Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

"The Grinch Failed" ( A Christmas Meditation)

Luke 2: 1-14

For many of us – young and old alike – one of our favorite stories of the season is “How the

Grinch Stole Christmas.”  Many of us have read this book to our kids and grandkids; watched the

animated version on TV with them; even stomached the 2001 Universal production starring Jim

Carrey.  In this Christmas story, the old Grinch is annoyed by the merriment of the Who-ville

townspeople as they celebrate Christmas.  According to Dr. Seuss, the Grinch’s heart was “two

sizes too small.”  Grinch hated the joy, the decorations, and most of all, the noise of their Christ-

mas morning festivities. 

      In an effort to steal Who-ville’s Christmas, Grinch disguises himself as Santa; then takes all the

decorations, the food, the gifts, leaving nothing behind with which they could celebrate the 

holiday.  The climax of the story is that as the sun rose on Christmas morning, the Grinch looked

down from his mountain home expecting to see that Christmas day in Who-ville had been ruined.

But he’s startled by joyous music rising from the valley.  The people sang: “Christmas Day is in our

grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp.”  The Grinch can’t believe it!  No decorations.  No food.

No presents.  So why are they singing?  Grinch finally comes to the realization that Christmas is

about more than decorations, or food, or presents under the tree.  He concedes:  “Maybe Christmas

doesn’t come from a store; Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.”

     While the story of the Grinch doesn’t feature the Baby Jesus, or angels, or shepherds, Dr. Seuss

managed to capture a sense of the true and sacred meaning of Christmas.  His work was almost

prophetic, considering that when it was written in the mid-1950’s, Christmas was still respected

and revered by most Americans.  Would Dr. Seuss have ever imagined that in our day, Christmas

would become so emptied of its essential meaning; even offensive and divisive to many people.

His fable takes aim at a consumer-driven society, teaching that the joy of Christmas is much more

than decorations, food and presents.  No matter what lights or trees we may have adorning our

homes; no matter what our Christmas dinner is; no matter what presents are under our tree,

nothing is more important than the spiritual message of this holiday.  For we believe that God has

entered the world in a new and marvelous way through the person of Jesus;  in a sense, clasping

hands with humankind.  Jesus’ birth is the reason we have a Christmas to celebrate at all.

     The first Christmas in Bethlehem didn’t feature bells, ornaments, stockings, or decorated sugar

cookies.  There were no glittering angels on the tops of pine trees covered in lights and tinsel. 

Luke’s Gospel tells us that Mary and Joseph had to sojourn far from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be

registered in a census.  Because of all the travelers, the houses were full; no room available for

even a mother in labor.  They did manage to find a place to rest in a stable, Mary giving birth to

her son there; placing the newborn Jesus in the animal’s feeding trough.  No Christmas lights.  No

fleece baby blankets. No Harry London chocolates to celebrate the baby’s birth.  No neighbors

bringing casseroles.  No jingle bells or jolly elves.  These are all trappings once representative of

the true meaning of Christmas; now ends in themselves left devoid of any spiritual significance.

     All that mattered on that first Christmas was the birth of a child.  The angels heralded the good

news to shepherds in the fields that a Savior was born in Bethlehem.  They weren’t instructed to

bring a baby gift; only to bring the gifts of themselves in adoration of this infant.  That first Christmas was

observed in an unlikely place; in an unlikely way; with an unlikely cadre of characters surrounding the baby. 

Yet no one could take away in Grinch-like fashion the spectacular good news that was proclaimed on that

first Christmas morning. 

       And that good news declared by the angels was and is this: “……to you is born this day in the

city of David a Savior, who is the Christ, the Lord.”  The good tidings at Christmas are that we

have already received the one gift that truly matters.  Whatever we might unwrap tomorrow

morning, nothing is more precious than the news that God chose to step into human flesh, and

enter into our mortality in order that we might know who God really is, and what God is really


      If our celebration is focused purely on the trappings and glitter of a modern Christmas, then in

twenty-four hours, it will all be over.  But if we focus on the true meaning of Christmas – which

no Grinch on the hill can take from us – Christmas will last year round.  God with us, Emmanuel,

our Savior Jesus, has come to dwell with us; to live among us; to live in us; to live through us.  It’s

all too easy to be swept up in the whelm of consumerism and secularism which threaten to steal

this sacred season.  That’s what the Grinch is counting on.  Let’s send him back to his mountain

retreat, even as our song rings in his ears:  “Christmas day is in our grasp, so long as we have

hands to clasp…. and so long as we have a Savior to celebrate.”  Who in Who-ville knows.  Grinch

may someday realize and sing back:  “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store, Maybe

Christmas perhaps means a whole lot more.”  Amen.