Everything I Learned about Christmas I Learned from Watching TV, Part 1: Christmas Means a Little Bit More

Many years ago I did a little Christmas reflection at church entitled "Everything I Learned about Christmas I Learned Watching TV." It's a sweet, quirky three-point devotional that, due to the advent of YouTube, I thought I'd get out on the Internet for others to use. It would make for a good and lighthearted sermon, class, or devotional Christmas mediation, youth or adult.

For all readers who think this blog it too intellectual, this series is for you.]

As a child I loved all the children's Christmas shows. Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, Merry Christmas Charlie Brown, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, to name a few. With no videos or cable or TiVo, these were once a year opportunities. If you missed it, you wouldn't see it again for an entire year. So, these were BIG events in my childhood.

I was so addicted to these shows that, looking back, I can now discern that everything I know about Christmas I learned from TV. Specifically, I learned from TV three big lessons about Christmas.

The first lesson I learned was from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The lesson was this: There is something special about Christmas. Something that transcended the presents, Christmas trees, meals, or decorations. Christmas, to quote from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, was a "little bit more" than all these things.

If you don't recall the show, here's the basic plot. The Grinch, who lives in the mountains high above Whoville, hates the noise associated with Christmas. So, he dresses up like Santa Claus and ties a horn on the head of his dog Max to make him look like a reindeer. In these disguises they set off for Whoville.

Once in Whoville the Grinch proceeds to steal all the Christmas presents, trees, decorations, and food. He packs all this up and heads back up the mountain just as Christmas day is dawning.

The Grinch's plan is simple. He figures that if he takes away all the Christmas "stuff" the Who's won't be able to celebrate Christmas.

But the Grinch is wrong. In the climactic scene the Who's come out of their homes and, without a single piece of Christmas paraphernalia or presents, begin to sing their Christmas song, Welcome Christmas:

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Come this way!

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Christmas Day.

Welcome, Welcome
Fah who rah-moose
Welcome, Welcome
Dah who dah-moose
Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome, welcome Christmas
Welcome, welcome Christmas Day

Upon hearing the song, the Grinch has this realization, and I quote:

So he paused. And the Grinch put a hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow...

But the sound wasn't sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn't be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Who-ville!
The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook!
What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming!
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!"

And this realization has such a profound effect upon the Grinch that his heart, previously two sizes too small, grew three sizes that day. The entire climactic scene can be seen here:

So, I learned from How the Grinch Stole Christmas that Christmas was more than ribbons or tags. More than packages, boxes, or bags. Christmas was MORE.

But here was the deeply puzzling thing about How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Watch it as many times as you want and it will never be revealed just what Christmas was truly about. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a negative tale. It tells you what Christmas isn't. But it fails, in a quite puzzling way, to tell you what Christmas is.

So as child I was left in quite a quandary. Christmas was clearly very special, but it was still a mystery. Luckily, there was more TV to watch! And a part of the mystery of Christmas would be revealed to me in that quirky tale of a mutant reindeer and his friend, the elf, who wanted to be a dentist...

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8 thoughts on “Everything I Learned about Christmas I Learned from Watching TV, Part 1: Christmas Means a Little Bit More”

  1. I'd watch all those same specials every year -- and others. I especially liked the Grinch. It was all the great Dr. Seuss rhymes, I think, like this one (at least roughly: I'm going by memory):

    Then he went to all the other Who's houses
    Leaving crumbs much too small for the other Who's mouses

    Watch it as many times as you want and it will never be revealed just what Christmas was truly about.

    But, hey, isn't that what just what Linus revealed to us toward the end of Charlie Brown Christmas?: "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

    In the climatic scene the Who's come out of their homes and, without a single piece of Christmas paraphernalia...

    Oh, but look at those things that are ringing right at the start of the youtube you posted. I was just joking (not sincerely this cynical), but at that point, I would always say: "That idiot! He forgot to steal their Christmas bells. He really blew it there."

  2. I think I'll like this series. But I do have one thing to say -- It does mention what makes Christmas, though it's not overly explicit.

    As the grinch is at the table, (I think starting at 1:10 left), the narrator says:

    "Christmas day is in our grasp
    as long as we have hands to clasp.
    Christmas day will always be
    just as long as we have we.
    Welcome Christmas as we stand
    heart to heart and hand in hand."

    It's a little subtle, but I think it does say Christmas is about community and being together.

    Sorry, I had to try and be right... I knew I'd never hold an argument with you on a more intellectual post.

  3. Hi Keith,
    You're right, why did he leave the bells? I had never noticed.

    And shhhhhh about Linus, he's my third and final post for this series :-)

    Hi Daniel,
    You are absolutely correct and I'm wrong about that :-)

    Actually, I do think this mediation might go better (as you'll see) if I start not with "Christmas is a mystery" (as I do in this post) but with "Christmas is about community" (your point).

    But mainly one has to marvel about the joys of people like Keith, you, and I talking through the theological nuances of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It's an odd but satisfying form of entertainment.

  4. Although it doesn't fit well into the body of the post, I would be remiss if I didn't comment on the best part of How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The song You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch. The lyrics of that song are simply priceless. It is, hands down, my favorite Christmas song. Why don't we sing it in church?

    Song with lyrics can be heard here.

  5. Haha... That's an odd picture in my head. Would we change the lyrics to be about someone (i.e. devil) or sing it as is? It'd probably be about as theological as some of those songs we teach kids in children's ministry.

    I'll be interested to see how a mystery idea fits in with the series as a whole too... maybe it's better as a mystery and I shouldn't have said anything yet. :) I'll let you know at the end. Sometimes you have to tear down a concept before you can rebuild it, so maybe a mystery is better.

  6. I was just listening to the song -- hadn't heard it in years. First time, I didn't think much of it. Second time, I hit what I think is the climax and just started laughing:

    "Your soul is an apalling dump heap
    overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment
    of deplorable rubbish imaginable,
    Mangled up in tangled up knots."

    It's the voice for me. I like the deep, booming bass voice of the singer.

  7. Ah, how I remember waiting for that once-a-year showing of Rudolf. It was an event - the grandest of all events. It met that Christmas was truly here-there's no stop'in it now. Bumbles terrified me and Cornelius was my hero. My favorite quote; "Bumbles bounces!".

    Gratification is a much different animal today. So different it has changed an entire generation's approach to life.

    The simplicity of that event, and the power it contained can never be matched with a DVD. I'm somewhat at a loss to create that magic for my children.

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