“But I’m Inviting You Anyway!” Loneliness and Belonging in ‘The Grinch’
Sometime in the last couple of years I read an article from an organization I respect critiquing Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas as a modern tale of the triumph of individualism with no room for God. I am no theologian, but with all due respect to that organization, I have to disagree. God may not be explicitly present in the Grinch, but the grace and love brought to us by Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, is on full display—particularly in the 2018 remake of the classic cartoon.
If we jump into the film towards the end of the Grinch’s raid on the town of Whoville and its Christmas joy, we find ourselves in the house of Cindy Lou Who. Cindy Lou has concocted a plan to trap Santa Claus and when she comes face to face with the Grinch in his Santa disguise, she explains that she needs his help for her overworked, under-rested, single mom. At first the Grinch doesn’t understand, or perhaps doesn’t believe her. Touched by her desire to help her mother, yet determined to finish his devious plot, the Grinch sends Cindy-Lou back to her room and completes his theft of her family’s Christmas cheer.
Once the Grinch is back atop his mountain, just as he is about to heave the entire Christmas of Whoville over the cliff, he hears singing. As he looks down into the village he sees the people of Whoville holding hands and singing carols, just as Cindy-Lou told him they would. In the 1966 as well as the 2018 adaptations, it’s the Whos’ singing that causes his heart to grow the fabled three sizes we all know from the childhood telling of the story.
However, it’s what happens next that brings me to tears each time I watch the 2018 rendition. The Grinch hears a knock on his door and opens it to find Cindy Lou Who.
Cindy Lou: I just came to invite you to our house for Christmas dinner.
Grinch: What? Me? But I took your gifts.
Cindy Lou: Yeah, I know.
Grinch: And your trees.
Cindy Lou: Yep.
Grinch: I stole your whole Christmas.
Cindy Lou: I know you did. But we’re inviting you anyway.
Is this not what Jesus says to us throughout Scripture and still today?
“Zaccheaus, I’m coming to your house today.”
“Me, Jesus? I’m a tax collector and I’ve cheated people out of all this money.”
“I know, but I’m coming anyway.”
“Peter, upon this rock I will build my church.”
“Me, Jesus? I just denied you three times in your hour of need!”
“I know you did, but I’m choosing you anyway.”
“Anne, I love you unconditionally and am inviting you into my everlasting fellowship.”
“Me, Lord? I just yelled at my kids, rolled my eyes at my husband, and it’s not even noon!”
“I know you did, but I’m inviting you anyway.”
This time of year we often put excessive pressure on ourselves to invite Jesus into our world.
“Make sure to keep Christ in Christmas!”
“He’s the reason for the season!”
“Invite Jesus into your Christmas celebration!”
These are all appropriate sentiments, but I would offer us all a reminder of the grace and peace of Jesus as we believe that he has already come to us, without invitation. He has extended us the ultimate invitation from himself. By coming to us in the form of a helpless baby, donning our full humanity, and entering into our broken lives, he invites us to simply come and be with him. The God who knew he would have to be born in a manger, live a life of suffering, and die an unfair death loves us so much that he came anyway.
So, I would challenge all of us this season to put down the things that make us bristle at Jesus’s invitation. Put down the extra expectations and burdens. Come to the manger, and ultimately the empty tomb, knowing that you’ve been invited by the one who needed no invitation to come to you.
- What is your favorite movie version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and why?
- What are you holding onto this Christmas season that Jesus wants to say “I know, but I’m inviting you anyway.”?
- What is a practical way you can accept Jesus’ invitation to simply be with him in this season?