One of the most popular characters this time of year is the Grinch, made famous in Dr. Seuss’s classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I remember growing up with the Grinch: reading the book, hearing “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” playing on the radio, and watching the animated special aired a few times each season. He was as much a part of my childhood Christmases as Rudolph, Frosty, and the rest of the stop-motion Yule-tide gang.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Wikipedia provides this brilliant introduction:
The Grinch, a fictional, bitter, cave-dwelling creature with a heart "two sizes too small", lives on snowy Mount Crumpit, a steep, 3,000-foot high mountain just north of Whoville, home of the merry and warm-hearted Whos. His only companion is his faithful dog, Max (a redbone coonhound). From his perch high atop Mount Crumpit, the Grinch can hear the noisy Christmas festivities that take place in Whoville. Annoyed and unable to understand the Whos' happiness, he makes plans to descend on the town and deprive them of their Christmas presents, Who-ham and decorations and thus "prevent Christmas from coming."
Of course, the Grinch is always made out to be the villain. He is the mean-spirited monster who invades the peaceful village with thoughts of bad tidings and no cheer. He was in the wrong, it is assumed, and only when he is enlightened by the Who-ian hordes is he finally redeemed.
This Grinch-scrimination spills over into the real world as well. We use his name to label people who are less than excited about the holiday season. "Grinch" is a Christmas swear-word, a derogatory term comparable to "Scrooge."
(Tom sits peacefully in the corner reading a book while a mad gang of ugly-sweater-laden friends screams Jingle Bells at the top of their lungs, splashing eggnog all over the piano and toppling the ceramic manger scene onto the floor. "Oh, join us Tom! Stop being such a Grinch!")
But in the telling of this story, there is one little detail that often gets overlooked.
The Grinch was right.
Of course, he stole Christmas. But what drove him to that action in the first place? Was it a hatred of Christmas? Was it a distaste for feasts, fun, and fellowship?
I submit that the Grinch was not the villain of this story, but the hero. It was not Christmas that the Grinch hated...
It was noise.
Several scenes in the story illustrate the materialism and commercialism of the Who-ian lifestyle (a detail that did not slip by unnoticed by the keen Theodor Geisel). The children play with fancy, expensive, and state-of-the-art toys. Adults play elaborate musical instruments, creating raucous music and shrill noise. We see Whos engaging in frenetic and potentially destructive games and sports. Nothing is lacking from their ornate feast, and the trees are tall and richly adorned. It is a far cry from "Silent night."
"Noise, noise, noise," quoth the Grinch.
So, in the midst of all this chaos and noise, in the midst of all this clutter and glitter,what does our hero do? He does what any green, thinking citizen would do in that position: he tries to sabotage it.
The Grinch sneaks into town, loads up all the Christmas paraphernalia, and tries to drive it off a cliff. What frustrated shopper wouldn't like to do that this season?
(My favorite little detail is that the Grinch steals from the Whos mockingly dressed as the very symbol of all their seasonal materialism: Santa Claus himself!)
Admit it. The Grinch was just brave enough to do what many of us are incapable of doing. He ripped apart all that was superfluous and annoying, all that was flashy and unnecessary, all that was shallow and indulgent. He didn't like what the holiday had become, so he sabotaged it.
And the final scene of the story is the most beautiful. We see our Green Friend sit down with the Whos, in the absence of their "stuff," at a beautiful Who feast. No longer an outsider, he sits among friends.
(Note: Medical professionals report that his heart grew three sizes that day.)
Did the Grinch hate Christmas? I am not sure he did. But he did hate noise.
Would the Grinch rather the Whos be mournful instead of joyful? I would not say that. But he clearly did not understand their peace and joy, something he had never experienced.
Did the Grinch want to see all the Whos in Whoville live like grumpy old misers in complete isolation? Just like him? I don't think he'd wish that on anybody, but he himself certainly felt like an outsider.
No, he was not a villain; he was a hero. He was not a monster; he was a prophet. He was not a threat; he was a reminder.
And when he came down off his mountain and cut through all the noise, he was fascinated into submission, driven into awestruck wonder of the peace and joy he had uncovered.
I am calling everyone I know to be a little Grinch-ier this year.
- Make an effort to cut through all the noise and eliminate all the unnecessary distractions.
- Celebrate a season of peace, hope, and joy in the Name of Our Savior, not a countdown of shopping days.
- Launch an extensive sabotage campaign against the commercial hype, material excess, and devouring consumption now associated with this season.
- Rescue the lonely from the isolation of their cold, dark caves and welcome them in, in the Name of the Father. No more outsiders, not in this Kingdom.
And, in the end, when all the garbage has been removed, sit down with your community and carve the Roast Beast.
Visit our friends over at the Advent Conspiracy for some really neat Grinchy activity!