Friday, November 30, 2001

you're a mean one, Mr. Grinch

Warning: If you aren't a Christian, and you think I'm an idiot for being one, skip this entry. Come back tomorrow. Herein lies some Childhood Literature Interpretation stuff about "How The Grinch Stole Christmas." You won't like it. But, if you want to learn about me and how I see stuff, then please read on.

As I've mentioned, I went to a Christian College. One of the things they did there was to teach us to read literature in many ways. I was an English major, so I learned feminist interpretation, Liberation Theology interpretation, and Christian Interpretation. One of the things I do when I read is I try and see what message there is to me through the characters about God and what His take is on the situation. Keeping that in mind, read on.

So, this coming Sunday Doug and I get to play preacher for the kids. Something we've never done before. Something I've only done a couple of times for the Women's Group at our church.

Our church does something called "First Sunday," and every first Sunday of the month (gee, how appropo) the kids stay in chuch, don't go to Sunday School, and get to participate in the service. Which is cool. Because the Episcopal Church is kind of serious and stuffy, and if kids don't understand what the hell is going on in service, they tend to leave when they get older. Part of the goal here is to not let go of the Episcopal Service ways but to gear things toward them.

So the readings are done by the kids, the kids who've gotten interested in the choir get to sing a song without the grown ups... it's all kid geared, including the sermon.

This Sunday, getting into the Christmas Season, brings us to the Grinch. For a variety of reasons.

Everyone loves this story. The Grinch... the worst person on earth. He hates the Whos and everything they stand for down there in Whoville. The toys and the noise, the girls and boys their stockings their food... the Roast Beast. He is so full of hatred.

Why? The book and the 1966 cartoon version never say. Ron Howard goes out on a limb in his movie version, that Grinchy was picked on as a child, but I doubt that's the sole reason. The Grinch is just a crumudgeonly old crusty fart with a nasty bug up his butt. He's mean. And the thing is he can't stand when anyone else is happy. So he decides he'll end that happiness by Stealing Christmas. The whole thing.

But, after he steals the material trappings, Christmas comes just the same, the people sing, they join hands and sing that lovely song, and he realizes... he hears it for the first time... Christmas isn't about the toys and games, it is about love, togetherness, and a sense of good in the world.

Once he makes that realization something happens to him. This Epiphany and realization brings on a desire to change, his heart grows three sizes. This brings him to return the material trappings, be humbled, and then sit at the head of the table as honored guest to carve the formerly hated Roast Beast.

Now, I've read the story a million times. Seen the cartoon a million times. Had a boyfriend in college who could sing real deep like in the cartoon and he'd crack my shit up with that song in all months of the year. He still does. He'll sing it to me to make me laugh, in June.

But it wasn't until I saw the aforementioned Ron Howard version that it occurred to me what exactly happened to the Grinch. When Jim Carrey, in an amazing portrayal of this literary villian turned hero, changes... has that epiphany, what do you think CAUSED it? It wasn't a cerebral thought conclusion thing. He didn't just say "oh, yeah, Christmas isn't about material goods it's about love!"

I think it was the Holy Spirit.

The Grinch was so bad, so deep to his core, that he wouldn't just suddenly snap into the realization that he didn't do anything to stop Christmas from coming... No. He was that bad that deep, and it was going to take a little more.

If you haven't rented the movie, rent it, skip the whole film up to the point where his heart is going to grow three sizes, and watch what Jim Carrey does with that scene.

It is heartbreaking.

It is spiritbreaking.

It is evil-ending, and it is the Hand of God. I'm so sure of it.

When I saw Jim as Grinch hit the snow, when I saw that pain, that writhing... I couldn't believe how obvious it was. After all the years of reading the story, here it was on screen, live, and I started crying. This is what it looks like when the Hand of God, the Holy Spirit takes hold of your life. Sometimes you have to welcome it into you, other times, like with the Grinch, or Saul on the Road to Damascus, it doesn't give you a choice.

Bruce Cockburn sang:

"I'm blown like smoke and blind as wind
except for when your love breaks in.
Maybe to those who love is given sight
to pierce the wall of seeming night
and know it pure beyond all imagining. [...]
It's like a big fist breaking down my door --
I never felt such a love before!

Maybe to those who love it's given to hear
music too high for the human ear
and clear as hydrogen to go singing."
--"After the Rain"

To be lost like blown smoke except to be found by the hand that leads us. To have that strength beat at your soul and break the door down when you don't want it in there... To hear that music. To see that sight which is so pure. Amazing. Amazing... but I think honestly that's what the Grinch experiences. I'll never view the story the same again. Salvation. Redemption. Cleansing. Life Changing. Free.

Gah, it is so powerful to think of! I shudder at the thought of such power in our lives. I know many of you reading this are skeptical, and I've probably made you laugh at me, seeing this in a kid's book. But I think this is the message. Perhaps one day you'll see it too.

So on Sunday, we're going to read the kids the book. We're going to ask them if they know what is happening to the Grinch when his heart grows three sizes that day. We'll ask them to think of someone they know that needs prayer, that needs the loving fist to break down their door, and we'll pray. We'll talk about Saul and his becoming the UnGrinched Paul. We'll hopefully teach them that even the most horrid among us is worthy of salvation, redemption.

Even me.

Even you.

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