How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Love

  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Love
  • 1 John 4:7-12
  • Bill Couch
  • December 6, 2015
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12-6-15 sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

 

During Advent we are drawing on some of the Classic Christmas Movies to illustrate the key themes of the Christmas. Dr. Seuss’ Classic, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” reminds us that Christmas is something more than presents and decorations and food. The main message of Christmas is about God’s love. Our scripture reading this morning is not a traditional Christmas text but it captures what Christmas is all about. Observe how many times the word “love” is mentioned

 

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:7-12

How do you feel about Christmas? “Tis the season to be jolly?” But for many people Christmas is full of stress, disappointment, frustration and exhaustion. “Bah humbug.” Our feeling about Christmas may be determined by our focus. If we focus on the parties, the shopping, the decorating, the cooking, the preparations—we may hate Christmas. But if we focus on why we celebrate Christmas—what it really means—we may discover that we love Christmas. Whether we love or hate Christmas is determined by the size of our heart. Like the Grinch we may have a heart that is two sizes too small!

The Grinch hated the noise, the decorations, the feasts, the bells ringing and most of all the singing! So he decided to steal Christmas from all the Who’s who lived in Whoville. So he dressed up as Santa Claus and went down all their chimneys and stole all their presents, decorations and food. He thought if he got rid of all the stuff of Christmas there would be no joyful singing—only weeping and crying. To him that was a more beautiful sound! He would steal their joy and there would be no noise. He was clearly focused on all the wrong stuff.

What is Christmas all about? The Apostle John sums it up in one simple sentence: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” In his Gospel, John said it in another simple sentence: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”

Christmas is all about God’s love. John says “God is Love.” Love is the nature of God. Love is the character of God. Love is the essence of who God is. He created the universe and us—because He is love. Love cannot exist in a vacuum. Love must exist in relationship. So God created us to love us and for us to love him in return. Even though we chose to separate ourselves from God and not return his love, God kept loving us. Why? Because He is love! To demonstrate his love for us he became one of us. “This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Love always begins with God. While we were going our own way, living our lives selfishly God entered into our world and sacrificed his own life for us so that we could be forgiven. Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus calls us his friends and he gave his life so that our relationship with him could be restored.

God’s love is a gift. It is not based upon our performance. We cannot earn his love. We do not deserve it. It is his gift. God’s love means that we are accepted just as we are—warts and all. God’s love means that we are forgiven of all our sins. All we can do is accept the offer of his gifts of acceptance, forgiveness and love.

When we receive his love it will overflow. John says: “Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” He also says, “Whoever does not love does not know God.” If we have received the gift of God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness then it will flow through us to others—even those we find it difficult to love and even our enemies. Do we forgive others as we have been forgiven? Do we hold grudges? Do we want to get even? Do we accept others as we have been accepted? Do put other people down? Do we consider ourselves as better than others?

Glen Scrivener, a British pastor, proposed two scenarios to his congregation.

Scenario 1: Imagine we’re on a ship.  But it springs a leak and starts sinking.  While we’re fleeing to the life-rafts, you manage to grab a bag before it all goes down.  Unbeknownst to the rest of us your bag contains a bottle of water and some canned meat – tuna and spam.  So there we are huddled together in the life-raft bobbing along the open sea.  Eventually we spot an island in the distance.  We start paddling towards it and as we get closer we see that the island is incredibly bare. There doesn’t appear to be a stick of shrubbery, no sign of fresh water, it’s basically a big rock in the middle of the ocean.  But it’s our only hope.  So we row towards the island and as we get closer your friend turns to you and says “Boy I’m thirsty.”  What do you do? Do you give your friend a drink?

 

Scenario 2: Same deal.  Our ship sinks.  We flee to the life-rafts.  Unbeknownst to everyone you have a bag containing water and canned meat.  As we bob along in the open sea we spot an island in the distance.  As we paddle towards it, we see that it’s luscious, luxurious, full of life.  You can see the trees heavy with beautiful fruit.  There’s a gushing waterfall in the distance.  It’s a tropical paradise.  As we row towards shore your friend turns to you and says “Boy I’m thirsty.” What do you do?  Do you give your friend a drink of water?

 

In scenario 2 you’d be much more likely to give him your water wouldn’t you?  In fact in scenario 2 you might even throw the whole bag open and say, “Water and spam for everyone!  Let’s celebrate!” wouldn’t you?

 

Why?  Are you a much nicer person in scenario 2?  Are you suddenly more moral?  Have you suddenly got a heightened sense of ethical duty?  What’s changed between scenario 1 and scenario 2?

 

Here’s what’s changed – your vision has changed.  You have seen an abundance of life and it’s liberated you to be generous.  That’s the only difference between these scenarios.

 

How we treat others depends upon where we choose to focus. When we focus upon God who is love—we see an abundance of love freely given to us and to all. There is an abundance of acceptance and forgiveness. So we can share it with others. If we focus on the stuff of this world as the source of our worth, there is never enough. We have to hold on to what we have and we dare not share or we will not have enough.

So let me ask again, do you readily forgive others? Do you hold on to grudges and family feuds? Will be you be stressed this Christmas season by all the hassle of preparation and activity? If so you are focused upon yourself and the stuff. Your heart is two sizes too small.

As all the people in Whoville discovered that their presents, decorations and food had been stolen by the Grinch, they had an opportunity to change their focus. Let’s watch as the Mayor accuses little Ginny Lou Who of trying to befriend the Grinch who has ruined their Christmas:

Video Clip #1: Merry Christmas

Meanwhile the Grinch was up on the mountain anticipating that he would hear mourning and crying as they discovered all their stuff was gone. But a strange thing happened let’s watch:

Video Clip #2:  Christmas is More

As the Grinch observed the joy of the people in Whoville, he discovered that Christmas was more than stuff and he changed his focus. His heart was filled with love and it grew three times its size.

What size is your heart? Is it two sizes too small? Or three times its size? How do we know the size of our heart? By how we treat others in our family, at school, at work, in the neighborhood and around the world. If we focus on ourselves and our stuff we will become Grinches—selfish and greedy and hateful. If we focus on a God who is love and experience his abundant acceptance and forgiveness, then we are able to extend that love to others. “Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Where’s your focus?