The word “Grinch” has pretty much entered our common parlance courtesy of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Grinch is a green, pot belly, pear shaped, furry monster whose “heart was three sizes too small” and head was not screwed on straight. Personality wise, he is cynical, misanthropic, and possibly jealous. After all, his green fur could allude to Shakespeare’s “green monster” – a jealous person. The Grinch lives on a mountain – Mount Crumpet, well away from Whoville. His only companion is a faithful dog named Max.
Today, we use this word to describe anyone who is bitter, cynical, and just anyone who doesn’t get in to the Christmas spirit. And if you have seen How I Met Your Mother episode How Lily Stole Christmas, Ted Mosby uses “Grinch” as a PG version of a bad word he referred to Lily Aldrin.
Back to the original 1966 Grinch; in the production notes, when asked what was Giesel (Dr. Seuss’s real name)’s inspiration for the Grinch, it was not based on another person that Giesel chose. Authors can easily pick their enemy or rivals and cast them as villains. Giesel chose himself as the villain. In the production notes, the man was going through a difficult time due to his wife’s cancer and found the commercialization of Christmas to be hollow.
To be honest, who hasn’t felt the same? That the Christmas season has become commercialized? If you watch the news, the top stories about Christmas are not just about inspirational acts of charity or abilities to give. It is not just about travel woes due to unexpected bad weather.
Instead, news is all about current and impeding layoffs, expected Q4 earnings, and Q1 2023 forecasts. Everyone has an opinion – from the top like President Biden, to SecTreas Yellen, to LinkedIn and other social media influencers – to the man and woman on the street. We complain about the lines at Walmart and Target or that Amazon won’t be able to deliver our gifts until after December 25, 2022. To quote Pastor Max Lucado in his book Because of Bethlehem: “We shop until we drop.”
After reading such news, is there any wonder that the Christmas spirit has left us? Joy, wonder, and love is gone. In its place, fear, disappointment, and frustration.
In 2000, Jim Carrey portrayed The Grinch in a live action movie of the same name. In 2018, the latest version was again animated and voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch with a weird/neutral American accent.
The later versions expand on the Grinch’s back story – how he came to be because he was hurt by the Whos in Whoville or past loneliness and isolation. I think this makes the 2000 and 2018 Grinches more pitiable and understandable. The original Grinch had none of those. In other words, he was just a mean person. After all, there are plenty of people who are just mean. They don’t allow anyone to get closer and they don’t want to be healed.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of people who are genuinely hurting this Christmas. You can see it in their faces and the way they move about. You can see they are missing someone. If you lost a loved one this year because of COVID or just old age, I am sorry for your loss. This year, there will be an empty chair at the table. Even if you lost someone years ago due to other reason, the pain never goes away. It might get duller over time. You never stop thinking of that person which only adds to the emotional pain. You might even think: “How can I be happy when I am still mourning? I am jealous that you can celebrate with family but I am alone.”
I’ve noticed one thing about this season and that is the fake happiness. We drum up all sorts of ways to be in the Christmas mood. We queue up our Christmas playlist on Spotify or whatever your music streaming service is. We dig out the Santa hat which stays in the closet the other 11 months of the year. But deep down, we’re unhappy. We are forcing ourselves to be happy so that we don’t get accused of being a Grinch or Scrooge.
You have my permission to stop. If I ask how you are doing and you really open up about the difficulties of this season, I won’t judge. I won’t ask you to get in the spirit. I’ve experienced lots of emotional pains during this season back in 2018 and drumming up any feelings won’t make this time any better. So if you are indeed mourning a loss this year, may I offer you some hope?
The Grinch inside of us can be displaced with Jesus Christ. When Jesus lives inside of us, He redeems everything. He redeems our pain, our loneliness, and even our wounds. We don’t call him Jehovah Rapha – God is my healing for nothing. Like any good surgeon, Jesus must enter our open wounds, remove the dead and dying tissue, replace it with living tissue, and then seal up the wound. He must deal with our internal pain and struggles even as He removes our sins. He gives us real joy.
For that I am thankful for the gift of salvation.
If you recall the end of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, he tried to stop Christmas from coming and failed. The Grinch realized that Christmas was not about gifts and pleasure, but an internal joy that transcends gifts and feasting.
The Grinch might be just a classic Christmas movie but it does give permission to those who feel ambivalent about this time to express that they aren’t in the Christmas spirit. It speaks of the truth that the internal pain is real but so is joy.