A Revisionist Grinch

  "Every Who Down in Who-ville Liked Christmas a lot, But the Grinch, Who lived just north of Who-ville Did NOT!" It's one of Dr. Seuss's most amusing books, a modern holiday tale about a grumpy creature who tries to steal Christmas. But now a new film succeeds in doing what the Grinch fails to do: It really does steal Christmas. The Grinch, starring Jim Carey, opens with the residents of Who-ville frantically buying gifts, mailing Christmas cards, and trying to out-decorate one another. On Christmas Eve, the Grinch dresses up as Santa Claus, climbs down Who chimneys, and steals the gifts, the trees, and even the Roast Beast. But here is where the film deviates from the book. Dr. Seuss relates that on Christmas morning, every Who, tall and small, joins hands and begins to sing joyously. Clearly, the gifts and trimmings are superfluous to their celebration. Hearing them sing, the Grinch wonders: "How could it be so? It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!" "Maybe Christmas," he thinks, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more!" Just what that "little bit more" consists of is left to the reader's imagination. But in the film, the Whos react exactly as the Grinch anticipated: They're outraged that their gifts have been stolen -- and there's nothing left to celebrate. It takes a little girl named Cindy Lou to teach them that Christmas is indeed about a little bit more: Christmas, it turns out, is all about . . . families! It makes for a pretty lame ending. Saying Christmas is all about families is as hollow as those cards and commercials that claim Christmas is about "love," or "peace," or maybe a six-pack of Miller beer. The film steals the mystery and meaning of this 43- year-old classic story. But, for Hollywood, this is simply Y2K reality. This year, Americans will spend up to $30 billion on Christmas. What would happen if a real-life grinch really did steal the trappings of Christmas? Would we have anything left to celebrate? Our consumer culture says the meaning of Christmas is found in parties, presents, and extravagant self- indulgence. Well, if the cultural grinches have stolen the meaning of Christmas, then -- like the Whos of Who- ville -- we'll just have to get it back. But we mustn't make the mistake of latching onto the wrong thing, as the Whos did. Shopping is not the answer, nor should we be lured into some kind of sacred frenzy of good works either. Good deeds performed for wrong motives and giving gifts to increase our own self-righteousness are empty and vain conceits. Christmas is about Christ himself. Our celebration ought to include quiet moments in his presence -- thanking him for his sacrifice for us and basking in the gift of his love. If we leave Christ out of the celebration, we are, as G. K. Chesterton observed, celebrating December 25th, not Christmas. So forget about the film, The Grinch. And do your part to keep our culture from stealing Christmas. Remember that "unto us a child is born" [Isaiah 9:6], and "he is Christ the Lord" [Luke 2:11]. And that's something no grinch can steal.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary