When we were kids, my brother and I got fevered when gifts would start amassing under the Christmas tree. One year the Mac Daddy of all gift boxes appeared.
It was huge and heavy, with a tag addressed to us both. We fantasized about the treasure trove of toys we were sure awaited us in that box. On Christmas morning we tore into it, quivering with anticipation. What did we find?
ENCYCLOPEDIAS! All our Christmas dreams were dashed as we stared at an (almost) complete set of (nearly) new (mom was a thrifty shopper) World Book Encyclopedias. That was the first time I discovered the real Grinch that steals Christmas is disappointment. Everyone has tangled with this Grinch, and people try all sorts of ways to avoid him.
Some employ the Disaster Preparedness Method. They psych themselves into a pre-holiday state of despair. Early on they start to believe their holidays are going to suck. Their rationale is if they expect a terrible Christmas, if it happens, they won't be disappointed.
That's like inviting the Grinch to visit so you won't be surprised when he shows up! If this is you, you are ruining weeks to avoid a few bad days. This also becomes self-fulfilling, because nobody wants to invite Debbie Downer to Christmas dinner.
The other method to avoid the Grinch is the All-In Method. These people are running around in crazy Christmas sweaters and have been shopping since last Dec. 26th. They go to strenuous efforts to ensure everyone has the "perfect" gifts and get to sit down to the "perfect" meal. Alas, they are surrounded by imperfect people who are destined to ruin their holiday vision.
So, it looks like either method you choose, Disaster Preparedness or All-In, you are setting yourself up for an appointment with the Grinch. What's a person to do? We do what the Whos do!
Remember in the story how the Grinch gleefully awaited the Whos disappointment when they discovered their Christmas had been stolen? But the Whos foiled his plans (and won his heart,) by their unshakable joy because the Grinch couldn't steal their love. The Whos in Whoville knew love was what Christmas was all about.
I can hear the chorus of naysayers from here, "but you don't understand! My family doesn't love me ... I'm all alone." Or, "My family is nuts, they are impossible to love!" Luckily, Christmas is not about the love of people, Christmas is about the love of God. To be Grinched (disappointed), you have to have unmet expectations. This is why God is never disappointed in you. He expects you to be a mess, and you are. He expected it so much, He knew He had to intervene on your behalf. So He sent His Son as the ultimate gift to humanity. Christmas is about
"For God so loved the world, He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life." If you focus on the love of God found in Christ Jesus, you will be Grinch-proof! Plus, you may discover, like the Grinch, your heart is growing, and you want to go give some of that love away.
Go on, give it away, and don't expect a thing in return. That's God's idea of the Christmas spirit. It's like wearing Grinch Repellant, which is way more fun to put on than an ugly Christmas sweater.
• Caring Counseling Ministries, 11264 Route 37, Marion, is a nonprofit corporation that provides counseling from a Biblical perspective at an affordable cost to people living in Southern Illinois. Cris Corzine-McCloskey is the director, and she is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. To make an appointment, please call (618) 997-2129.