Source: The Orthodox Church in America
Not long ago, I ran across a copy of my granddaughter Nadia’s edition of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”—a book that she had thoroughly enjoyed when she was younger. That brought back memories of having read the Dr. Seuss classic and having watched the TV version in my own childhood. And this further gave rise to some fantasizing on my part—perhaps, I thought, it would have been a good thing if the Grinch actually did steal “Christmas!” (Apparently, I too have my “dark side” on occasion!) However, the “Christmas” to which I refer here the commercial pageant of excessive consumerism and endless activity that leaves one on the brink of total exhaustion by December 25. If the Grinch had stolen that Christmas, then perhaps the Nativity of Christ could become more central — even to Christians! In my fantasizing, I created an ideal world with an ideal celebration of the Nativity of Christ. Here is what I envisioned, at least for Orthodox Christians:
- We would actually be able to participate in more of the liturgical services - other than on Sundays - during the 40-day Nativity Fast, instead of playing bumper cars in mall parking lots and spending hours inside the mall listening to drearily piped in “holiday season” music while endlessly shopping and spending money (or running up the credit card balances). Add to this the more recent phenomenon known as on-line shopping. Then, we could take home something of the peace and prayerfulness of the Church. The music that would fill our minds would be the sacred hymnography of the liturgical services that invites us to the mystery of the Incarnation. In short, the Church, and not the mall, would be the focus of our seasonal endeavors.
- We would be freed from the consumerism that “obliges” everyone to shop and spend an extraordinary amount of money on a pile of gifts. This would free our minds and hearts to think of the poor and needy, who could become more of our focus of attention and the recipients of our generosity in the spirit of the real Saint Nicholas—and ultimately, in the spirit of the Gospel. We would then only have to worry about “offending” God for forgetting to provide gifts for His neediest children, and not only our family members, friends and co-workers.
- We would make a point of coming to Confession before the Feast in a timely fashion, rather than desperately trying to “squeeze” an extra 15 minutes into those over-extended “pocket planners” already filled with a myriad of “winter activities/vacations,” social commitments and the like. This would also allow for greater time for self-examination in order to confess those sins while enjoying the gifts of repentance and compunction.
- We would be able to concentrate more time reading and contemplating the Holy Scriptures or a good book that leads us deeper into the mystery of the “Orthodox Way” that is centered on the Incarnate Christ. We would be able to come to the church for any educational/catechetical programs scheduled during this same time, so as to communally penetrate that same mystery in a spirit of intense interest in Christ and fellowship as a group.
- Basically, we would be free of the temptation to marginalize the Nativity of Christ because of the demands of the secularized “Christmas” that devours our time and energy and resources. This would us to practice “stewardship of time, talents and treasure” in a Christ-directed manner consistent with the Gospel.
Perhaps Dr. Seuss was onto something in realizing that the Grinch just may represent the “dark side” of our personalities. But again—and I may be pushing it—perhaps the Grinch could represent our conscience that tells us that our focus and attention during Christmas is not quite “on target,” that we need to eliminate some of the “distractions” of life that are superficially attractive, but which somehow prevent us from discovering the very “thing” that would truly bring us everlasting contentment. Of course, we want our children to enjoy themselves at Christmas, as we did as children. We would not want it to be “always winter, but never Christmas,” as C. S. Lewis described Narnia when still under the control of the bad witch. So, in the end, the Grinch—like Ebeneezer Scrooge before him —was “converted” and discovered his “good side.” Our conversion could entail a turning back to Christ so as to satisfy the deepest longings our minds and hearts. Perhaps this could happen if we were less concerned with conforming ourselves to the world and more concerned with conforming ourselves to Christ.