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 three hours, `till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. “Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

How The Grinch Stole Christmas — the original animated version — remains my favorite holiday show.  {Love, Actually, runs a close second.}I love all of it.  I love the rhyme.  I love that I know the words.  I love the little dog waving from the back of the sled.  I love that I was actually IN a production of it when I was 6 and my older brother, Gerry, played the part of the Grinch.  As Cindy Lou Hoo, I was only suppose to have ONE line.  I didn’t realize then how prophetic it was that I couldn’t stop after that line and went on to ad lib an entire long paragraph about the joy of Christmas while my green-faced, pointy-shoed brother, no longer just acting, gave me a horrified evil eye.

Thinking about this today, as Christmas looms large and my list of undone things remains long, I’m asking myself:  what do I need to make it feel like Christmas?

1.  My children…stumbling in the door, harrassing one another, their bass voices making it sound like there are 10 of them instead of 2.

2. Pork pie…my mom’s recipe…a French tradition that I make only once a year.  It fills the house with scents of allspice and cinnamon and we eat it warm with applesauce after Christmas Eve worship.

3. Lights.  It’s not the tree so much for me, though I do love the smell of fresh pine filling my home.  It’s the lights.  It’s that all through Advent and up until New Year’s Day the dark of night inside my home is lightened by tiny white stars.

4. Church.  All of it.  The preparation.  The decoration.  The manger.  The children.  The Gospel.   Candles.  Smiles.  Tears.  Silent Night.

I get to this place every year.  This moment when my list of undone stuff I hope to do is longer than there is time to do it.  And every year I relax a little more about the fact that not everything will get done.

This year in particular, I am even more aware and grateful of the fact that  those things I really need to feel like Christmas, I have.  And beside that peace I hold in tension the inescapable awareness that so many people are missing the very first thing on my list.  My prayer is that each of them will be enveloped by the love of God, through the actions of other people, who will absorb their tears, and hold them up until they are strong enough to stand again on their own.

silent night
silent night (Photo credit: smussyolay)

And in my gratefulness, I am reminded that part of having these things in my life is a cry to stand with people who need someone to lean on.  Christmas Eve is one of the most honest celebrations in the church.  Laughter peals.  Tears flow.  Children squeal.  Voices choke.  All of life comes together in a candlelit sanctuary.  Because even when we are not ready at all…when it doesn’t feel like Christmas…the empty places within us still seek something to hold onto.


God with us.

Who came, just the same.

Christmas Eve music begins at First English Lutheran Church in Ashville at 10:00 p.m.;  service at 10:30.  Candlight.  Holy Communion.  All are welcome.