Beware the Grinch: Advent best of times for Christians
By John W. Maurice
Saturday, December 2, 2017
"... My spirit rejoices in God my Savior ....” Luke 1:47 (The Bible, New International Version)
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
These oft-quoted words are the words that begin the book, “A Tale of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens. I repeat them to you today because they are words that are true about the times in which we live — just as they were true in Dickens’ day, and indeed in the days of Mary and Joseph.
This is the season observed by the church called Advent. It is a season of preparation for the coming of Christ. Each Sunday candles will be lighted to remind believers of hope, peace, love and joy. This is a reminder to all that there is always much to celebrate, no matter how bad the times are and no matter how much worse we think the times may become.
The Christmas message is that God is with us, and no matter how many Grinches may try to steal our Christmas, no matter how many negative forces may try to rob us of the hope that God intends for us, nothing can take from us that which is good, true, pure, lovely and gracious.
The Grinch still tries to steal your holiday decorations and gifts. He tries to rob you of joy and make you as sour as he is. The Grinch is a pessimist who only finds happiness in someone else’s unhappiness.
The Grinch will point out that people we love get sick and die, our security is threatened, and our children's futures are uncertain. The Grinch will have us fixate on poverty, genocide, mass shootings, natural disasters and threats of nuclear proliferation that strike fear into our existence. The Grinch would point us to all of the hatred and evil that seems to overwhelm us everywhere that we look as we see one person hurting another.
But Advent is a time of hope and reminds us of the best of times. When Mary learned that she would give birth to the Messiah she said, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46-47) Mary understood that Jesus would bless generations and bestow his mercy on all people. (Luke 1:48-50)
The Grinch who stole Christmas in the Dr. Seuss story tried to steal Christmas by taking from the villagers all their Christmas decorations, all their trees, all their presents, all their food, all the exterior things that they enjoyed so much — and yet Christmas continued despite this theft because the villagers had Christmas inside them.
As you journey through Advent, walk through the mall and whistle a carol. When you pass the Salvation Army bell-ringer, share a smile and toss some money into the kettle. As you stand in the “express checkout” lane behind that person with 13 items in their basket, remain joyful and speak kindly to the cashier checking you out. Buy a toy, wrap it, and deliver it to Toys for Tots. Make a donation to the food bank, take cookies to a new neighbor in your neighborhood, invite a person to your home to eat Christmas dinner. Be the good in the world and shine your light, exercise your joy and spread hope and kindness to everyone you meet.
Jesus still brings forth life and light to a world in the best of times and the worst of times. Remember the words of Mary and let your soul glorify the Lord and your spirit rejoice in God your Savior!
Cdr. John W. Maurice, U.S. Navy retired, is interim president of Mid-Atlantic Christian University. The opinions expressed in this column belong to the author and may not be those of Mid-Atlantic Christian University.