I mentioned Ebenezer Scrooge's name in my last post. I remember the first time it hit me that there was more to his name than just a grouchy sound. I was in church and we were singing about raising our Ebenezer...my mind immediately bounced in its ping-pong way and I started wondering what "Ebenezer" meant. Even I could figure out that it didn't mean we were supposed to lift up Scrooge - that story was only a little over 150 years old. So, I did what any person would do; I went home and googled it! I discovered that Ebenezer refers to the Ebenezer stone.
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, "Thus far the LORD has helped us." So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel; the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The towns that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath; and Israel recovered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. (1 Samuel 7:12-14 NRSV)
One post I found mentioned Joshua and the twelve tribes setting up a memorial after crossing the Jordan. These stones were referred to as an Ebenezer. Literally, the word means "stone of remembrance" to remind us of God's presence and help in our lives. At the beginning of the story, Scrooge is just that - Scrooge. By the end, he is truly more of an Ebenezer - remembering and an ever present source of help.
This year, the ghosts of each of the Christmases really hit me in their symbolism. Each one is so much more than just a name.
The Ghost of Christmas Past is bright - like our memories. Isn't that usually the case...our memories of the past always seem more wonderful than they probably were. Ever go back to a place from your childhood only to discover it's much smaller than you remember? When I was little, we went to the City Park in New Orleans. I remember the huge roller coaster, the giant storybook characters and houses, the real cars I was allowed to drive...it was one of the most wonderful places I'd ever seen! Those of you who have been to City Park already know what I discovered when I returned there as an adult. Everything is miniature - even that huge frightening roller coaster! But that's how memories work. They can fool you. Maybe that's why it's so hard for the present to live up to what we think we remember.
Poor Scrooge had painful memories that he tried to snuff out with the Ghost's extinguisher cap. I have to admit, I have a few of those....don't we all. The thing is, you can't snuff them out - they just smolder, waiting for a chance to burst back into flames.
The Ghost of Christmas Present is my favorite. He is a giant! That's what the present is - large and IN YOUR FACE!!! It's filled with the here and now and it demands your attention. The past seems bright, but the present simply IS! I find myself being ruled by the Present quite often. I am constantly putting out fires, unable to really concentrate on what is to come because the Present is just so dog-gone LOUD! Present is quickly gone - far more quickly than I realized he would be. (You'd think after dealing with over 52 years filled with "Present" I'd realize by now that it will so soon be done.)
Then there's the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. He never speaks but only directs with his hand. That really does describe the future...unknown. All we can do is follow the lead and move forward to it. In the story, this ghost is depicted in a quite frightening way. To those who do not believe in God and His love, the future is a dark and scary place. I'm so thankful that I don't have to be filled with fear because I know who holds my future and I know He cares for me.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future
New International Version (NIV)
There is a song that talks about that:
I don't know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don't borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey.
I don't worry o'er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I'll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.
Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.
Yep, there's a lot you can learn from a familiar old story. No matter where or when I am, God is still there, a stone of help that will not fail.
Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you're there!
If I go underground, you're there!
If I flew on morning's wings
to the far western horizon,
You'd find me in a minute—
you're already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, "Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I'm immersed in the light!"
It's a fact: darkness isn't dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they're all the same to you.
"I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age."
I think I'll close this Random Thought with the words of Tiny Tim,
"God bless us, every one."