What the Grinch forgot to tell us

recite-10xeq49Perhaps Christmas means a little bit more.

I love the Grinch. I love his yearly television transformation from grumpy misanthrop into loving apologist. On top of Mt. Crumpit, he welcomes the enlightenment of Christmas without gifts. He understands that there’s more. A whole lot more.

And then…

He gleefully returns the gifts. The story ends as he slices the roast beast and joyously claims the gizzard.

He never fills us in on the more.

Our neighborhood has a contest each Christmas that determines the families with the best outdoor light displays. One of the categories is Most Religious. This year, there were exactly two neighbors with decorations focused on the birth of Jesus. Two.

It’s kind of like having a birthday party, and neglecting to invite the birthday boy.

My own light display is lacking. Every year, we go full Griswold. We have an inflatable snowman, a blow up Santa, reindeer, snowflakes, candy canes, and enough lights to serve as a Georgia Power Christmas bonus. There is no Jesus. No wise men. Mary is noticeably absent. Joseph wasn’t invited.

Some of my best childhood memories are of our family trips to Mema’s to share in our holiday anticipation. I would fidget my way through Christmas Eve church services, then try my best to grab a quick five or six winks so Santa could do his stuff. By 9 a.m., the living room floor was hip deep in wrapping paper. By noon, everything new was old again. By the 26th, we were looking forward to the next Christmas.

God has been talking to me this year. Loudly. Firmly.

It started with my daughter’s engagement. She and her fiance allowed that Santa just might not be a part of their children’s Christmases. He was raised celebrating the birth of Christ, not 40% off. At first, I was heartbroken. And then…

One of the youth directors at our church asked me to help lead a class for college students. The title of the lessons says it all.

Christmas: It’s not our birthday.

Then, today, with no knowledge of the struggle I’ve been facing, a friend forwarded me an article written by journalist Kristen Powers. Once an atheist, the Fox News contributor writes about her transformation and how Christianity “ruined” her love of Christmas. Her newfound love of Christ supplanted her childhood adoration for the pile under the tree.

She’s invited Jesus back to His birthday party.

Now, I’m not here to kill Santa. I don’t want to put the big man on trial. Santa represents joy. He represents the spirit of sacrifice for the sake of others. But it’s time for Santa to take a backseat to a baby.

Christmas is about Jesus. It’s about a dirt poor infant born in an uncomfortable place in an uncomfortable situation. It’s about the greatest man ever to walk this earth, who taught us how to give without standing in line at Kohl’s. He taught us about love, unconditional and abundant. Jesus arrived on this earth to command that we love all others, even if they’re big, green, hairy, and hateful.

The Grinch didn’t change all on his own. He changed because of the love and attention offered by a child. Most of the Whos found the Grinch frightening and repugnant. The very characteristics others found repulsive, Cindy Lou Who found appealing. She kissed his dirty warm cheek, and the Grinch was reborn.

Funny. Jesus has a special love for the weak and downtrodden. He looks at the worst in all of us, and finds a reason to give us acceptance and compassion. Our sins, no matter how green or hairy, are instantly forgiven.

What a gift. Why on earth do we need anything else?

Santa is magical. But magic is an illusion. The gift of Christ is so real that I can feel it every time I fail and He instantly grants me grace. I feel it when I’m overwhelmed with stress, and a few moments of prayer lifts my burdens and sends it crashing into a landfill, the very same trash heap that is filled with last year’s Christmas toys. Jesus is not invisible. He’s there in the smile I wear. He’s in the hug I offer those in need. He’s in the meals I will deliver to shut-ins this Christmas Eve.

Christmas is changing for me. Perhaps it should have happened a long time ago. I’m not evicting Santa, but from now on, Jesus is driving the sleigh.

Jesus is the “something more” that the Grinch was talking about.

It’s his birthday. Let’s invite him to the party.

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