I want us tonight to think about just one verse of our New Testament reading this evening – Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Vs. 13)
Week after week Priscilla, Kirsty, Sally and I stand in this pulpit and do our very best to preach the word of God with love and faithfulness. In doing so we sometimes need to refer to some authors who are well known, well respected and can offer us profound and brilliant theological ideas.
This evening I want to introduce a particular book by an author, who to this date has written over 42 world famous books! His books are being published in over 34 different languages and can be found in many homes. His work is so well respected that he goes by the name and title Doctor, or to be more specific “Dr. Seuss”, the children’s author who I hope many of you know or have heard of, at least.
The book I want to think about this evening in relation to this Advent sermon is “HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS”.
For those of you who do not know the book or have not seen the film that comes on every Christmas I will explain it. The story is about a Grinch who lives in a cave and to be honest he is one of the meanest creatures you will ever hear of. He is described in the book as being, “as cuddly as a cactus”, with “termites in his smile and garlic in his soul”. The bottom line is that he is mean through and through. Like a bad apple he is completely rotten down to his core.
In the story, the Grinch makes it clear that he hates Christmas and hates those who celebrate it. So in a wicked plan the Grinch decides he will wipe out Christmas for the cheerful “Whovillians”, who live down below in a small happy town. So, on Christmas Eve the Grinch sneaks into every house in the village and removes everything that has to do with Christmas. He steals the presents, the food, the stockings, the decorations and even the tree. As the Grinch is returning to his home at the break of dawn he is positively pleased that he has ruined Christmas for all and that there will be no happy “Whovillians”. But when we reach the end of the story we see that this is not so. It reads,
“Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming it came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
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’.”
You see the Grinch realized that there was something sacred beneath all the wrapping and trimmings and that something was the true meaning of Christmas.
But for Christians what is the true meaning of Christmas, particularly when there seem to be so many different voices? Because if Advent is a time of preparation we had better know what we are preparing for!
As Christians we are called to use Advent as a time of preparation and solemn expectation, a time to focus our understanding and efforts on the promises God makes to us during the season; or in other words to rediscover and reclaim the meaning of Chirstmas.
As Christians we believe that the precious child that came on that night in Bethlehem was the very key to a fulfilment of a promise made to us by God and spoken of through the prophets. A promise that would bring to all who believed in him – a deeper understanding of who God is and will always be for us and it is this promise that is at the heart of what we are preparing for.
It was a promise that through the birth, the life, death and resurrection of his very Son, we would learn and know who our God is. Echoing Paul’s words in his letter to the Romans, our God is:
1) A God of love
2) A God of joy
3) A God of peace
4) A God of power
5) But most of all a God in whom this Advent season we focus on and put all our hope in. During the season of Advent we place all our hope on a child born in poverty in a stable in Bethlehem in whom and through whom God’s kingdoms has come to us.
Advent teaches us to hold fast to what is on the inside of us – our faith and hope in Christ Jesus. A faith in Jesus because we know:
1) He is the one who redeems us from our sins,
2) He is the one that frees all from all that gets in our way of loving God,
3) And that he is the one that gives us hope to believe in a new and better life for ourselves, for our family and for all of humanity.
This Advent you will encounter the Grinches, who will try and steal the true meaning of Christmas away from you and I pray that you won’t let them. WE must keep asking ourselves these questions throughout Advent, “What is it that I am truly hoping to receive on Christmas day?” “What is it that God has promised to all of us that no one can ever remove?”
I hope that the answer is our faith – our faith and hope in the child that was born that night who brings salvation and the promise of life everlasting…let no Grinch take that away!