Christmas is a hard time for a lot of people

I have a sermon about Grinches that will steal our Christmas. I haven’t shared it in a couple of years but I’ve certainly been reminded recently of the Grinch of expectations.

Many of us have bought into Hollywood’s version of the “perfect” Christmas when the unexpected gift suddenly appears under the tree, the snow falls at just the right time, and some old hurt is wonderfully healed.

The fact is that not only is does this time of year have its fair share of unwelcome things but the expectations of the season serve as a magnifying glass on them, making them feel even bigger than they would normally.

Since this is, indeed, a “Season” we attach things more easily to it. If a loved one passed away unexpectedly in the summer we will associate it with that time of the year in a more vague way than if they passed away the “week of Christmas.”

In recent days I’ve been reminded of how people I care about are going through unwelcome things this year. There are surgeries, job loss, health worries, financial stress, and other things that take the luster off of Christmas for these good people.

The cure for this is a realization that we are real people and not actors on a Hollywood film stage. Magical things are not likely to happen and for us, life goes on, with both good and bad things coming our way.

The core of Christmas isn’t magic. Rather, it’s Christ. God loves me and sent his Son into the world to be my Savior. The glory of Christmas isn’t a lack of problems so much as it is the knowledge that God has come to be with me in all of life, including the unwelcome aspects.

I may not get the surprise gift of a fancy new car in the driveway on Christmas morning, and, in fact, I may deal with some bad news instead. Still, “Emmanuel” – “God with us” is true. That’s what makes life worth living not only at Christmas, but all the year through.

Pastoral thought about the Grinch that stole Christmas

Years ago I read an article (I think it was in Christianity Today) about Grinches that will steal Christmas from us. The original though wasn’t mine so I won’t try to burden the original writer with my take on it.

Four Grinches come to mind:

1. The Time Grinch — this is a busy time of the year for most of us. If we aren’t careful we will hurry here and there and arrive at Christmas exhausted. We combat the time Grinch by carving out some time for reflection and remembering the wonderful Gift of his Son that the Lord gave to us so long ago.

2. The Secular Grinch — much of what we do at Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus. There was no Christmas tree at the stable, no colorful lights, and no jolly white bearded gentleman. I’m not against any of those things, but do believe that if we put those things at center stage our Christmas will not be the spiritual event we want it to be.

3. The Spiritual Grinch — the opposite of the Secular Grinch is the Spiritual Grinch. Some people are so “spiritual” and worried about what everyone else is doing that Christmas is, for them, a very frustrating time of the year. They get upset with Walmart for decorating so early and with everyone else who isn’t observing Christmas the way they think they should. Because of that, Christmas is something they endure rather than celebrate.

4. The Ghost of Christmas Past Grinch — (how’s that for mixing Seus and Dickens into one point!) Every year the entertainment industry floods us with the message that Christmas is the time of the year when magical things happen. Unexpected family members manage to make it home, the gift we hardly hoped for shows up under the tree, and everything is just wonderful. The truth is that Christmas or not, life goes on. People still get sick and loose their jobs. Broken relationships probably remain broken. In fact, Christmas tends to bring about depression in many good people. The defense against this Grinch is to remember, and keep remembering, that Christmas isn’t about “warm fuzzies,” instead it is about God’s love for us. In fact, the finest Christmas verse in the Bible may not be specifically about the birth of Christ at all. It may be that John 3:16 says more about Christmas than any other passage.