I have never thought of this as a Christmas Hymn and yet I believe I heard it in many Christmas concerts this year and over the years. The only thing “Christmassy” about if is the mention of a strange name. According to Wikipedia – The lyrics, which dwell on the theme of divine grace, are based on 1 Samuel 7:12, in which the prophet Samuel raises a stone as a monument, saying, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us” The English transliteration of the name Samuel gives to the stone is Ebenezer, meaning Stone of Help. The unusual word Ebenezer commonly appears in hymnal presentations of the lyrics.
So Ebenezer is a stone of help. The great Christmas Classic “A Christmas Carol” takes that name and combines it with old verb “scrouge”, to press or squeeze. So the protagonist in the story with a stony heart becomes a helper and rejoicer. His stony heart, out of which could barely be squeezed a nickel, becomes a stone of help to the poor and needy. I don’t think that is a stretch at all.
God opens his heart at Christmas and we see it is not a stony demanding heart but a giving merciful heart. Through the gift of His Son he takes our hearts of stone and makes them hearts that beat for him and others. As we prepare for the new year we can truly say “hitherto the Lord has helped us”.