Conversation Sundays

What Jim Carrey and The Grinch Taught Me About Advent

A Community Focused on Doing Versus Waiting

A Tale of Two Grinch Productions

CBS broadcast the original “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” TV special in December 1966. It’s a heartfelt holiday special with a sentimental message about the power of kindness.

34 years later, Jim Carrey portrayed a very different Grinch in his Hollywood blockbuster portrayal. Far from the kind-hearted spirit of the Dr. Seuss original, this was The Grinch in a consumer-obsessed culture. In this portrayal, presents or purchases were certainly important to Whoville. But it was the busyness of the citizens of Whoville – their inability to wait or to be still – that really defined this movie. In scene after scene, the people of Whoville are too busy to listen to one another, too carried away with their to-do lists to notice what really matters.

See it for yourself:

A Busy Culture

The transformation of a 25-minute holiday special into an hour and forty-five-minute movie with a $123 million dollar production budget says something about how our culture views this time of year. In our surrounding culture, it so often seems like this season isn’t just about Jesus, or generosity, or kindness. It’s about busyness, the frenetic feeling of celebrations that must become bigger and better with each passing year.

So maybe it’s refreshing that each year in Advent, we hear the words of John the Baptist, calling us to repent, to prepare the way of the Lord.

Preparing the Way

Matthew 3 begins: In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near…Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

And when we hear the word “prepare,” maybe we think of the crowded post offices of Whoville and of Southern Wisconsin. But maybe preparing the way of the Lord isn’t about going anywhere, sending anything, or doing much at all. Maybe the preparation we are called to in the church is simply the act of waiting.

In the church, we prepare not through purchases and packages, but in the silence of the Advent season, gathered around God’s Word. We prepare by listening to the many quiet ways that God shows up in a world that can seem so loud and excessive. We prepare by remembering that God claims us as God’s own through the waters of Baptism. In doing so, God marks us as eternally beloved no matter how much we do or accomplish.