I’m a recovering Grinch.

I wasn’t born or raised that way, but somewhere in my late teens I started to think that Jesus was getting as tired of Kenny G’s tenor saxophone renditions of “Jingle Bells” as I was. And, surely, I thought, there was something more to Christmas than the shoulder-to-shoulder traffic at the JCPenney.

As I came to know Christ, I began to discover a Savior who by being born, helpless, in a barn declared that he came to serve those sleeping on sidewalks and waiting in lines, not because they were getting a jump on Black Friday deals, but because the world can be a hard place. There was a distinct dissonance for me in that realization. A dissonance between a Christmas from which people feared Christ being removed and what I could see as a Christmas of which Christ would want no part.

It was a funny thing that Jesus was doing to me, but I still didn’t quite know what to do with this new conviction. So, at times, I ended up stealing Christmas from others with my sour attitude.

But as a few more yuletide seasons passed, and a couple more partridges nested in their pear trees, I discovered something beautiful that may have been the Cindy Lou Who to my ever-shrinking heart towards the Christmas season: Advent.

Suddenly, I realized that many saints had come before to draw deep meaning from this season, surprisingly, even before the urging of my newfound angst.

Though we often still get tossed and turned by the messages of the world around us, there is a constant on the horizon. Like a light over Bethlehem that leads us back, there is a whisper of a song that sings, amidst a world of shouts, of a God who has come to dwell with His people. He has come so that He may experience the depth of our struggle firsthand. He has come to be Emmanuel, God with us, to know us, to love us, and to bring us back to life.

As I learn more about the Advent season, I am comforted to know that Emmanuel is much more concerned with bringing Light into darkness than the lighting of “holiday trees,” and, in the midst of our selfish wanting, He is calling us to be about the same business.

So, maybe I still don’t like most Christmas music, and I certainly don’t like when Santa Claus starts campaigning for Hot Wheels in late July… But, praise God for the Church, my Whoville, who just keeps singing anyway, reminding me that Christmas can’t be found in a store. Christmas is found when a body of believers commits to the notion that something better is coming and seeks to live into that future reality by being Emmanuel to a hurting and lonely world… even now, even today.
And that’s enough to make any old Grinch’s heart grow three sizes.

So, let us rejoice, all of us Whos. The King is coming to live among us.

Hallelujah, Emmanuel.

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