Today we continue our Advent series of looking at some of our favorite Christmas movies to see how they might point us to Jesus and the real meaning of Christmas. Today we are going to look at the classic story given to us by Dr. Seuss – How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The book was first published in 1957 and then made into a holiday special in 1966 – 50 years ago. The film adaptation was narrated by Boris Karloff, who at the time was best known for his portrayal of Frankenstein in several movies from the 1930’s.
|Boris Karloff was the Grinch|
It was a great idea to have Karloff narrate the story because the Grinch starts out as a monster who lived high up in the mountains over Whoville.
The Grinch is an unpleasant character to say the least. He doesn’t like to be happy and so he doesn’t want anyone else to be happy and the joy that the Whos experience at Christmas is just too much for him. Do you know anyone like the Grinch? Not just someone who doesn’t like Christmas, but someone who is never happy and so doesn’t want others to be happy? Since Dr. Seuss’ book was published, the term Grinch has become synonymous with people who are grouchy and grumpy not just at Christmas time but all the time. The word most likely comes from the French word grincheux which means grumpy. So, do you know someone like this?
While we can all probably name someone who reminds us of the Grinch, if we are honest, there are times when we are the Grinch? While we might not steal Christmas, we might steal people’s peace and joy by being grumpy, irritable and unpleasant. The truth is that there is a little bit of the Grinch in all of us and while we are not going to steal trees, presents and food – our attitudes and actions do steal people’s peace. So what is it that makes us the Grinch?
What made the Grinch so unpleasant was that his heart was 2 sizes too small and what makes us a Grinch is a heart that withers away because it’s not used to love and forgive. When we hold on to the bitterness and pain of our past and harbor all our grievances and disappointments, it eats away at our hearts and in time we resent anyone being happy and we make life miserable for everyone.
Some people have been raised in homes where this kind of attitude was experienced all the time so they have been taught to be a Grinch. They have learned that you hold on to the past and never let go of a grudge. Once again, when we don’t use our hearts to forgive then we lose the capacity to love and our hearts begin to shrink. When we hold on to the pain of the past we keep our hearts from beating and growing and before we know it our hearts are two sizes too small and we have become the Grinch.
So we can all become the Grinch if we aren’t careful about how we use our hearts and if we feed the Grinch in us, our grumpy attitude can lead to plans to make life miserable for others. This is what happened to the Grinch. His bad attitude finally led him to come up with the wonderful awful idea to steal Christmas.
Dressed up as Santa Claus, the Grinch went down into Whoville and stole everything. Here’s what Dr Seuss says,
Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant,
Around the whole room, and he took every present!
Popguns! And bicycles! Roller Skates! Drums!
Checkerboards! Tricycles! Popcorn! And Plums!
And he stuffed them in bags, then the Grinch very nimbly,
Stuffed all the bags, one by one, up the chimbley!
Then he slunk to the icebox. He took the Whos’ feast.
He took the Who pudding? He took the roast beast!
He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash,
Why that Grinch even took their last can of Who-hash!
(How the Grinch Stole Christmas, copyright 1957, Random House Inc.)
The Grinch stole everything that he thought made Christmas special for the Whos and he took it all up to Mount Crumpet where he was going to destroy it. On Christmas morning, the Grinch expected to hear the Whos weeping and wailing but instead what he heard down in Whoville was all the Whos singing.
When the Whos got up that morning, they weren’t sad or angry that all their gifts and food were gone because they knew that the real meaning of Christmas wasn’t found in trees and toys, the real meaning of Christmas was to show love and kindness. The real meaning of Christmas was to forgive and live at peace with one another. It was to live heart to heart and hand in hand.
So in this movie we are given two pictures of who we might at the holidays and all through life.
Will we be the Grinch?
Or will we be a Who?
Will we grumpy or gracious? Frustrating or forgiving? Which one we become is determined by which one we focus on and which one we feed. We feed the Grinch by focusing on all the disappointments we’ve had in life and all the pain we’ve gone through. We feed the Grinch by holding on to the hurt and remembering all the times we have been offended and mistreated and when life hasn’t gone our way.
The more we feed the Grinch the more our hearts shrink in size. The Grinch’s heart was 2 times too small because he didn’t use it. He didn’t forgive people. He didn’t take time to get to know the Whos or to allow them to love him. He didn’t even take time to learn how to experience joy in life from his dog Max. Max has always been my favorite character in the movie and it’s amazing how he symbolized joy even in the presence of evil.
Max never let the Grinch keep him from being happy and seeing the good in life and it’s too bad that the Grinch never learned to see life through his eyes. Max points us to God’s grace and how it is always there for us. God never leaves us alone in our darkness. In fact, Jesus came into the darkness of our world to bring peace and joy and that is what this season of Advent is all about. It’s about seeing the light that shines in the midst of our darkness and knowing that God is always with us. God is with us when we are feeling bitter and angry and God is with us when we feel hurt and alone and if we will open our eyes and our hearts to see the joy and peace of God with us then maybe our hearts will start to grow.
So God works to help us feed the Who that lies in all of us and we feed the Who by loving and giving and forgiving. When we focus on our faith and take time to worship God we are feeding the Who. During this season of the year it is easy to feed the Grinch because we can get stressed out and disappointed so easily, but it is also a great time to feed the Who. We have special times of worship where we can hear the good news of Jesus; we can give toys to children through Toys for Tots and food for the hungry through the food bank. There are stories all around us about people in need and ways to give and so this is a great time of year to feed the Who in us and exercise our heart muscles by loving and giving.
It is also a great time of year to forgive. If there is someone who has hurt you and that pain is lingering in your heart, let it go so that your heart can grow. Holding on to a grudge only hurts us and it keeps our hearts from growing and so we need to reach out to the grace of God who has forgiven us and allow the power of that grace to help us forgive others. We feed the Who by learning to forgive and letting go of the pain stored up from our past.
The story of the Grinch shows us two paths in life. We can be a Grinch or we can be a Who. These choices are also laid out for us in the Bible. Jesus talked about the narrow road of faith and the wide road of destruction – Matthew 7:13-14. The wide and easy road is the one where we give into bitterness and resentment and hold on to grudges. This is the easy road because it’s easy to feel offended and it’s easy to think everyone owes us something, but the narrow road of faith is difficult. It is not easy to let go of pain and hurt. It is not easy to love those who have offended us or give to those who have hurt us. The road of Jesus is not an easy road but it is the only road that leads to life.
The narrow road of Jesus is what we see in the real Christmas story. God didn’t take the easy road when he came into this world. The road God chose went through a poor couple who had to give birth in a stable. The road God chose didn’t lead to a welcoming committee of world leaders and the religious elite but dirty shepherds who left the fields to find a baby. The road God chose went through Egypt where Jesus and his parents had to live as refugees in a foreign land. The road of Jesus’ birth was narrow and difficult and while it is the road we are often called to take in life, it is the road that leads to life because it is the road that leads to the Christ Child, the Prince of Peace and the giver of all the fullness of God.
So Jesus talks about 2 roads and the Bible talks about 2 paths in life. We can live as children of the light and embrace goodness, righteousness and truth or we can live as children of the dark and give in to greed, immorality and the impurity of this world. We hear about the path of light and darkness and the old self and new self from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 4:22-5:2.
Paul outlines for us what that easy road of darkness is like and when we give in to these things we are feeding the Grinch. Bitterness, anger, malice and rage are what we see in the Grinch and all of this leads him to steal Christmas in the hopes of stealing the peace and joy of the Whos. But the Whos show us the way of light, they forgive because they know they have been forgiven. They sing songs of praise even in the darkness and did you notice what they welcomed on Christmas Day – a star – the light of God’s love. When we are kind and compassionate, forgiving each other as Christ forgave us and loving others because God has loved us, our hearts will grow three sizes.
So will we feed the Grinch or the Who? Will we live as children of darkness or light? Will we put on the old self or the new? Let us be imitators of God and live a life of love just as Christ loved us. This is the only road that leads us closer to Jesus who is the Prince of Peace and as we grow closing to Christ we grow closer to one another. Let us live the life of the Whos whose faith and love brings peace on earth, good will toward all.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
1. Read a passage each day to learn how to starve the Grinch and feed the Who that lives inside us all.
• Romans 7:14-25
• Romans 12:5-21
• Ephesians 4:17-5:2
• Ephesians 6:10-18
• Colossians 3:1-17
• 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
• 1 John 1:5-2:2
2. Forgiveness is one way to help our hearts grow.
• Who in your life do you need to forgive? How can you begin to let go of that hurt this week? Who can help you let go of the grudge? List the ways God has forgiven you.
• From whom do you need to seek forgiveness? Go to them this week and ask for forgiveness, whether they offer it or not your heart will grow.
3. Attend one of the 3 Concerts being held at Faith Church so that the worship and fellowship can expand your heart.
• Penns Valley Men’s Choir – Today at 3:00 PM
• Faith Church Choir and Bells – Dec. 11 at 4:00 PM
• The Messiah – Dec. 14 at 7:30
4. Expand your heart by finding one new way to give or a way to give more during this Christmas Season. Sign up to help with the Christmas Dinner in the lobby or online.
5. Prepare for next week by watching It’s a Wonderful Life.