by Will Searcy
We are well into the Advent season, and as with every year, we celebrate both a mixture of our faith and the secular customs of Christmas. I think for most of us, especially if you have small children like me, it can be tempting to get so caught up in the secular traditions of Christmas, that we do not give adequate time to prepare our hearts and souls for the coming of our Lord. Already with my three year-old, we have gone on the “Polar Express,” read the book, had his Christmas Pageant at his school, and spent many nights watching the classic “How the Grinch StoleChristmas” cartoon over a mug of hot cocoa with marshmallows. And I know what you’re thinking, so I’ll go ahead and answer it. Yes, Tripp asks for to watch “The Grinch” with hot cocoa almost every night.
While much is written and said about “keeping Christ in Christmas” and this should be our focus, I do not necessarily believe that to be mutually exclusive from many of the secular traditions. I believe Dr.Seuss’s story of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is a fair example of that. If by some off chance you’ve never read the story or seen any of its video incarnations, the story goes that the Grinch was a grouchy hermit who lived atop a mountain overlooking Hooville. Every Christmas he would be moved by envy and bitterness whenever he saw and heard the Hoos down in Hooville celebrating Christmas, so he devised a scheme whereby he would dress as Santa Claus, but instead of delivering presents on Christmas Eve, he would steal them all away. As Christmas Day dawned, the Grinch was successful in his plot and held captive every gift in all of Hooville at the top of his mountain. Expecting to hear wails of dismay at having lost everything, the Grinch turns his ear toward Hooville, but instead he hears them singing Christmas carols. At this point, the Grinch learns the true meaning of Christmas and his heart”grows three sizes that day.” Moved by the Hoos’ display, he brings all the gifts, decorations, and food back to Hooville to celebrate Christmas as originally planned.
While this is a simple, children’s story, it strikes at the heart of many of the Christmas themes. We see the enduring hope of the Hoos, who look beyond their material possessions and toward the higher law of love and community, much as we spend the Advent season preparing our hearts for the coming of our hope for salvation. Also, we see the Grinch, a character whose vices have driven him into a world full of isolation, anger, and bitterness until he experiences a last-minute change of heart (or growing of heart, as Dr.Seuss puts it). Then, where he was once angry, he becomes joyful, where prideful, he becomes charitable, and he turns his life around in a way we might say people who have an encounter with Jesus turn their lives around in the our world.
I would venture to say that we could all be categorized to some degree in either group: a Hoo or the Grinch, and perhaps into both. This Advent season, let’s examine our own consciences. In what ways have we been like the Hoos, full of hope, love, charity, and faith? In those circumstances, let’s give thanks and praise to God, because surely it was only the work of His grace within us that afforded us such success. Let’s also consider the times when we were like the Grinch in the first part of the story. Are there people to whom we have been bitter, jealous, angry, or spiteful? Have we harbored resentment or malice in our hearts? Now is the time to confess those sins and seek reconciliation, not only with those we have wronged, but also with our Lord, because we know our sin pains Him, and we want to live in loving, joyful communion with Him always. Let’s not wait until Christmas for our hearts to”grow three sizes,” but rather, let’s use this Advent season as the prophet Isaiah foretold and John the Baptist urged, to “‘prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'” (Mark 1:3) Finally, let us never forget the miracle and the blessing we all are preparing to celebrate:
“For to us a
child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.”
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High;
and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever;
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”