While picking up some odds and ends the other day. I spoke to the manager of the store. She and I built a rapport over the years. So, I said to her, “Merry Belated Christmas!” And her remark to me was, “Thank God it’s over!” My reply, “I thought the Grinch was gone, but apparently he’s still here.” To which many of the other customers began to chuckle. Of course I was being sarcastic. As she is one of the sweetest, most hardworking and accommodating people you will ever meet. But, she was retail sales frustrated.
What does that mean? As a former retail manager I understood exactly how she felt. It’s all about profits and sales. Corporate Office sends you these schematics to setup the shelves and never allots any extra hours to do the impossible. At the checkout she went onto say, ‘probably next year they’ll have us setting up Christmas in August.’ “You’ve got to be kidding me.“ “No”, she said, “They had us setting up in September so I wouldn’t be the least surprised.” To which I replied, “That’s really scary.”
The question then rose in my mind, is the way we celebrate Christmas really an illusion? When all the decorations come down, left-overs frozen, trees set on the curb or back in the box; wrapping paper and boxes put in the garbage and all the relatives have left the building. Then Silent Night is quietly nestled on the shelf again until Yuletide Season. While all of the fifty and seventy-five percent off sales hope to empty every store shelf. Lest we forget the spirit of giving that is now relinquished as we wrap ourselves in our microwavable attitudes and lifestyles.
Is the way we celebrate Christmas really an illusion? What’s the true story behind the shopping workaholics and depressed shoppers? As we walk through a short intermission before another New Year comes at the drop of the ball in Time Square. Then there will be more After Christmas sales, angry customers standing in Customer Service lines, and depressed people who never fit into this scenario from the beginning. Who now, due to traditional pressures; will carry unspoken regrets into the New Year because of overspending? Praying for the IRS to hurry up and send them a refund check. And the cycle continues. Even though they told themselves this year they weren’t going to do it. But the attack of lunacy struck again. Their credit cards played a Jedi mind trick on them. Simply because some of us still do not understand the true meaning of Christmas.
And in contemplating all of this, for some strange reason my mind reflected on Whoville. You know, the part of the story, The Grinch Stole Christmas, where on Christmas morning everyone wakes up to find no trees or gifts. Then they all assemble around this huge tree in the town square and began singing a song of joy and thanksgiving. When the Grinch lends an ear, in presumption, thinking he would be hearing crying children and disappointed parents all in a tizzy. Their reaction threw him into utter and inexplicable confusion.
You see, the Whos in Whoville were not superficial at all. They realized the true meaning of Christmas; which apparently escaped the Grinch as well as some of us. We have become too desensitized and drenched in a cornucopia of traditions which expose our lustful appetites for the bigger tree, the most expensive gifts and extravagant feasts in a box. But, at whose expense?
The Bob Crachits and tiny Tims in the world? The single mom or dad who has worked their fingers to the bone? Just to make sure they have the bare necessities; with nothing left over for baubles and bows? Being only one meal away from starvation? What about the elders shut up in nursing homes that never get a visit or a card? The child in an orphanage who has been sitting there too long in sorrow and sadness. Or the member sitting right next to you in church you don’t even know—only by passing acquaintance, who just received a pink slip or a divorce decree because of abuse? The next door neighbor who is just one more disappointment away from suicide? What about the homeless people who sleep in the shadow or death. The prisoner in jail who craves a visit from anyone, because of his isolated insanity. Or that person you have not spoken to, in God only knows how long, just because you chose not to forgive, but to forget?
“for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25: 35-40 NKJV)
I noticed in Whoville’s town square no one was left out. Or as Stitch would say, “Nobody’s left behind.” It wasn’t what was under the tree that was important. No, it was who surrounded it that mattered. A diverse people, families who had a genuine love for a Savior whose birth was more important than baubles and bows. And a genuine love for each other. Perhaps they realized belief in Christ could save them. Whereas, Christmas trees and gifts could not. As children, we were taught; the only time you should look down on someone is when you are giving them a hand up. This seems to be a dying philosophy. I pray it is resurrected by people who can discern an illusion from the truth. For we are ALL sinners saved by grace. Wasn’t that the reason Christ was born into this world in the first place?
Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10 NKJV) Notice the text was inclusive of all people. Not just the haves who could celebrate Christmas in big fashion. But also the have-nots who possessed no turkey, tree or presents—Just thankfulness.
Even Scrooge realized with all his money and power, those things meant absolutely nothing. Unless you help those who cannot help themselves. In other words, give out of a thankful heart since you are blessed to be a blessing.
The one thing the Grinch and Scrooge had in common—they got the revelation of Christmas’ true meaning. Different approaches were taken to bring them to the same Truth. To keep Christmas in their hearts, not under a tree or in a box. Either example is a much needed reminder of the true spirit of Christmas. No matter the day or month. We should be a society that expresses Christmas every day of the year. Tyler Perry has set that bar and it is my hope others will follow and try to jump over it.
Yes, Scrooge righted some obvious wrongs and the Grinch gave back all he’d stolen. Yet their deeds were done with the true spirit of giving. Not wrong motives that disappear like the wrapping paper off a present. Deeds done that represent the true meaning of a heartfelt gift. You know, like the one given in Bethlehem… For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NKJV) And that ultimate gesture was no illusion. But true to the highest standards of which God holds Himself. He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32 NKJV)
And God bless us, everyone.