Friday, December 19, 2008

Merry Christmas from Whoville!! (Dialogue Column 12.16.08)

The Dialogue is the newsletter of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in St. Joseph, MO. Often, I'll post here on the blog my columns for the weekly newsletter. I mention it just so that folks who read the snail-mail version can skip this post if they've already read it.

This December, I introduced my oldest son Julian to the wonder that is Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. He has seen the cartoon adaptation of the book that airs every year along with the Jim Carrey feature film, but the book with its monochromatic illustrations seems to capture his attention the most. Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel was his real name) has a way of cutting straight to the heart of the matter when it comes to human relationships. Sure his characters may look strange, but in books like The Lorax, The Sneetches, Horton Hears a Who, The Butter Battle Book and yes, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, he speaks powerfully about how selfishness leads to broken relationships and even the breakdown of society. I’ve been reflecting on The Grinch during Advent this year.

You may recall that the Grinch decides to steal Christmas from the inhabitants of Whoville, the Whos. The narrator offers several possible explanations for the Grinch’s behavior; the most likely being his heart is two sizes too small. The Grinch hates the noise of Who children opening presents, Who families eating dinner together and most of all the Who sing-a-long when the whole community gathers on Christmas day to sing together. So, he steals everything Christmas-related; from stockings to Christmas trees to the “roast beast” in the freezers, but just before he throws it all off of a cliff, he hears the Whos singing together. Even though all the “stuff” of Christmas was stolen, the Whos still get together and sing. Instead of the wailing and grief he expected, the Grinch hears joyous singing. It’s as if for the Whos, the singing together as a community is the most important thing about Christmas and all the presents and feasting is secondary. What an amazing idea! It’s enough to melt even the Grinch’s cold heart.

Dr. Seuss does not mention the Christ child or the manger of Bethlehem, but he declares the Gospel nonetheless. We do not know what carols the Whos sing (although in the Broadway musical version it was a sort of generic ode to the holiday), but their joy seems reminiscent of our familiar Christmas carols that announce Jesus’ birth. The Whos do not explicitly mention Jesus, but in their joy of being with one another as a community, they certainly act like they know the Savior has come.

As we prepare for the celebration of Christmas next week, I hope that you will take a lesson from the Whos of Whoville. Our culture has masked the joy of Christmas with commercial gluttony. This year, due to the poor economy, the temptation to tie one’s joy to what one possesses (or does not possess) is even greater than normal. Yet, what brings joy is being in relationship with family, friends and God. I hope you will join us as we sing together in worship this Sunday morning and on Christmas Eve.

Grace and Peace,


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