Viewpoint: Gifts That Endure
The Grinch, from Dr. Seuss’s children’s story How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is a bitter, grouchy creature with a heart “two sizes too small.” He lives in a cave on snowy Mount Crumpit — where he looks down on Whoville and the happy Whos.
This view of Whoville creates a problem for the Grinch that resurfaces every December:
Down in Who-ville
Liked Christmas a lot,
But the Grinch,
Who lived just north of Who-ville,
Annoyed by the merriness of the Whos, the Grinch descends Mount Crumpit and steals Christmas presents, Who-hash, and decorations with one objective in mind: to “prevent Christmas from coming.”
But his plan fails.
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!”
(Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas )
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve said the purpose of retelling the Grinch’s story is that it is a reminder to all of us that Christmas doesn’t come from a store.
“Indeed, however delightful we feel about it, even as children, each year it ‘means a little bit more.’ And no matter how many times we read the biblical account of that evening in Bethlehem, we always come away with a thought—or two—we haven’t had before. …
“… I, like you, need to remember the very plain scene, even the poverty, of a night devoid of tinsel or wrapping or goods of this world. Only when we see that sacred, unadorned child of our devotion—the Babe of Bethlehem—will we know why ‘tis the season to be jolly’ and why the giving of gifts is so appropriate” (“Without Ribbons and Bows,” New Era, Dec. 1994, 4, 6).
Remembering this simple scene that changed the world, however, is not always easy—even during the Christmas season.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, said during the 2010 First Presidency Christmas Devotional that “perhaps the Grinch’s story is so memorable because, if we are honest, we may be able to relate to him. Who among us has not felt concern over the commercialization and even greed of the Christmas season? Who hasn’t felt overwhelmed by the packed calendars, the stress of finding gifts, the pressure of planning meals and events? In fact, psychologists tell us that during this season of cheer and goodwill, many feel sorrow and depression.
“We know what the Christmas season ought to be—we know it should be a time of reflection on the birth of the Savior, a time of celebration and of generosity. But sometimes our focus is so much on the things that annoy and overwhelm us that we can almost hear ourselves say in unison with the Grinch: ‘Why, for fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now! I MUST stop this Christmas from coming! … But HOW?’
“While it’s true that we can find materialism and anxiety in Christmas, it is also true that if we have eyes to see, we can experience the powerful message of the birth of the Son of God and feel the hope and peace He brings to the world. We, like the Grinch, can see Christmas through new eyes” (“Seeing Christmas through New Eyes,” 2010 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, Dec. 5, 2010).
President Thomas S. Monson said one way to bring meaning to the Christmas season is to focus on God-given gifts.
“I reflect on the contrasts of Christmas,” said President Monson. “The extravagant gifts, expensively packaged and professionally wrapped, reach their zenith in the famed commercial catalogs carrying the headline ‘For the person who has everything.’ In one such reading I observed a four-thousand-square-foot home wrapped with a gigantic ribbon and comparable greeting card which said, ‘Merry Christmas.’ Other items included diamond studded clubs for the golfer, a Caribbean cruise for the traveler, and a luxury trip to the Swiss Alps for the adventurer. Such seemed to fit the theme of a Christmas cartoon which showed the Three Wise Men traveling to Bethlehem with gift boxes on their camels. One says, ‘Mark my words, Balthazar, we’re starting something with these gifts that’s going to get way out of hand!’ …
“For a few moments, may we set aside the catalogs of Christmas, with their gifts of exotic description. Let’s even turn from the flowers for Mother, the special tie for Father, the cute doll, the train that whistles, the long-awaited bicycle—even the ‘Star Trek’ books and videos—and direct our thoughts to those God-given gifts that endure. I have chosen from a long list just four:
“1. The gift of birth.
“2. The gift of peace.
“3. The gift of love.
“4. The gift of life eternal” (“Gifts,” Ensign, May 1993, 59–60).
This Christmas season may we remember that Christmas means “a little bit more” than packages, boxes, or bags.
May the true meaning of Christmas change us, just as it changed the Grinch before his small heart grew three sizes and “he himself, the Grinch, carved the roast-beast!”