One of my favorite authors is Theodor Geise who is better known as Doctor Seuss.
Over the years Doctor Seuss wrote many children books that was very entertaining and educational.
Many of the books like “Horton Hears a Who” and “The Lorax” also made social commentary.
One of my favorite books is “How the Grinch stole Christmas.”
We all know the story of how the Grinch is a bitter, grouchy, cave-dwelling creature who hates Christmas.
The Grinch resides on snowy Mount Crumpit, a steep high mountain just north of the town of Whoville.
Whoville is home of the merry and warm-hearted Whos.
Over the years the Grinch’s heart has become “two sizes too small.”
The Grinch’s only companion is his unloved, but loyal dog, Max.
From his cave, the Grinch can hear the noisy Christmas festivities that take place in Whoville.
Continuously annoyed, the Grinch concocts a wicked scheme to steal their presents, trees and food for their Christmas feast.
The Grinch crudely disguises himself as Santa Claus, and Max as a reindeer, whom he forces to drag a sleigh down the mountain towards Whoville.
The Grinch then slinks from house to house removing every item of Christmas.
It is only when he is back on Mt. Crumpit that he hears the Whos singing Christmas songs, and he realizes that he did not stop the coming of Christmas.
As the sled full of Christmas toys and the Whos feast teeters on the edge of the cliff, the Grinch finds strength to pull the sled to safety and his heart grows.
The Grinch returns the items he stole and is a guest of the Whos as they celebrate Christmas.
All is well.
Over the past several years many people have made comments about how we have taken Jesus Christ out of Christmas.
They say that many are like the Grinch.
They say that a minority of people have stolen the true mean and joy of Christmas from everyone.
Social media seems to really propagate that with people getting into heated arguments.
Many get upset because they say we have to say “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas.”
They say if people don’t like our country and its Christmas celebration, then they should leave our country and its holidays.
Our nation has been a melting pot of differing religious cultures since the early 18th century.
People from other countries brought their faith, traditions and celebrations to our nation as they came seeking religious freedom and new hope for their families.
I like what retired bishop of the Episcopal Church John Shelby Spong, said “God is not a Christian, God is not a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist.
“All of those are human systems, which human beings have created to try to help us walk into the mystery of God. I honor my tradition, I walk through my tradition, but I don’t think my tradition defines God, I think it only points me to God.”
It is us, not the Grinch who has stole Christmas.
It is each of us.
The only way that Christmas can be stolen is if we go along with all the negative rhetoric.
Christmas is a very personal holiday.
Christmas should be a time of celebration.
Christmas should be a time of joy.
Christmas should be a time of love.
Christmas should be a time of celebrating the love that was revealed to us in the birth of a baby in Bethlehem long ago.
Each year, that birth should be reborn in each who believe by the sharing of the story through our decorations, our community and family celebrations, and each of us telling the story through our lives living out the Christmas story.
No one can stop us from telling the Christmas story.
We should look forward to telling the Christmas story that began long ago.
“The Lord himself will give you a sign: a young woman who is pregnant will have a son and will name him ‘Immanuel.’” Isaiah 7:14.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
No one can take Christ out of Christmas except each one of us.
Our nation was founded on religious tolerance and religious freedom.
We are a melting pot of various religious beliefs from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and many more.
We must even love and accept non-believers of the Christmas story with the love that God has showed us in the birth, life and even death on the cross.
We must live out the hope of the resurrection story through being kind to all who we encounter.
During the holiday season let us be respectful of all peoples right to choose or not to choose to say merry Christmas or happy Hanukkah or have a joyous Kwanzaa.
May our heart not become “two sizes too small” because we have let others steal the joy of Christmas from us.
Rev. Frank Chlastak began work as senior minister of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Poplar Bluff on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015.
Rev. Chlastak is a graduate of Northeast Louisiana University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and has served congregations of the Christian Church in Louisiana, Arkansas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Missouri. He believes that God’s love in Christ extends to all people, and that ours should also.