From Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

It was the townspeople of Whoville who changed the Grinch’s mind about Christmas first, then his heart. They joined hands and sang Christmas carols despite the missing presents—feast—and all the other trappings usually associated with Christmas. The Grinch had stolen them all, and yet they discovered Christmas is something that happens because it is not something we do, it is something God does, and we’re invited to the Christmas celebration 2016. We’re invited just as we are—not as we want to be—not as we should be. We come as humble shepherds—we come as learned magi—we come because in the Christ child, the God of the universe has come to us as Jesus (God Saves) and Emmanuel (God with us).

My sincere prayer is that our hearts will open to the joy and blessing of Christmas in the midst of our real lives. Last night I had a dream in which we were gathering as a congregation for a special event. As I stood to speak, I started with the admission that when I look out on the congregation I see who is present, but I also “see” those who are not—those who have passed from our midst into God’s presence. When I stand in real life I see those loved ones who were once among us, and I see those of us who are discouraged and struggling with jobs; I see marriages/relationships that aren’t living up to our expectations; I see pressured parents who want the very best for their kids and are afraid they’re not living up to the task; I see all of us as people in need of God’s love and grace. I see each and every one of us needing Christmas—the birth of a savior in our lives—light to shine in our darkness.

John 1:4-5 embodies the hope of God’s Word of love, grace, hope, new life, new starts, peace in the midst of a real world of conflict:  The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

When the Who gathered to sing and celebrate in the midst of their real life, which had been upended by the Grinch, they were gathering to declare light in the midst of darkness. Something happens when we gather—whatever it is we bring with us—it somehow is shared in a life-giving way. As they joined hands and voices, Christmas was present. It was their willingness to be the community of Christmas faith, and sing in the midst of loss, that changed the Grinch’s heart. There is a bit of the Grinch in me, and I suspect many of you, as well. Sometimes it’s hard to explain where the “grinchiness” comes from and what starts it. I do know pain is usually part of the equation. But there is something that melts within me when that part of me is welcomed to the celebration, and there’s something powerful for all of us when we welcome one another to the singing.

Jesus is present among us as we join hands to share life, sing, and love one another. It is community that shares grief, sadness, as well as happiness and all of life’s beauty. When we gather, Jesus is present, something which should not surprise us, but often does. Jesus framed his message as a command, but a loving command, that would embody the Christmas invitation that culminated in the Good Friday passion and the Easter resurrection.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another.  This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:34-35)

I look forward to gathering for our Blue Christmas Friday night, the services of Christmas Eve, and then Christmas morning. Something powerful will happen because we are together and Jesus is in our midst—the light shining in the darkness.

 regular Sunday Worship Service.