Everyone knows the story about the Grinch that stole Christmas. But I have a story about the Grinch that couldn’t steal Christmas, even though he tried. He couldn’t steal it because the faith of a child was so much stronger than he bargained for.
I was four years old, and I was sitting in church with my family. There were parts of the service that I really liked, even as a child. However, I never liked the sermon. Mostly because the priest had cold eyes, never smiled, and had a booming voice that he used to full capacity when he preached to us. And most of the time, the message wasn’t positive. There was a lot of talk about hell, purgatory, and the fate that awaited us terrible sinners.
I guess he believed in the God of vengeance rather than the God of love. When you have the bully pulpit, you can say what you want. But, it scared the crap out of me. I preferred the songs, the bells, the candles, and they way my grandparents would wink and grin at me and my sisters as they came back from communion.
On this particular Sunday morning, during the sermon I drifted off to my own pleasant day dreams to escape the threat of hellfire and damnation in my future. It was so close to Christmas that I could almost hear the bells from Santa’s sleigh. Just a few more days and that jolly old elf would slide his big old butt down the chimney of the stone fireplace that my father had masterfully built when he built the house we lived in.
However, my reverie was rudely interrupted by the booming voice from the front of the church. “There is no Santa Claus!” My head snapped up as I was brutally brought back to the present. I was so confused that I never heard the collective gasp from the adults in the church. The voice continued, “There is no Easter Bunny, or Tooth Fairy, either!” Geez, what a way to use the bully pulpit! But he certainly had my attention.
He continued to bellow that these characters were nothing by fairy tales. He said our parents told us these stories just to make us behave. I snuck a peek at my Mom and Dad, who were staring directly at the priest with looks that could freeze the hellfire that terrified me. I was pretty sure they didn’t need fairy tales to make us behave. And they looked very unhappy at this shocking news that Santa Claus was just a farce.
Suddenly, out of my confusion came the cold, hard truth. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized why the man with the cold eyes and booming voice never smiled. And I knew why he didn’t believe in Santa Claus–he had no faith. But, I had all the faith in the world, and I knew there was a Santa Claus just as sure I was sitting there watching the myriad of expressions on my mother’s pretty face. Apparently she knew it too.
Then I had another revelation–if he could be so wrong about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, I began to doubt his accuracy about hell, purgatory, and the God of vengeance. Satisfied, I sat back in the pew with my new-found knowledge and returned to my day dreams of Christmas and Santa Claus. But this time I also included the God of love in my musings. What a concept!
After mass ended, my mother bolted from the pew with about a dozen young mothers right behind her. They followed her into the rectory to have a chat with the priest. I guessed they wanted to explain to him that Santa Claus really did exist. Good luck with that. It appeared his mind was made up.
The truth is, I still believe in Santa Claus. And the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. I believe in the magic of childhood. I also believe in the mystery and the reality of things that cannot be explained, but I know in my heart exist. Because I have faith. And nothing can ever change my mind.
And that’s my story about the original Grinch, and how he couldn’t steal Christmas from me. Because he underestimated the unshakable faith of a child. I will leave you with these parting words….”Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!”