For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
II Corinthians 8:9
“Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot…But the Grinch who lived just north of Whoville, did not.” So begins the beloved children’s book by Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. The rhyme tells of the Grinch whose “heart was two sizes too small”, who lived atop snowy Mount Crumpit, looking down on the “merry and warm-hearted Whos”. He hated the joyous sounds of their Christmas celebrations and hatched a plan to keep Christmas from coming to Whoville. He stole all their Christmas presents, trees, and tasty goodies. He eagerly expected that on Christmas morning he would awaken to the Whos’ sorrowful cries. But was he surprised when he heard them singing a happy Christmas song instead:
“He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming,” the story continues.
“It came! Somehow or other, it came just the same!”
The Grinch stood listening, “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!”
Why, it even takes a while for cartoon favorite Charlie Brown to grasp the real meaning of Christmas. In A Charlie Brown Christmas we see Charlie griping to his friend Linus: “I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards, and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.”
And lots of us do get depressed! We even talk about the post-Christmas letdown and the holiday blues. It slams us as we spend stacks of money for gifts and gizmos; when it’s all over we are left holding a lot of stuff we don’t need, but have to make room for or re-gift! In spite of what Christopher Columbus proved, the world is flat the day after Christmas.
Strangely, the stories we so love at Christmas, the stories that endure, are stories about love in times of trouble; a crippled little boy; an angel earning his wings; a husband and wife giving unselfishly; a little baby lying in a manger. These are the stories that remain with us and transform us.
In today’s sublime Scripture we learn that the Father’s Son divested Himself of divine privilege and glory and became impoverished in the fragile flesh of our humanity. Born in a cattle stall, joined to broken humanity, sharing in our weakness, nailed to a criminal’s cross, so that you and I “might become rich.” Not rich in money, real estate, or precious metals, but rich in joy, love, and, as II Corinthians 8-9 will set forth, “a wealth of generosity” (II Corinthians 8:1-2; 9:11). We can be truly rich no matter how little we might have.
Yale theologian Miroslav Volf, in his book, Free of Charge, suggests that a person enriched by the grace of Jesus Christ will have a distinct attitude towards the past, the present, and the future. When our lives are rich in Christ we will look at the past with gratitude; thankful for all that we have received, and without annoyance for what we have lacked, or have failed to achieve. A person made rich by Christ will live in the present with contentment. Rather than feeling we never have enough except for trouble, we will know that we have all that is needed for joyful, abundant living. And persons made rich by Christ will face the future with trust, assured by all the promises of Christ, and knowing that He will never leave us or forsake us.
Jesus is God’s gift for us to receive. He came down to us at Christmas when we could not reach up to Him. He was God’s gift to Mary and Joseph, and to shepherds, wise men, and any who would receive Him. And, He is God’s gift for you and me today. He is God’s indescribable, inexpressible, unspeakable gift, too wonderful for words. Like any gift at Christmas, grace can only be yours if you will receive it.
- Miroslav Volf describes how being rich in Christ means looking at the past with gratitude, the present with contentment, and the future with trust. How might Volf’s thoughts speak to you this Advent season?
- Take a few moments to talk with God about Volf’s thoughts and what they stir in you.