This post is a republished and re-edited version of an essay I posted on my former blog, “The Lion’s Alcove.” This was part of a series I hope to continue, in which I expose the unconscious fingerprint of Biblical truth in secular Christmas traditions. The idea is to see how at this time of year the imago dei shines through and points back to the true reason for the season.
Christmas has its share of villains. We have Scrooge and his grumpy “bah humbugs” of course. And then we have the archetypal non-jolly CEO or neighbor in every Hallmark Christmas movie ever, the legendary Krampus, Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life, Hans Gruber from the cult classic Die-Hard, and Jack Frost in the third Santa Clause movie.
But do you recall, the most famous Christmas villain of all?
That would be the vile one himself, the bad banana with a greasy black peel, the foul one, the king of sinful sots — the Grinch who stole Christmas.
Dr. Seuss’s classic green monster with a heart two sizes too small that tries to stop Christmas, only to discover what Christmas is really about, is delightfully hate-worthy prior to his transformation. With the new 3D animated version of the story coming out this year, it’s fitting to consider some themes this classic presents. I have not seen the newest film but I gather the impression it repeats the error of the 2000 live action version, which strives to give this character a sympathetic backstory and in so doing misses the point – the Grinch is so evil because he simply is.
This actually goes back to the old question of whether man corrupts society or society corrupts man. Of course, as a Christian, I believe that man is corrupt because of his sin nature, and that since society is made up of people in this condition society reflects that condition.
Which brings me to the song “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch.” This is an odd Christmas song when you consider it is nothing more than a list of insults directed at a fictional person. But it is a catchy song and one of my favorites. Listening to it recently though, a thought occurred to me: in the eyes of God, we are all the Grinch. The reaction that the singer has toward the Grinch is but a fraction of the reaction that the Thrice Holy God has toward the stain of sin. And that sin is in our nature (Romans 5:12-13) and corrupts our very being (Romans 3:10-18).
In other words, sin is not something to be dismissed. As disgusting as a soul that is “an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable mangled up in tangled up knots” must be, our sinful hearts are worse. Our sinfulness keeps us from being with God, and on our own there is no way to solve this problem.
But the Gospel is that we do not remain in the state of Grinch-hood. Unlike the singer of the song who won’t touch the Grinch “with a ten and a half foot pole”, our God sent his Son to earth to pay the price for our sins. And by the Power of the Holy Spirit, our dead tomato hearts with moldy purple spots are given life and made new.
The gospel in the story of the Grinch is that in the eyes of God we no longer Grinchy. We are covered in the righteousness of the Lamb who was slain. And one day, when have been glorified, we will be fully renewed and transformed, and we will never be the Grinch again.