Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wrestling With My Inner Grinch!

The words have been rendered timeless by the well-deep baritone vocals of the late Thurl Ravenscroft (also the voice of Tony the Tiger), who declares without pity the sorry state of one of Christmastime’s most distasteful souls: “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch!” The song’s first play of the season is guaranteed to bring a smile to parent and child alike. It is also a sure-fire conversation starter as listeners share fond memories of the first time they saw “The Grinch” or recall a favorite memory from the show.

One of the factors that make the Grinch such an embraceable story is that it is a tale about someone else. It’s about those “Other guys” who “just don’t get the real meaning of Christmas”. It was written to confront those “Poor Fellows” who, as they get caught up in the season, forget what Christmas is all about and wind up becoming a tragic display of self-centeredness and ill-will. The story of “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” could never really be about me…or could it?

A few days ago, in the midst of an unrellenting schedule of back to back ministry events, my phone buzzed. It was my daughter Joana. She was informing me of yet another change in her daily schedule that would encroach on my plans for the day - plans that were already strained painfully near the snapping point. Alone, I groaned and growled out loud. As my growl disappated into thin air my phone chirped again, this time with news from Luz that there were some more changes to our holiday schedule that called for my immediate attention. After hanging up, my growl became a roar. ARRGH!!!! I gnashed my teeth and turned on the radio for some consolation. As the signal kicked in, there was my song right on cue, “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch! You really are a Heel! You’re as cuddly as a cactus, you’re as charming as an eel, Mr. GrinnnINCH!” As I backed out of the parking lot, I snickered at the words as usual, until I glanced in the rear-view mirror and thought for a nanosecond that my expression bore an uncomfortable resemblance to the subject of the song. When I looked in the mirror again, I saw someone more recognizable as myself, but the first image remained in my mind. Was I becoming “The Grinch”? Was I allowing the hustle and bustle of Christmastime not only to distract me, but to transform me into the personification of everything un-Christmas-like imaginable? It appeared to me that there was no denying that I was indeed becoming – The Grinch!

In just a few short moments, I had allowed my self-absorption to dampen the joy I desired to flow through me during this most holy season. My pursuit of “Holiday Madness” was coming dangerously close to causing me to forget the essence of what that first Christmas was all about. In my frantic pursuits, I was forgetting just how the power of that wonderful day should influence each day that I live as a Christian. In the 2nd Chapter of Philippians, not generally approached as a “Christmas Passage”, the Apostle Paul explains how Jesus’ birth and life among us should radically transform our attitudes in everyday life. He writes:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

Humilty. Service. Obedience. Self-sacrifice. These are the attitudes that Jesus perfectly displayed in His Incarnation. His example reminds us that we must not be “Grinched” by our circumstances, our problems, or our inconveniences. Instead, we must focus on serving others, so that true joy can be manifested in us. This joy springs from the satisfaction of knowing we have conformed to the will of God by serving as His ambassadors in a hurting world. This Christmastime, I have already seen many examples of this joy as brothers and sisters in the faith reach out to the families of inmates, sing songs to shut-ins, and deliver holiday food packets provided for families who are “down on their luck”. I’ve also seen Christmas ambassadors at work in acts of kindness as simple as giving hearty holiday greeting or opening a door for someone who just needed a little help. As you navigate the maze of holiday activities, “Grinch-proof” your Yuletide by remembering the Reason for the joy of the season. Allow Him to adjust your attitude to one that is characterized by service to others and a mighty love that shines though at Christmas and all throughout the year. If the Grinch can be changed, you can too! Merry Christmas and God Bless us – Everyone! Until Next time…

Sam J.

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