Sunday, December 25, 2016

...He's Been Here All Along!

Christmas Yr A (2017)
Ss. Peter & Paul/Danville

On December 26th 1957 a usually fun-loving and joy-filled man woke up in a foul mood.  As he stood there brushing his teeth and staring at himself in the mirror his own reflection seemed monstrous.  Sure, it was his face, his eyes, his nose, his mouth and eyebrows.  It was indeed his own teeth that he was brushing – there was no doubt about that.  But there was a strange, gloomy, joyless countenance that he saw staring back at him.  He could almost see the gloom that had settled over him floating around his reflection like a dirty green haze almost.  And he began to think – there had been no real joy that year during the holidays at all.  

He was befuddled – and a slight bit angry at first.  He thought to himself, ‘Something must have gone wrong with Christmas!’  And then he felt a bit betrayed – after all, if Christmas couldn’t give him some joy and life, what could?  What good was Christmas anyway if it couldn’t bust him out of his funk… Something must have gone wrong with Christmas…so much for Christmas.  All he saw in the mirror that morning after Christmas in 1957 was (in his own words) a “nasty anti-Christmas monster that was really [himself].”

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Then something clicked …telling the story later, he says he realized that Christmas wasn’t to blame; it was more likely that something had gone wrong with him.  “I wrote the story about my sour friend the Grinch to see if I could discover something about Christmas I had obviously lost,” Dr. Seuss said.  How the Grinch Stole Christmas tells us the story of finding the light and love of Christmas when we’ve lost it.

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I think we all have Grinch-like tendencies from time to time.  Think about it – isn’t there a moment every year when you realize you’ve not quite got into the season yet?  We might not be roaming around sneaking into the houses of our neighbors stealing their Christmas toys and decorations.  But nearly every year there is that moment when I looked around and see all the Christmas preparations taking place around me and began to wonder why it all seems to be happening out there and nothing seems to be going on inside.  

We say our simple prayers, trying desperately not to miss the boat – but we’re not sure if it really worked or not.  We try our best to get ready – we go to confession or think about it.  We try not to be afraid – because we know that Jesus is coming.  We hear our pastor ramble on and on for four weeks about it all – and we try our best.  But I think all of us at some point end up a bit Grinchy.

It’s not a knowledge problem – we’ve got that pretty much down.  Knowing wasn’t the Grinch’s problem either.  ‘Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot – but the Grinch who lived just north of Whoville DID NOT!  Now please don’t ask why, no one quite knows the reason… I think the most likely reason of all – may have been that his heart was two sizes two small!’  You see – all the ideas and truths about Christmas can be firmly planted in our heads – but the struggle to get into the Christmas spirit is that we can’t do it with our heads – we have to do it with our HEARTS.  Until our hearts experience the joy and truth of what we’re celebrating, we’ll be Grinchy – if not on the outside, then certainly on the inside.

Remember what happened to the Grinch that changed everything?  It wasn’t a change in ideas or reasoning – he tried to think things through – in fact, he ‘puzzled three hours until his puzzler was sore!’  That didn’t work for him, and it won’t work for us.  Do you remember what made the difference?  ‘What happened then?  Well…down in Whoville they say, that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.

The secret of Christmas – the secret to being transformed by the joy and beauty and miracle of Christmas is to let the small baby in the manger into our hearts.  And then – in those moments of pure joy – to realize that we didn’t do that to ourselves…but that it was really Jesus – really the One born that first Christmas – really the One John tells us has been here all along – that it was really Jesus who has come and transformed our hearts.

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If we’re not paying attention, we’ll miss the boat.  So get ready – Jesus is coming!  But don’t be afraid…He’s already here!

Every year when I notice that the world around me seems to be getting ready for Christmas ‘out there’ I find myself missing what I know should be happening ‘in here’…and I get…well, I get Grinchy.  But then something happens.  I find a gift to share with someone I love.  Or I hear a Christmas song on the radio…I bake some cookies or make a Christmas cake.  And then it happens…without even noticing it’s happening I discover that my heart has swollen ‘three times its size’ – and I’m singing along with the songs or whistling a Christmas tune; I have a little more giddy-up in my step…and all of a sudden what’s been happening ‘out there’ has made a home ‘in here’ …and I discover, I’ve been made ready for Christmas.  And just in time, too. How did it happen?

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Whatever has brought us here this morning – Grinchy or as happy and filled with joy as little Cindy Lou Who – whatever has brought us here this morning…Jesus is doing everything He can to break into our hearts.  He was in the beginning…but that wasn’t enough.  And so He came in the flesh…he came as a baby…he broke into the darkness of our shrunken hearts in His miraculous birth in Bethlehem that first Christmas.  And every year at Christmas – He bursts in again…

It’s that moment when Christmas finally comes to you – that moment when you feel the joy of Christmas through the eyes of a child.  It’s that moment when Christmas starts to feel like it’s happening ‘in here’ not just ‘out there’.  It’s that moment of happiness and peace, that moment of relief and nostalgia and fullness – fullness that wells up into a fountain that love starts to pour out in laughter and stories (and yes, sometimes even in tears) – that moment when Christmas is different somehow than any other day of the year…

…you know the moment I’m talking about…

…you’ve felt it……you might be feeling it now…

...don’t fool yourself – that moment is real…that moment is Sacred…

That moment …that moment is Jesus – He’s been here all along.

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