St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Sunday, December 24, 2018
The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ
First Lesson: Isaiah 9:2-7
Second Lesson: Titus 2:11-14
Gospel: Luke 2:1-20
Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire for your Gospel. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A few days after Thanksgiving, Chelsea and I took the kids to the movie theater to see “The Grinch,” a modern-day, retelling of the classic Dr. Seuss book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I highly recommend it. The creators of this modern spin on the classic, Christmas tale did a wonderful job expanding upon the story of the Grinch, whose heart is “two sizes too small,” and offering viewers a glimpse into the Grinch’s past, helping to explain why he’s so bitter and why he has such a strong hatred for Christmas in the first place. All of the major plot points from the original story are still there. The Whos down in Whoville are making their final preparations for Christmas, and they’re filled with more Christmas joy than Santa’s elves on Christmas Eve. This is all too much for the Grinch to bear, and he finally decides that he must do something to prevent Christmas from happening. So, he comes up with a devilish plan. He’ll disguise himself as Santa Claus, sneak into the homes of the Whos on Christmas Eve night, and steal from them everything having to do with Christmas- everything from the gifts under their Christmas trees to the beautiful lights and decorations on their homes. And, once he’s completed his mission, he’ll take all of their beloved gifts and decorations to the top of Mount Crumpit and dump them over the ledge.
With the exception of a few minor details, everything goes according to the Grinch’s plan. When the Whos wake up on Christmas morning, they’re dismayed to discover that all of their presents and decorations are gone. At first, little Cindy Lou Who blames herself for what’s happened, believing that her encounter with “Santa Claus” caused him to take everything with him back to the North Pole, but Cindy Lou’s mother comforts her and explains that Christmas is about more than just presents and decorations. Despite what’s happened, the residents of Whoville gather in the town square and begin to sing. From the top of the mountain, the Grinch hears their singing, and he finally realizes that the true spirit of Christmas is about love, joy, and peace- things that can’t be bought from a store or hung on a Christmas tree. Almost immediately, he joins in their singing, and his tiny heart triples in size! He races to save the sleigh full of gifts and decorations before it falls over the edge of the mountain, and he returns all of it to the Whos.
Before returning to his home, the Grinch apologizes for what he’s done to the people of Whoville, and later that night, Cindy Lou travels to the Grinch’s home to invite him to Christmas dinner. Of course, the Grinch is shocked by the little girl’s gracious invitation, and when he asks her why she would invite him over for dinner after all that he’s done, Cindy Lou simply looks at him and responds, “Because you’ve been alone long enough.”
I didn’t go to the theater that evening expecting to have such an emotional response to the movie, but as soon as I heard those words come from little Cindy Lou Who’s mouth, I couldn’t help but be moved to tears. In that beautiful moment, she opens up a whole new world for the Grinch, who has spent almost his entire life feeling alone and forgotten. Her words to the Grinch made me think about the birth of Jesus and why we celebrate on this Christmas Eve night. The Nativity of Jesus is a reminder to all of us that we are not alone in this world. We’ve never been alone, and we never will be. No matter how dark the world around us gets, no matter how hopeless we may feel at times, the story of Jesus coming into the world on that still and silent night in Bethlehem reminds us that God is always with us and that God’s love has the power to overcome even the darkest of nights. We see this love expressed in so many different ways- in random acts of kindness from strangers; in the loving words of our family and friends, who encourage us when we’re lost or feeling down; in the giving of one’s time to support the ministries of the Church and other charities; and in our willingness to forgive others, despite the wrongs they might have committed against us.
Cindy Lou’s message to the Grinch is one of hope, not unlike the angelic message delivered to the shepherds in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. “Do not be afraid,” the angel saidto the shepherds, “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
“Love came down at Christmas” as we often sing in that beloved, Christmas hymn. Love incarnate came to dwell among us, taking the form of a helpless child, to remind us that God is always near and to teach us that even a single act of sacrificial love has the power to change the world. A single act of unselfish, self-giving love has the power to turn the world upside down.
This was certainly true for our friend, the Grinch.
In the closing scene of the movie, the Grinch is gathered with all of Cindy Lou’s family and friends around the dinner table. The Grinch, who was once alone and seen by others as a disgruntled outsider, has joined in the festivities and become part of the community. Because of one single, solitary act of generosity, the Grinch has learned once gain what it means to love. Just as he’s about to carve the roast beast, he raises his glass and offers a toast. “To kindness and love,” the Grinch says, “the things we need the most.”
Dear friends, on this Christmas Eve night, as we once again celebrate the birth of the Christ-child in our midst, I commend to you the words of the Grinch. “To kindness and love, the things we need the most.” May we hold these words close to our hearts this night and every night, remembering that the love of God in Christ Jesus is seen and heard through our words and actions. May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, surround you this night, and may your Christmas be full of joy and love. Amen.
Click here to listen to an audio recording of this sermon.