December 23, 2020
The Grinch, Scrooge, and the meaning of Christmas – J. Barry Vaughn – Evening Prayer – Dec. 23, 2020
I’d like to share a thought from one of the most important theologians of the 20th century – Dr. Seuss:
Down in Who-ville
Liked Christmas a lot…
But the Grinch,
Who lived just north of Who-ville,
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, that 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.
(from How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss.)
Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a modern classic. It is an example of a genre of literature that probably began with Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, namely, a story about an individual who for whatever reason hates Christmas and everything it stands for, but who experiences an epiphany that changes them.
The Grinch, like a lot of us in the past year, has spent his time isolated in a cave atop a mountain overlooking Who-ville, accompanied only by his dog.
Whatever the reason,
His heart or his shoes,
He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos,
Staring down from his cave with a sour Grinchy frown
At the warm lighted windows below in their town.
You know how the Grinch’s story goes. Disguising himself as Santa Claus and his dog as a reindeer, the Grinch steals everything that he thinks makes Christmas possible:
…he took every present!
Pop guns! And bicycles! Roller skates! Drums!
Checkerboards! Tricycles! Popcorn! And plums!
And he stuffed them in bags. Then the Grinch, very nimbly,
Stuffed all the bags one by one, up the chimbley!
Then he slunk to the icebox. He took the Whos’ feast!
He took the Who-pudding! He took the roast beast!
He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash.
Why, that Grinch even took their last can of Who-hash!
The Grinch’s epiphany is simpler than Scrooge’s. It took the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come to teach Scrooge the true meaning of Christmas. All it takes for the Grinch is the sound of the Whos singing.
…the Grinch put his hand to his ear
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow…
But the sound wasn’t sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!
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.
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling. “How could it be so?”
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
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!”
And what happened then…?
Well… in Who-ville they say
That the Grinch’s small heart
Grew three sizes that day!
And just like Scrooge, the Grinch’s epiphany moves him to do something for others. Scrooge bought the biggest goose he could find for the Cratchits’ Christmas dinner; the Grinch repents of his theft of the presents and food and Christmas trees and returns to “all the Whos down in Who-ville.”
And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light,
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
And he… HE HIMSELF…!
The Grinch carved the roast beast!
From the very beginning Christmas has been about opening our hearts to the message of Christmas, opening our hearts to God’s good news and to the possibility that the earth might be transformed into the kingdom of God: “Glory to God in the highest and peace to all people on earth!”
So, my prayer for all of us this Christmas is that, like the Grinch, our hearts might grow at least three sizes bigger.