For most of those around us, people are beginning to take down their Christmas decorations and focus on getting back into a routine. Of course, for the Coptic Orthodox Christians, we are still enjoying the Christmas season. We are also benefitting from Christmas chocolates and other goodies that have gone on sale after December 25!
I am still watching Christmas movies and not even close to getting out of the Christmas spirit (I mean I do keep my tree up until my birthday in February!). One of my favorite movies we watched as a family this year was The Grinch. I am sure most of you know the Dr. Seuss children’s classic story of the green Mr. Grinch who lives in a cave that overlooks the town called Who-ville. He hates Christmas and every year he has to endure every Who excitedly preparing for Christmas.
There are a few funny reasons why the Grinch hates Christmas (i.e., his shoes were too tight). But it looks like the main reason was that his heart was two sizes too small. And he has been living this way, bitter and angry, for fifty-three years!
To put a stop to all of Christmas, the Grinch decides to steal Christmas. He hatches an awful plan to go into every home, dressed as Santa, and steal the Christmas gifts, decorations, and food.
He spends the whole night on Christmas Eve, while everyone is asleep peacefully, stealing Christmas. On his horrible mission, there is one incident where a little girl named Cindy-Lou Who wakes up and asks him why he is stealing the Christmas tree. The Grinch lies to her and pushes her off to bed. After he goes to every home, he carries everything on a sleigh lead by his faithful dog, Max, up to the top of a mountain ready to dump it. Just when he is about to dump all the things, he hears a beautiful sound coming from Who-ville. He hears singing. The Whos are singing even though they had nothing – no food, presents or decorations.
Mr. Grinch changes at that moment. And it is said that his heart grew three sizes that day. He had a thought that maybe Christmas just means a little bit more than all the presents and festivities. He gets the strength and carries everything he stole back to Who-ville. Later on, he is invited to the Who’s feast, seated beside Cindy-Lou, and he himself carves the roast beast!
It is a happy ending to a classic children’s tale. Are happy endings only found in children’s story books? Should we be more “realistic”? Can we see stories of people being changed? Those that were bitter or hurt to change and be loving? Those that were away from a Church family to be part of that family again?
Is it up to them to change or can I impact them in some way to change? God is working in others and we have witnessed Him change others. But, do I want the blessing of Him working through me to change others, not in spite of me?
We all know someone that is hurt by the Church. Maybe it is yourself? Or someone very close to you? For whatever reason, the Grinch’s heart grew too small from the people in the town of Who-ville. He was bitter and angry. That is why he lived away from everyone, lonely, and he did not want to deal with the Whos. He lived with that hurt for over fifty-three years.
We all can relate to knowing a Mr. Grinch. We don’t want to cross that uncomfortable boundary to invite someone into my home, community, or church family because of many reasons. If we want to live out our vision of Mission Everywhere to Everyone, then I must reach even the Grinch in my life. Remember we are all called to be missionaries even to the difficult people or those that are different than me.
What lessons can we learn from this children’s story to live out our calling of being missionaries?
1. You are never too young to make an impact on someone.
But the Lord said to me: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,” says the Lord. Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.” Jeremiah 1:7-9
You are never too inexperienced or don’t have enough knowledge to touch someone’s life. We often make the excuse that when I work on myself first, then I can reach out to others. Or when I learn more about the church, then I can tell more people about her.
The movie plays up the story of Cindy-Lou Who and her impact on the Grinch’s heart getting bigger. She was a little girl and her innocence, love and trust planted a small seed of change in the Grinch’s heart. She did not judge him but showed kindness throughout.
Sometimes it is not about knowing how to give the best sermons or memorizing every verse in the Bible or all of our Church Traditions, but just showing a little kindness can change someone. Or at least plant a seed. Leave the rest up to God.
2. Your love and acceptance can help change someone from a sinner to a saint.
A lot of us would see someone like the Grinch and forget about him ever changing, especially after fifty-three years. We would give up and lose hope. First of all, never stop praying and the Holy Spirit can touch that person’s life. The same way St. Monica prayed for so many years with hope for her son St. Augustine to come back to Christ. Second of all, my love and acceptance of that person can slowly increase the size of that person’s heart.
Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ. 2 Thessalonians 3:5
This verse can guide us to change our hearts into the heart of Christ. And to have the patience of Christ to love and accept others.
Sadly, our human hearts are quick to judge and criticize. It is hard for us to go out of our comfort zones for someone that is different than me. But when we open up our hearts to love and accept unconditionally, even if it is hard, we are able to reach others for Christ.
The Whos were not perfect, as we are also not perfect. But, their love and acceptance of the Grinch despite the pain he caused, helped him repent from his crooked ways. I once read somewhere that the Grinch did not hate Christmas but hated people. Christ came on Christmas to give Himself to everyone. Regardless of their color, race, religion or differences. Even if they are green and hairy, Christ came for them. If we carry this message by our actions, love and acceptance, then others will love the message of Christmas. They will come to Christ Himself. Isn’t that the best Christmas miracle of all?
And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
Clearly, the town of Who-ville forgives Mr. Grinch for what he has done to try and steal Christmas. They make an excuse for him and instead shower him with love and most of all, forgiveness. They invite him to their feast. To their homes. To their community. He is seated at the head of the table and carves the roast beast, which is a place of honor that usually our fathers and grandfathers do. They not only forgive him but honor him.
Maybe what hinders me from going out and serving the Grinch in my life is because I haven’t been able to forgive what that person has done against the Church or community or me. Hurt people lash out. As missionaries, if we are hurt, let us get our healing from God and go out and be a source of healing for others. It is not easy, but it can be done. But only by having His heart and His fervent love for others.
Covering the sins does not mean ignoring it or sweeping it under a rug. But it does mean to forgive.
But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 2 Thessalonians 3:13
Do not lose hope and grow weary in doing good when you do not see change. Continue to strive and leave the results up to God. Let us be faithful to reach out to those that are the most difficult and most hurt among us. God will work and change them and He will use you to do His transforming work.
Sometimes living out Mission Everywhere to Everyone is a hard one to do, especially when we don’t always see the results like in a children’s story book. Trust that He is working.