, can be transformed into a biblical allegory. In his book, A Christmas Carol: Special Church Edition, author Stephen Skelton points out that Charles Dickens, the author of A Christmas Carol, was a self-proclaimed Christian writer. “It has brought me great joy to discover that the greatest Christmas classic was based on the Greatest Story Ever Told,” says Skelton in a recent interview. Though not necessarily obvious, Dickens’ story is chockfull of Christian teaching. By entitling his story A Christmas Carol, for example, Dickens was using the original meaning of a Christmas carol, which is a song celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. In his book, Skelton reveals the four biblical principles upon which Dickens built his Christmas story: sinfulness, regret, repentance, and, finally, salvation.
One of the story’s primary characters is Bob Cratchit. In giving him the name Cratchit, Dickens used the root word cratch, which is an old English word for crèche, or the manger of baby Jesus. The word scrooge means “to squeeze,” and is used by Dickens to show Ebenezer Scrooge’s chief sin: greed. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is described as “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!” Scrooge tightly squeezed his money, refusing to part with even a cent (or, rather, a farthing) to help his fellow man. Scrooge’s first name, Ebenezer, is also not without meaning. One of my favorite hymns is Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. For years, however, I was confused by the song’s lines, “Here I raise my Ebenezer; here by Thy great help I’ve come.” I gained a greater understanding and love for the song when I learned that Eben-Ezer is the name of a location that is mentioned in the Books of Samuel as the scene of battles between the Israelites and Philistines. While Samuel and the Israelites were under attack by the Philistines, they offered a sacrifice to God and prayed for His protection. God answered Samuel’s prayer at Eben-Ezer and sent the Philistines back to their own land in retreat. In 1 Samuel 7:12 we read, Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” An Ebenezer, then, is simply a stone set up as a monument to tell of the great help that God gave to the one who placed the stone there. In singing this song, therefore, we are acknowledging that God is our Helper.
In A Christmas Carol, the final time that the name Ebenezer is used is when the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come points to a large tombstone, into which the name Ebenezer Scrooge is carved. It can be said that this tombstone would serve as a monument for others, warning them not to end up like Scrooge, Jacob Marley, and the other spirits who would forever walk the earth in sorrow, dragging the heavy chains they forged in life. Conversely, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge reminds us that, no matter our age or our past sins or mistakes, we can find new life through Jesus Christ. My hope is that, during this Christmas season, you will experience the true comfort and abundant joy that are found only in Him.
CBN.com. “Reclaiming ‘A Christmas Carol'” CBN.com (beta). N.p., 11 Nov. 2015. Web. 07 Dec. 2016.
Dickens, Charles, and Stephen Skelton. “A Christmas Carol: Special Church Edition.” N.p.: n.p., 2007. Print.
@DoveMovies. “Author Stephen Skelton Speaks With Dove About.” The Dove Foundation. N.p., 08 Jan. 2014. Web. 07 Dec. 2016.
@markdroberts. “”Ebenezer Scrooge” – The Meaning of the Name.” Mark D. Roberts. N.p., 13 Mar. 2015. Web. 07 Dec. 2016.