Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
December 24, 2017
“What’s with All the Grinchiness?”
Down in Whoville
Liked Christmas a lot…
Who lived just north of Whoville,
Who’s the someone? (The Grinch)
Who was Max? (his dog)
Who was Cindy Lou Who? (the girl who discovered the Grinch stealing their gifts.)
OK. So, who’s Ignatius Heppelwhite?
Surely you know Phineas T. Prune?
Dr. Seuss wrote a story about a bird named Kindly Snather the year before he wrote about the Grinch. It was a story about appreciating what you already have.
About the same time, a story was told about Ignatius Heppelwhite – a six-year-old boy. According to the story, children all over the world were told there would be no Christmas presents that year; it is said the children were so upset that
“their tears filled up the kitchen sinks
and cellars and empty skating rinks.”
But Ignatius Heppelwhite reminded his friends,
“everyone tells me, whom I’ve ever met
It’s a day to give, as well as to get.”
And with that he helped the children of the world decide that instead of expecting presents, they’d give presents. And, in fact, thanks to little Ignatius, the children of the world declared
“They had more fun that December
than any other time they could remember.”
It’s like the story of the Grinch who discovered that Christmas spirit did not come from
“gifts and trees, cider and punch
but being with people you love, perhaps out to lunch.”
That’s my attempt to rhyme. What do you think?
But, here’s my question. Why was the Grinch such a grinch? Why did he hate Christmas?
Is it that some people are born grinchy?
And some people achieve grinchiness.
And others have grinchiness thrust upon them? (Apologies to those who recognize the Shakespeare)
Why did he hate Christmas? Was it because he was born with a heart two sizes too small? I don’t think so. I think it’s kind of like being in school watching a group of kids having fun together but they don’t ask you to join them.
Or it’s like visiting a “friendly” church, but everyone is only friendly to their friends, not to visitors and newcomers. That would make me feel grinchy too.
The Grinch didn’t hate Christmas. He felt like an outsider. He hated feeling alone, and he wanted to punish those he thought meant to exclude him. But the Whos of Whoville didn’t mean it. And right away, they welcomed him into their circle to sing. They even gave him the honor of carving the roast beast. When other people would have told him to go away, they welcomed him in.
So, when I think about this story, I think it’s really important to look around and see who is alone, especially at Christmastime. Or ask, who might feel like an outsider? For example, to remember people who are homeless, to think about our elderly neighbors who can’t leave their homes anymore, to think about children in the hospital, who might hate Christmas if no one came to visit them and help them feel included. Remembering people like refugees. And people in prison.
Those are the people Jesus really cared about, and one reason why God came to earth in Jesus. So that everyone would know that God loves them – everyone with no exceptions. In his day, they were lepers and tax collectors and Samaritans. Today, it’s anyone you can point at and say, “We don’t want you here.” “Go back where you came from.”
Who else might feel alone? Unwanted. Or like an outsider? Can you help them feel like they’re included, too? How?
So, after the Grinch stole everything in everyone’s home, he expected to hear the Whos cry and scream and wail. But what did they do? In the morning, they gathered in a circle and sang and sang and sang. They were happy because they were all together. They had a place where they knew they belonged.
That’s why I love Christmas. It’s not about the things I get, but what you give me by being here tonight. I love Christmas because you include me in your life.
What do you love about Christmas? Are you grinchy if you don’t get something you want? If you feel some grinchiness coming on or even thrust upon you, remember Ignatius Heppelwhite. He reminded us the fun is not just in getting presents (although it’s pretty great!), but giving them, which is ever better. It’s about feeling included, but even better, helping others feel included too. Even grinches.
Oh, I almost forgot. Who was Phineas T. Prune? He was the landlord who tried to evict Mr. and Mrs. Clause from the North Pole for not paying their rent. He almost stopped Christmas from coming. Talk about grinchiness. But I’ll bet he just wanted an invitation to someone’s table for dinner. We can do that, right?
In a few minutes, we’re invited to the Table of Jesus, who invites every one of us. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we have done. Good or bad. Naughty or nice. We’re all included.
 Redbook Magazine, December 1956
 Phyllis McGinley, Good Housekeeping Magazine, December 1956
 And thanks to Rev. Kory on wordpress.com for the idea. “Thoughts on God…and other stuff”
 Charles D. Cohen, A 50th Anniversary Retrospective on How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Random House, 2007. The history and other stories I referenced are told in the commentary.
 Movie: The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t, 1966