Several years ago, Theodor Seuss Geise, under the pseudonym, Dr. Suess, penned the words to his famous book, How The Grinch Stole Christmas. In his book, Dr. Seuss subtly exposes the issues of greed and commercialism and promotes the values of love and community with wit, humor, and flawlessly constructed rhymes.
For those of you who have read the book or have seen the movie, you know the cantankerous Grinch hates the holidays–principally because of the Yuletide racket. Aiming to halt Christmas in its festive tracks, the potbellied, pink–eyed Seussian Scrooge impersonates Santa and confiscates every last Whoville Christmas bauble and goody, from trees to tricycles, to cans of Who-hash. This classic Christmas read-aloud features one of the funniest scoundrels in children's literature.
Yet, even though the Grinch had stolen all their gifts, he was surprised to hear a merry celebration going on in Whoville; and looking down from his home on Mount Crumpit he witnessed the Whos holding hands. Looking puzzled, and with his finger to his chin, the Grinch muses aloud:
“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
Well, there is no doubt about it–Christmas certainly means a whole lot more!
Sadly, our world still has many Grinches that are bent on stealing the real meaning of Christmas. But these Grinches are not so funny. They could learn a lesson from the Grinch’s experience with the residents of Whoville.
All around the world this Christmas season, Grinches will try once again to snuff out any reference to the Christ of Christmas. They will try hard to steal the meaning surrounding the birthday celebration of God’s Son – the true reason for the season. They will work hard at cutting out any reference to Jesus at school concerts, they will work diligently to remove nativity scenes from public places, and they will avoid usingMerry Christmasfor a greeting because it’s not politically correct. Yes, these Grinches will stop at nothing in their effort to expunge every mention of the Christ child, whose birth began the first Christmas.
In spite of the efforts of the Grinches, millions of people from across the world will be celebrating the true meaning of Christmas. No, they are not Whos from Whoville – they are Christians. Their celebrations will happen in towns, villages, mega cities, remote places, homes and churches. They will worship Jesus and sings songs that reflect his birth. And these Christians will do something else–they will joyfully participate in the giving of gifts.
It’s true–a lot of people give gifts at Christmas. But have you ever wondered why Christians give gifts? Christians give gifts because our Lord taught us that it was more blessed to give then to receive. Giving gifts demonstrates the true “spirit” of Christmas. We give gifts because God modelled the spirt of giving when he gave us the greatest gift of all – salvation and eternal life through his Son, Jesus Christ.
One such Christian organization that models this true spirit of giving is Samaritan’s Purse. Throughout the year and especially at Christmas time they demonstrate the spirit of giving through their Christian generosity. Founded by Franklin Graham, the son of the late Dr. Billy Graham, Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization which provides spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet the needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Every year at this time, Samaritan’s Purse, with their program, Operation Christmas Childwill be distributing shoeboxes filled with Christmas gifts to children all over the world. Since 1993, more than 146 million Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes have been distributed to children in more than 160 countries and territories.
Yet, there is a wonderful piece of information that often goes unreported by the media–these shoeboxes have been filled with gifts by millions of Christians who have wanted to show God’s love to needy children. This is the “spirit” of Christmas that a Grinch can never destroy. Samaritan’s Purse is just one of many thousands of Christian charities that will make a difference this season in so many lives.
When we understand the true meaning of Christmas is giving, it can have a profound effect on our lives. Christmas teaches us not to value things too much, but to value them too little. It teaches us that the pressure of constant wanting dissipates all gratitude and that the weight of restless craving plunders all enjoyment.
As paradoxical as it may seem, it was God that created us this way. He made us to yearn – to always be hungry for something we can’t get, to always be missing something we can’t find, to always be disappointed with what we receive, to always have an insatiable emptiness that no one thing can fill, and an untameable restlessness that no discovery can still. Yearning itself is healthy – a kind of compass inside pointing to True North – to God himself. It’s not the wanting that corrupts us. What corrupts us is the wanting that is misplaced, set on the wrong thing.
So many in our world are focused on filling the void in their lives with the wrong things. Christmas often means combing the stores in frustration or fighting someone for the latest techno gadget or fashion doll. It’s getting trampled in a stampede at stores as you chase after the latest door crasher special. It is baking cookies, making candy, and roasting turkeys. It is searching the Christmas tree lots for just the right tree. It is listening to dogs barking to the tune of “Jingle Bells,” or Brenda Lee singing “Jingle Bell Rock.” It is going to a party where once again people will sing, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. These pursuits will be the focus of Christmas for many people.
A recent cartoon highlights the dichotomy in worldviews that surround the Christmas season. It showed two homes decorated for Christmas. One had lights everywhere. There was a plastic snowman in the yard, a Santa on the roof, and a flashing sign in the front yard that said, “Merry Xmas! The other home had only a simple manger scene in the yard. The couple from the first house was looking out their window at the manger scene in their neighbor’s yard and said: “Some people have to put religion into everything.”
The cartoon makes an obvious point. It is hard to believe that the celebrations of today are so far removed from the One whose birthday is central to the occasion.
I get the feeling that we are sometimes like the folks who decided to throw a party to honor a very special friend. They sent out invitations, decorated the hall, and had the food catered. All the invited guests arrived at the designated time, but to their surprise, the guest of honor was not there. Finally, they made the embarrassing discovery – no one had invited the guest of honour!
I wonder how often Jesus is ignored at Christmas? He was shunned from the moment he was born. John the Apostle said, “He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.” Sadly, not much has changed–many people still don't recognize their Creator.
But the Apostle John went on to say, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Christmas is about you and me receiving Jesus; it’s about you and me being given the chance to become children of God.
This year, if you have not already done so, become one of God’s children by receiving Jesus as your Saviour. Let’s celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. It doesn’t come with ribbons. It doesn’t come with tags. It doesn’t come with packages, boxes or bags. It comes because an angel declared long ago, “Don’t be afraid!” “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12).That was the first Christmas and it still is the story of Christmas today.
This Christmas take some quality time with your family and remind them of whose birthday we celebrate. Remind them why we give gifts to each other as Christians. Take time to be thankful to God “for his indescribable gift”! (2 Cor. 9:15)