The commercials always feature the grumpy Grinch–the Grinch who stole Christmas. Even now, many years after its first broadcast success, people accuse others who discount/derail/deride Christmas as a “Grinch.”
To be sure, the Grinch was gleefully in his element as he carefully planned and exquisitely executed his Christmas Eve theft. He stole the presents and the tree and the tinsel and the garland and the colored lights and the cookies and the Roast Beast.
He took it all. He took it with not an ounce of remorse. In fact, he took it all with grinning Grinchly greedy glee. And he took it with the help of his hapless little dog. I never did catch the dog’s name; did you?
The Grinch we remember is that grumpy Grinch. The Grinch who couldn’t wait for Christmas morning anticipatory smiles to give way to Christmas morning heartbreak. The Grinch who took malevolent pleasure from the prospect of others’ disappointment.
You remember him, don’t you? When you call someone a “Grinch,” that’s who you mean. I know that I do.
What we don’t usually recall is the “heart-grew-three-sizes-that-day-post-discovering-the-true-meaning-of-Christmas” Grinch. Remember him? The Grinch who, while expecting sounds of disappointment to ride yuletide thermals up from Whoville, heard something else instead.
Upon close listening, His Grinchness heard the sounds of Christmas morning joy float his way. That joy gave him pause; that joy made him reconsider all of his presuppositions; that joy made him regret his Grinchly choices; that joy moved him to (dare I say) repentance; and that joy blossomed in his heart as “the true meaning of Christmas broke through.”
I don’t know what it is about us that makes us remember the small-hearted Grinch rather than celebrate the miracle of the heart-grew-three-sizes Grinch. I just know that we lean reflexively toward that memory.
And I think another thing about this remembrance tendency: we do the same thing to pretty much everyone else–and we also do it to ourselves.
We remember our former selves; we remember everyone else’s former selves. Our own former selves haunt us with our failures and foibles and the awareness that we often feel a mere centimeter from relapse.
Others’ former selves haunt us with the power of remembered hurt and the fear of a reversion to harmful habits. There is even, perhaps, the idea that we don’t believe the change from pre- to post-Grinch will “stick.”
We don’t see transformed “new creatures in Christ;” we see the ones who let us down or hurt us or hurt someone we love.
But, in Christ, the change will “stick.” We are not on a self-help program subject to failure as we revisit our weaknesses. We are in a Christ-empowered relationship that enables us to realize His strength precisely at the point of our weakness. And that is what we should remember.
We must not forget that the miracle of the Grinch story is our miracle too: “the old has gone, the new is here” (2 Cor. 5:17).
© 2015, All rights reserved. Scriptures from the New International Version (Zondervan).