With Christmas around the corner, my family and I have begun diving into Christmas movies. We love them! From the classics to the most recent releases, we can't get enough of them.
One of our all time favorite Christmas movies is "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." It's a fun story of how the mean, green Grinch tries to get rid of Christmas by stealing presents from the residents of Whoville. At the climax of the story, the Grinch fills his sleigh to the brim with every trinket, toy and decoration that resembles Christmas and brings it to the top of Mt. Crumpit to dump it. Before he pushes the sleigh over the cliff, the Grinch puts his hand to his ear to hear the cries of the Whos without a Christmas, but to his surprise, he doesn't hear crying. He hears singing. He hears a unified song of joy welcoming Christmas. "How could it be so?" the Grinch wonders. As he puzzles over this bizarre response to a stolen Christmas, he thinks of something he hasn't before. "What if Christmas," he thinks, "doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” In this moment, the Grinch realizes that Christmas can't be stolen, because Christmas isn't found in a package wrapped in a bow or in a tree decorated from head to toe. It is a spirit that is embraced, cherished and shared.
As Christmas day draws near, Covid-19 can feel like a Grinch. This pandemic is leading to cancelled Christmas parties, sick family members, and smaller gatherings. Traditions are being broken, and church services aren't the same. For many of us, it feels as if Christmas is being stolen. Covid-19 may not be a green-haired grump dumping our presents over the edge of a cliff, but it is a grinch-of-a-virus that is bringing us to the edge of ourselves. While this isn't where we expected to be this holiday season, it is the place where unexpected transformation and change of heart can take place.
It is at the edge of losing everything where the Grinch's heart begins to change. He realizes that he has been putting the power of Christmas in the wrong things. Christmas isn't a sum of presents and traditions. These things merely serve as pointers to where Christmas can be found. When the Grinch changes his perspective on Christmas, his heart begins to change as well.
You might be mourning the fact that your travel plans will have to be cancelled or that your church's activities are having to be changed. You may hate the restrictions this pandemic is putting on your holiday traditions and even feel as if Christmas has been ruined this year. While we can mourn the loss of these things, they are not Christmas. This may sound obvious, but that doesn't mean it is easily believed. It is hard for us to see where we truly place the power of Christmas until everything surrounding the holiday has been taken away. It isn't until a Grinch comes along and stuffs his bag with our cherished celebrations that we begin to see what is potentially holding Christmas in our hearts. Said another way, if Christmas isn't Christmas without a certain tradition, present or event, then that certain "something" has the power to steal your joy, your hope, and even your Christmas.
It isn't until a Grinch comes along and stuffs his bag with our cherished celebrations that we begin to see what is potentially holding Christmas in our hearts.
But Christmas can't be stolen! Christmas is a celebration of the miraculous advent of our Savior (Luke 1:30-35). The celebration of our Creator, who in humility, became like His creation (Phil. 2:5-8). The celebration of our Lord becoming a helpless baby to save helpless humanity (Gal. 4:4-5). This is good news! The gift of Christmas can't be stolen, because the gift God gives us is Himself. All other gifts and celebrations point to the true gift that is to be celebrated for all of eternity. When Christ can't be celebrated because a lesser gift or tradition is removed, then those things are treated as the gifts and joy of Christmas, not Christ.
When the families in Whoville awoke to an empty town, void of stockings, trees and presents; they didn't say, "Well, it looks like we can't celebrate Christmas this year." What did they do? They rejoiced! They sang! While the traditions and trimmings were loved and appreciated, their removal did not destroy the holiday. If anything, it served as a reminder of why the holiday even exists. The true meaning of Christmas was enough to fill the their hearts with singing.
The gift of Christmas can't be stolen, because the gift God gives us is Himself.
There is nothing wrong with Christmas traditions. Giving gifts, hanging decorations and cooking Christmas feasts are wonderful things! But the question that remains is this... if these are removed, is Christmas destroyed? If you awoke to a holiday ransacked by the consequences of the virus, is the true meaning of Christmas enough? Could your hearts be filled with singing even if your traditions were left empty? Is the Christ of our faith enough to make the Christmas of this year merry?
These questions are not meant to bring guilt or evoke a sense of false joy in light of a difficult Christmas. It's ok to admit that this holiday season will be hard. It's ok to mourn the loss of traditions past. But the acceptance and mourning of loss necessitate a stolen Christmas. Celebrations may look differently this year, but celebrations can still happen nevertheless. We can acknowledge the the Grinches in this life, but their existence doesn't negate the presence of Jesus. In fact, they can make His presence better known.
If it takes a Grinch to remove possible distractions from the true meaning of Christmas, then maybe... just maybe... the Grinch doesn't steal Christmas at all. He brings it! With more clarity and transparency, his schemes set our eyes more towards Christ. With this perspective, our hearts can be transformed, and we can see, by God's grace, how the Grinch brings Christmas to a world that desperately needs it.