How the Grinches stole Christmas
Read from the Grinch who stole Christmas up to the Page “Then he got an idea! An Awful Idea! The Grinch got a wonderful awful idea!
And you all know what the idea was right? I mean everyone of us here without exception has seen, read or heard “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Most of us could sing at least a part of “You’re a mean one Mr. Grinch”. We know the story: How the Grinch got dressed up as Santa Claus, how he dressed his dog Max up as a reindeer and how he went to Whoville and stole Christmas. How he climbed up on the roofs of the Whos, slid down the chimney and stole their stockings, and everything that was under their trees, stole all their Christmas treats and all of their who feasts. Why he even stole their last can of who hash. And then he stole their tree. It was when he was stuffing the tree up the chimney that he was interrupted by . . . you guessed it Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was not more then two. And she asked a relatively simple question “Santy Claus, why, Why are you taking our Christmas tree? Why?” And the Grinch did what any good Grinch would do at that point, he lied. “Why, my sweet little tot,” the fake Santy Claus lied, “There’s a light on this tree that won’t light on one side. So I’m taking it home to my workshop, my dear. I’ll fix it up there. Then I’ll bring it back here.” He lied to a little kid.
And when he was done he went to all the other Who houses stealing everything leaving crumbs much too small for all the Who’s mouses.
And when he had loaded up everything into his sleigh, he had Max pull it to the top of Mt. Crumpit to dump it. And man he was on the top of the world, you gotta love it when a plan comes together. And as he stood savouring the moment he said “Pooh-Pooh to the whos! He was Grinch-ish-ly humming. “They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming! They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do! Their mouths will hang open a minute or two then the whos down in Who-ville will all cry Boo-Hoo.”
Man You gotta hate the Grinch, he stole Christmas. And so because we’ve read the book seen the tv special, watched the movie and can sing the song we all know that someone who doesn’t like Christmas is a Grinch. And nobody wants to be a Grinch, do they? I’m sure that you know the history of the Grinch. The book was first written by Dr. Seuss in 1957 and one source wrote “To Dr. Seuss, he wasn’t a villain -- just a guy whose heart, "two sizes too small," needed a dose of the true spirit of the holiday. In fact, Seuss himself said that he identified with the fuzzy anti-hero.” Nine years later in 1966 the cartoon was released with Chuck Jones, an old friend of Seuss’s doing the animation. Boris Karloff narrated the story and Thurl Ravenscroft who provided Tony the Tiger’s voice in Frosted Flake commercials sang “You’re a mean one Mr. Grinch” CBS ran the cartoon every year for 22 years.
Of course in 2000 a live action version of the classic was released with Jim Carrey in the title role and you either loved it or hated it.
A couple of weeks ago we went to see A Berry Merry Christmas, in which our very own Jennifer Millington was performing and as a part of the production they presented the Grinch. And it got me thinking about Grinches. And I decided that you didn’t have to look like this to be a Grinch, (Grinch from Book) or like this (Grinch from TV) or even like this (Grinch from movie). And the more I thought about it the more I realized that there are all kinds of Ginches out there. Grinches who don’t even know they are Grinches. As a matter of fact if you told them they were a Grinch they would probably be personally offended. So as I begin this message today may I categorically state that I’m not preaching to anyone here specifically, that the Grinches I’m talking about are represented in society as a whole and in previous churches I have pastored but by no stretch of the imagination should they be seen as representative of anyone presently attending BCC. So if you feel like perhaps, by some stretch of the imagination that I’m referring to you this morning, I’m not. You just a little bit sensitive, which of course is a nicer word then paranoid.
There was a time that if you were a person who didn’t truly get into the Christmas spirit you were called an Old Scrooge, from Dickens Christmas Carol, today you are just as likely to be called a Grinch. So who are some of the Grinches who steal Christmas?
1) Classic Grinch This is the Grinch that Dr. Seuss was writing about. It wasn’t Christmas itself that the Grinch was upset with it was anything that made life more enjoyable. Christmas seemed to be the culmination of all that was happy and joyful in Who-ville. And so The Classic Grinch isn’t opposed to Christmas per se instead it is all that Christmas represents. People like this have kept the milk of human kindness bottled up so long that it has indeed curdled. They’ve been seasick on the entire journey of life. Robert Lynd made this observation “There are some people who want to throw their arms round you simply because it is Christmas; there are other people who want to strangle you simply because it is Christmas.”
Ebenezer Scrooge was a classic Grinch, he hated Christmas for the same reason as the Grinch but we’re not too sure what those reasons were. In the book some guesses are offered “The Grinch hated Christmas? The whole Christmas season! Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason. It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right. It could be, perhaps his shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”
Perhaps the Grinch knew actress Janeane Garofalo who said “I guess I just prefer to see the dark side of things. The glass is always half-empty. And cracked. And I just cut my lip on it. And chipped a tooth.” Or perhaps Samuel Goldwyn who said “You’ve got to take the bitter with the sour.”
Now I know and you know that there isn’t anyone here today like that. But if there was I would say “Lighten up!” Start to enjoy life because you won’t get out of it alive. Remember what Solomon wrote in Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.
But not every Grinch is a general everyday classic Grinch Grinch some are specialized Grinches for example there is the 2) Secular Grinch. You can recognize this type of Grinch by their language. They never say Merry Christmas: it’s always Seasons Greetings or Happy Holidays. They don’t put up a Christmas Tree they put up a holiday tree, their idea of a classic Christmas carol is Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer or Frosty the Snow Man and they cringe at the very sight of a nativity scene.
These folks aren’t opposed to Christmas as a matter of fact they seem to embrace the holiday almost in it’s entirety. Almost. It’s not Christmas they have a problem with its how the church has tried to make something religious out Christmas. They want to go to their Christmas parties and get paid on their Christmas holidays and send out Christmas Cards, which of course don’t actually include the word Christmas anywhere in them. They buy and give and receive Christmas presents they decorate their homes with Christmas lights but they won’t acknowledge that the first part of Christmas is Christ.
Sometimes we get the feeling that these people are in the majority but you know there aren’t really a lot of these people out there, not individually. What there is though are bureaucrats who work for Government offices and corporations who have decided that it is their job to protect the feelings of those who might not be Christians. And so schools are told they can’t celebrate the true meaning of Christmas and shops and store don’t put up nativities any more and sales clerks are told to avoid the “C” word and to say things like “Have a nice holiday” instead of “Have a Merry Christmas.”
Some stores and government offices have sought a compromise by deciding that if the religious element was combined with the secular then it wouldn’t be offensive. In a recent article in Christianity Today there was this statement “Such guidelines can put municipalities in an awkward position because there is no clear line between the religious display of a crèche, and the seasonal display of Christmas trees, Santa Clause, reindeer, and candy canes. "It’s laughingly sometimes called the plastic reindeer test," Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, said. "How many reindeer do you need to make Jesus secular?”
But most people understand what Christmas is all about (Clip about Christmas) and even new Canadians who don’t share our Christian heritage know that Christmas is a Christian holiday, regardless of what it’s called. And that even with the sanitized “Happy Holiday” the question then has to be asked “What holiday?”
Dave Berry wrote “To avoid offending anybody, the school dropped religion altogether and started singing about the weather. At my son’s school, they now hold the winter program in February and sing increasingly non-memorable songs such as “Winter Wonderland,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and—this is a real song—”Suzy Snowflake,” all of which is pretty funny because we live in Miami. A visitor from another planet would assume that the children belonged to the Church of Meteorology.”
On the other side of the coin are the people I would call the 3) Religious Grinches. You know who I’m talking about. They would go to the other extreme and take everything secular out of Christmas. For them Christmas is about Christ and nothing else. If it was up to them they’d have Santa get a real job, fire the elves and put the reindeer in a zoo.
Now I know that Jesus is the reason for the season, ok don’t get me wrong on that. But hang on to your chairs cause in 2003 he’s not the only reason for the season. There are social reasons; people use this as an opportunity to connect with family and friends they’ve been out of touch with. There are religious reasons, don’t confuse this with Jesus being the reason for the season. Christmas is a time that people are God aware or at least religion aware. There will be thousands of people attending church in Bedford on Christmas Eve and it will have nothing to do with a relationship they have with God and everything to do with how they perceive their religious obligation.
There are even economic reasons for the season. I’m not sure what would happen to the retail sector of our economy without Christmas. I’m not sure that people would buy the same amount of stuff the rest of the year. The money that is spent not only on gifts but on decorations, travel and food is staggering. Is that bad? A stimulated economy is good news for most of us. And it was Eleanor Roosevelt said, "People say that Christmas is too commercialized. But I have never found it that way. If you spend money to give people joy, you are not being commercial. It is only when you feel obliged to do something about Christmas that the spirit is ruined."
2000 years after the birth of Christ it is virtually impossible to separate the true meaning of Christmas, that is celebrating His birth, from all of the cultural, social and religious traditions that have come together to form what we think of as Christmas.
And then there are the 4) Pious Grinches. These are the people that would do away with Christmas in a heartbeat. But not for the same reason that Grinch Grinches would do away with Christmas. They look at some of the pagan roots of Christmas, and a lot of how we celebrate Christmas does have background outside of Christianity.
They tell us that date of Christmas was originally used in pagan celebrations in Rome to celebrate the passing of the winter solstice. And they are right, the ancients knew that by this time in December that the shortest day and longest night had passed, and with that came the promise of longer days, shorter nights and eventually spring. Around 270 a.d. Emperor Aurelia capitalized upon the heathen worship of the sun and declared December 25th as the birthday of the Unconquered Sun. But when Christians celebrate this December 25th they won’t be doing to recognize the promise of longer days or to remember the birthday of the Unconquered Sun.
They would tell you that early pagan cultures from the Romans to the Egyptians to the Celts used evergreens in their celebrations to signify eternal life. But when we put up our trees it will harkens back to a Christmas Eve about the year 1513. When Martin Luther was walking through the woods on the starlit night he thought the stars looked as if they were shining on the branches. When he arrived home, Martin Luther placed a small fir tree inside his house. He decorated it with lighted candles.
In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul addressed the issue of meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Some believers felt that the meat was impure because of it’s pagan beginnings. It had been offered up to false gods. Paul said 1 Corinthians 8:4 So now, what about it? Should we eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God and no other. And I guess that’s my thought, we can dwell on what December 25th used to represent or we can focus on what it’s supposed to represent. Are we celebrating the birth of the unconquered sun or the birth of the unconquered Son?
Well I got through those four and had to ask myself “where do I fit in?” Because the reality is that I’m a little bit of a Grinch myself. If I wasn’t married with a family my house would remain dark, nary a card would be sent and on Christmas Day I would eat a pizza. Probably why I enjoyed Christmas in Australia, very few people decorated their homes and for Christmas dinner we had a BBQ then we went to the beach. Although my favourite Christmas tradition was when we’d all pile into my Volkswagen Convertible put the roof down, stick a Christmas tape in the stereo and go look at the houses that were decorated.
But I’m not the way I am because I don’t like Christmas or don’t approve of Christmas is just, well I’m one of those 5) Apathetic Grinches. I just don’t get excited over all the hoop-la that surrounds the Christmas season. But I think it’s natures way of finding balance because my sister starts decorating and getting ready for Christmas shortly after Easter, well maybe she waits until the first of November.
So what’s the answer? 2000 years ago Jesus Christ was born after Mary and Joseph traveled a great distance to get to the town his family was from. On that first Christmas there was a star and there was singing and gift giving. The shepherds were told to rejoice and to celebrate. And you know and I know Jesus probably wasn’t born on December 25th, and we know that there have been abuses of Christmas both past and present. But I don’t think it’s wrong to celebrate the birth of Jesus. He came to offer us the greatest gift we could ever receive, the gift of forgiveness and eternal life. And it all started in a manger in Bethlehem and that’s worth celebrating.
Let me finish with the book I started with. (Finish reading from Grinch, from point where he hears the music and can’t understand.)
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If you could build a church for a dollar