Summary: Every positive experience has its negative side. Jesus’ coming was threatening to many, and His birth foreshadows a cross. The light of Christ, however, will never be put out.
Dr. Seuss knew that every Christmas has a Grinch. Every positive experience, it would seem, has a dark side, a negative side. Every Christmas has a Grinch to steal away its joy.
Maybe you are one of those people, and there are quite a few of them, who just get tired of the whole murky business before Christmas Day comes. Maybe you are one of those who get weary with Christmas carols (sorry about tonight!) and particularly weary with "Little Drummer Boy, Pa-rum-pa-papum" five hundred times, as elevator music! Maybe you are tired of it all and are skating dangerously close to the "Bah humbug" syndrome!
I heard the other day about a hotelkeeper who had booked a chess players convention at the Christmas break. These chess enthusiasts gathered night and day, it seemed in the hotel lobby, chattering away about their tournaments and their gambits, their knights and their rooks. After about three hours of this the hotel manager came out from behind the desk and shooed them all out. "Just get out of here, just go to your rooms, just go out on the street, anywhere, anything, but get out of here!” “But why?” someone asked. “What harm can a convention of chess players talking about their game possibly do?” "Because," said the hotel manager, "after a while you get tired of chess nuts boasting in an open foyer."
Christmas can bring out the best in people, but it can also bring out the worst. Especially the worst puns.
Maybe you are tired of Christmas by the time Christmas comes. Of maybe for you it was that last-minute shopping experience. You thought you had plenty of time, you knew exactly what you wanted, and off you trotted to pick it up this afternoon, knowing that things might be crowded, but believing that all would be well. Ah, but if it turned out for you as it turned out for me, I picked up my couple of items, I got in what I thought was the shortest check-out line, only to be held up by three price checks, one register void, a check approval, and the woman in front of me, at the last instant, decided she didn’t want to spend more than $100 and took simply hours negotiating which items to credit and which ones to keep! What a Grinch experience!
And when it became my turn, and I thought it’s Christmas time and the livin’ is easy, she had to send for a SKU number, whatever that is, and it took so long that when I got to the parking garage they said, "Sorry, sir, you have to pay. You only get one hour free." Ouch!
Every Christmas has a Grinch, every positive experience a negative, every joy a sorrow, every gift a price tag. That’s what we tend to think. That seems to be what we experience.
But John, in the preface to his little letter, says that God revealed his life in Jesus Christ, and that God is light in Him is no darkness at all. And then John says that he is telling us this truth so that our joy may be complete. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all; joy complete, unsullied, unalloyed, and pure.
It must have seemed to anyone who had followed Jesus from His birth to His manhood and to the end ... it must have seemed to anyone privileged to know Him all His life that in His life there was that element of the negative, that somber side. Despite His crystalline purity, despite His matchless teaching and His incredible healing powers, despite all that He had going for Him, from the very beginning there was a shadow, a threat, having over Him.
At His cradle, while shepherds watched and angels sang, all seemed wonderful. But not very far away, in a palace in Jerusalem, a king was planning malice and mayhem. Scores of infant children slain because of the birth of this one. A shadow side, a curse at the cradle.
On the eighth day, when they took this little one to the temple for naming and circumcision, after the custom of his fathers, an aged priest marveled at Him and thanked God for allowing him to see this child, but then spoke of a sword which would pierce the heart of His mother. A shadow side, a dark side, a curse at the cradle.
And as He grew and began to teach, day after day, week after week, the careful reader of the Gospels can sense the gathering of storm clouds. He made powerful enemies, right from the start. Pharisees, Zealots, Scribes and priests, Romans, few of them appreciated what He had to say. You can see, very, very soon, as you read His story, that an end is coming, a violent end, a bitterly disappointing end. A curse at the cradle and a curse, it seems, during His life. A curse that would lead to a cross.