12.22.2009

How the Grinch Didn't Steal Christmas


I’ve always been fond of the Grinch in all his grinchiness, even though as the famous song states, he was once compared to a three-decker-saurkraut-and-toadstool-sandwich with arsenic sauce.

As I sat with my children watching Dr. Seuss's 1966 animated version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" for probably the 33rd time, the message struck me rather profoundly this year. Punched me in the gut, in fact.
 
Christmas has been canceled for my family this year. When the school called me last week to have me come and pick up my sick child, I did so with a sense of foreboding, realizing that our travel plans very well could be in jeopardy. And I was right. She was diagnosed with a nasty virus that might as well be the flu, and is, naturally, highly contagious. She has not fully recovered. My husband was the next victim on the grinchy virus’s list. He can barely walk, much less get in the car to drive five hours. Our extended families let us know, with good reason, that they would not be traveling to our contaminated home this year, nor would we be traveling to theirs. I don’t blame them. But I could not help but feel some sadness that the best part of Christmas, being together with loved ones, was not going to happen for us this year.
 
So even before my annual viewing of the Grinch cartoon, I was having malicious thoughts about this particular virus as the Grinch who stole our Christmas.

So there I was in the recliner, with one kid on each leg, feeling rather grinchy myself – sour, pouty, and resentful of sickness in general. I watched as the Grinch predictably stood atop Mount Crumpit, rubbing his hands together and awaiting the loud cry of sadness to erupt from the Who’s in the valley upon realizing their stuff was gone. But then the narrator Boris Karloff uttered these classic words:
“Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, was singing! Without any presents at all! He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME! Somehow or other, it came just the same!”

Hmmm, I thought, perking up a bit and hearing something in this cartoon I’d seen a million times that might possibly be meant for me. Christmas came to Whoville even without their stuff….without their things that made Christmas be Christmas for them.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

In that moment, the moment of the Grinch’s grand revelation, it became clear to me that my little family’s Christmas was going to come, just the same. Travel or no travel. Big Christmas dinner or not. Even if we eat Kraft macaroni and cheese on December 25th, it will be okay. The Grinch found out that Christmas is an unstoppable force among those who believe in it. Even though his theme song refers to his soul as “an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable,” the Grinch wasn’t too far gone to admit that he had made an enormous mistake.
 
But even more notable than that, the Who’s weren’t too bitter to forgive him for it. They even let him carve the roast beast.


And isn’t THAT what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown? The baby born as Christ the Lord has forgiven me and all of my Grinchy tendencies and various enormous mistakes. Christmas Day, in all of its joy and glory, is inevitably coming - and nothing can stop it. Maybe if I let go of my own humbug-ness, I’ll be free to welcome Him to the world once again this year, whether I am in my own home or someone else’s. And so, I’m going to do just that – because Christmas is not about me and my happiness. It’s not even about my family’s traditions, as beloved as those may be. It’s about Him.

This is not going to be the worst Christmas ever. As a matter of fact, in the face of some adversity, I would not be at all surprised if it ends up as one of the best.
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