The story of Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol may be the most popular Christmas story of all time.

The story of Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol may be the most popular Christmas story of all time.

Might there be hope for all of us, no matter our demons — if on one Christmas Eve the nastiest and greediest of old men can be transformed into a loving and generous soul?

For many the story is entertaining because old Scrooge is so completely disagreeable, never breaking character, it’s hard not to be amused by him.

The main plot is simple. Ebenezer Scrooge has lived his whole life focused on one thing, to accumulate as much wealth as possible. Over time he has developed a hatred for the common man, but especially the poor, for he’s convinced their laziness and lack of industry is solely responsible for why they remain as they do. This is the reason he gives for never being charitable, but the uglier truth is that he loves his wealth so much, he dares not part with a penny.

Ebenezer has always hated Christmas with a passion, which is a mystery. But as arrogant and conceited as he is, as much as he pushes everyone away because they are so beneath him; you have to wonder if he does not secretly envy other’s joy for the simplest of things, and especially for Christmas when it’s so visible, because he has lost the capacity to feel an ounce of joy for . . . anything.

How did Ebenezer wander so far? How might he find his way back?

As the story begins, the ghost of Ebenezer’s deceased partner pays him a visit on Christmas Eve, warning him to stop living as they did all their lives, only concerned with themselves and never caring for the needs of others. His partner is in eternal bondage for these sins, forever chained to the earthly treasures he worshipped. But Ebenezer still has time to redeem himself and avoid this fate.

Someone divine, it seems, has determined the course of the rest of the evening for old Ebenezer. He will be visited by three spirits. And we all know the rest of the story. Or, do we?

Our lives are all stories. Our lives are shaped by many of the things that happen to us, and the most significant thing that happened to Ebenezer was that he was sent off to boarding school as a young boy. We assume his mother died, she is never mentioned. The father might have felt unable to raise him on his own, but he did keep a younger sister at home.

Boarding schools were common in those days, possibly even the norm in more established families. But the moment the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Ebenezer back to at his boarding school is just as everyone is getting ready to go home for the Christmas holiday.

“’The school is not quite deserted ,’ said the Ghost. ‘A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.’ Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed.” 1

And then they look again and find, “a lonely boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down upon a form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he had used to be.” 2

Ebenezer was very lonely as a boy at the boarding school. He may have had trouble fitting in, we don’t know. But the phrase we just read has to be one of the saddest I have ever heard: “his poor forgotten self as he had used to be.”

If you listen carefully to the narrative, you realize Ebenezer’s father never asked for Ebenezer to come home for the holidays, nor at any other time, from what we know, until he was fully grown. We do not know why, other than he had to be an incredibly selfish man. This neglect was staggering, making sense of why Ebenezer felt so alone and unwanted.

And now we also know why he despised Christmas — for every Christmas holiday during most of his childhood, while all the other boys rushed home to be embraced by outstretched arms and open hearts and to participate in the joy of the season with their families — he was left all alone at that empty boarding school. His poor forgotten self, each and every year, as he grew from a boy into a young man.

This was what Christmas meant for Ebenezer. Can you imagine such a pain? And a pain this great will always be compensated for, one way or the other.

Not just a children’s story, is it?

Next time.


1 A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, 1843; Barnes and Nobles Classics, A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, The Cricket, 2004, Barnes and Noble, Inc., page 32

2 Ibid, page 33

Welcome, I'm Sam!

A fellow traveler on this journey we call life and this path we call the Christian faith, wanting to speak to anyone who will listen about the incredible things that God (only because of His incredible grace) chose to reveal to me. Stories have always been a mirror in which we can see ourselves, if we only look more closely. We are all like the children of Israel in the wilderness, wanting and needing to establish ourselves in the promised land. Stories can help us to get there, and to flourish there.

I can't wait to get to know you!


Search the Blog

Recent Posts

New Release

Once Upon a Time Selah 2024 Finalist