The Gospel and the Grinch
What do you enjoy the most at Christmastime? Is it picking out the perfect tree and decorating it just right? Is it hanging lights and creating an eye-catching outdoor display? Is it baking cookies and candies? Is it taking the little ones for a visit with Santa? Is it buying and wrapping gifts? Is it opening the gifts? Is it special events and parties? Is it writing an annual letter and sending special cards, whether the old-fashioned way or electronically? Is it finding the best stocking stuffers? Is it traveling to visit distant family? Is it setting a beautiful table and recreating a traditional meal with the must-have trimmings? Or is it watching favorite Christmas-themed movies? All these things can bring joy and delight!
However, I have a confession to make. A few years ago, I decided that I liked Thanksgiving more than Christmas. (I heard that collective gasp!) How “unchristian” you may say! Upon coming to this realization, acknowledging it to myself as being true, I fully admitted that the reason for this was that preparations for Christmas seemed to create a great deal more stress than was due. I thought of the Grinch. He hated Christmas! He loathed the noise, the feasting, and singing. So he decided to steal Christmas!
As I thought about these things, I examined my heart. Like the Grinch, was my heart two sizes too small? To my relief, I discovered that my loathing had nothing to do with a lack of love for Jesus. In my heart and mind, I knew the magnitude of what Christ’s birth meant and continues to mean for humankind and for me personally. I had not lost sight of that, and perhaps that is why I actually enjoy Thanksgiving so much. That holiday helps me to focus on how thankful I am – most especially for salvation through Jesus Christ and so many intangible blessings from God.
That’s when I realized that my loathing occurs when I take my eyes off Jesus, when my mind focuses more on the doing than being. I had allowed myself to fall into the temptation of pursuing the perfect celebration rather than celebrating the perfect gift of Christmas which is Jesus! Focusing on the busyness of my doing and the need to do more and more robbed me of the joy in the doing, because the attitude in my doing was pointing to something other than the Who of Christmas. Could Jesus possibly redeem me from my pursuit of perfectionism in trying to create a culturally-defined, idealistic Christmas? Could He transform me to instead focus on celebrating the enduring purpose of His birth, the fulfillment of God’s promise for a Messiah? Yes!
Then I saw another pitfall to avoid this time of year. That is, I must also avoid the temptation to point fingers at those who would seek to “steal” Christmas; those who challenge the historicity of Jesus’ birth; those who acknowledge He lived, but who assert a life lived 2,000 years has no bearing on our lives today; even those who persist in saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Would I trust that God could change their hearts, also? Yes!
Whatever the reason for the spiritual condition of our heart, the Lord is the only one who can change our hearts, and no one is beyond his reach. Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
Knowing Jesus, the source of the joy of Christmas, changes hearts. Submitting to Him as Lord and King of our lives and learning to live according to principles of the Kingdom of God is what continues to transform our lives. It does not mean that we may not get off track once in awhile but allowing His Spirit to correct our thinking and heal our hearts when we do is what much of the hope of Christmas is about.
So, if you find yourself in this season with a heart too small, look to the Who that is the greatest of all! Jesus is the reason for the season!
P.S. If you see me wearing my Grinch sweater, it is not because I am loathing preparations for Christmas. Rather, I wear it as a reminder that Jesus is the one who changes the hardest of hearts! He even changed mine.