When we hear the word "Ebenezer," we often think of the Scrooge from Charles Dickens's play and equate the term with being miserly, greedy and angry. In A Christmas Carol, this character is only referred to as "Ebenezer" a couple times but more disdainfully and frequently as "Scrooge."
Ebenezer is an old Hebrew word, used in the scriptures, which means 'help-stone'. The Israelites would set stones as memorials (ebenezers) to remember how God was faithful to them.
Perhaps Ebenezer Scrooge was purposefully named, so that he would be a reminder that our hearts will turn cold when we are not trusting in the One who came to be with us. When our focus is only on getting for ourselves and not on God's purposes to be generous and giving toward others, particularly toward the poor, the warning is that we may end up like Scrooge's partner Jacob Marley and wander the earth in deep sorrow, dragging weighty chains of grief and pain.
When Scrooge was shown his headstone (his 'help-stone' or ebenezer), it was his transformative moment as he realized that his fate was sealed if he did not become a new man. The story ends (spoiler alert) with Ebenezer becoming a completely changed person - full of joy, generosity and caring. He is our reminder of what Jesus, Emmanuel can bring to our lives and to those around us.
In the video here, listen to four New England InterVarsity staff remember how God showed up and transformed lives on campus this past semester and watch them place down stones of remembrance.
Have you set up an "Ebenezer" to remind you of God's faithfulness? Maybe a piece of art, jewelry, blog, journal or pile of rocks? What helps you remember who God is and what He has done?
Maybe it's time to watch or read A Christmas Carol again.