It is that time of year again that we hear stories of misers, scrooges and Grinch’s. It is a time for being reminded about being stingy and greedy, and about helping the less fortunate and needy. It is a time of reflecting upon our own wealth and remembering that everything that is, is His! Saint Basil writes: “You know well the face of a coin, and you can tell a true from a false one, but you know not your brother in his time of need.” [Lk. 12:19 [Ib., III:328, § 3.]
The story of the Grinch was written by Dr. Seuss who claimed he himself was the inspiration for this character. As he looked in the mirror one year in December, with his wife's health problems and his deep sadness with the commercialization of Western Christmas it made him feel "very Grinchish". Dr. Seuss wrote the book quickly and was mostly finished with it within a few weeks. Here are a few words from this work: "The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason. It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all, May have been that his heart was two sizes too small." (By Dr. Seuss)
And there we have it, let me sum it up! You can’t out give God! The Gospel writer Luke records: “Keep on giving, and it shall be given to you: a good measure which hath been pressed down and shaken together, and is overflowing shall they give into your bosom; for with the same measure with which ye measure, it shall be measured in turn to you.” [Lk. 6:38] Saint Basil continues to step squarely on our toes when he asks the following: “Are you not a grasper of everything? Are you not a robber? You who treat as absolutely yours what you receive that you might dispense to others. He who strips another man of his clothing, is he not called a robber? And he who does not clothe the naked when he could, should he not be called the same? That bread you hold in your clutches; that belongs to the starving. That cloak you keep locked in your wardrobe; that belongs to the naked. Those shoes that are going to waste with you, they belong to the barefooted. The silver you buried away; that belongs to the needy. Whomsoever you could have helped and did not, to so many have you been unjust. I have spoken to you as best I could. For you who respond, the blessings are ready that were promised you. For you who do not respond, the sentence is already written; and I pray most earnestly that, reflecting upon this bitter counsel I am giving you, you may escape those penalties; that your riches may become instead the price of your redemption, and that you also may attain to those heavenly good things.” [Lk. 12:21, Ib., III:332, §§ 7, 8.]
Oh my, let’s see, so how many pairs of lonely boots do I have standing in my closet awaiting my stinky feet? And is there even room on my coat rod to even hang my coat? How much stuff is enough? Purchasing items releases pleasuring dopamine in our brains, but so does giving. I believe that is why my wife enjoys this season all so well, she loves to give! The Apostle Paul in 1st Timothy does comment on the positive use of money that should characterize members of a Christian community, especially those who are blessed with some measure of prosperity or wealth: “Be commanding the rich in the present age not to be high-minded, nor to have hope in the uncertainty of riches but in the living God, Who granteth us richly all things for enjoyment; be commanding them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be ready to impart, to be sociable, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation for the future, that they might lay hold of eternal life.” [1 Tim. 6:17-19]
We look to the Nativity of Christ as an outpouring of love on all mankind, by our Creator. It needs to tug on our heart strings as we are reminded of this. It needs to pull us out of our hidden caves to follow the star that leads to Bethlehem. Our Savior who defeated death was born in a cave with the mangy animals. Our God which cannot be contained, lay in a manger! Our Christ, the Chosen One, was born unto a lowly Virgin. Our King gave everything He had for us, so that we might be guided out of the darkness of this world by following His star, just as the Wise men did. The journey is long and the skirmish is active within us; how much baggage can and will you carry? Or better yet, how much love can you dispense?
Apostle Paul asks us: “But this I say: The one who soweth sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and the one who soweth with blessing shall also reap with blessing. Let each give even as he purposeth in his heart, not out of sorrow or out of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver. [2 Cor. 9:6-7]
Listen to these words of freedom: "Thy nativity, O Christ our God, has shown to the world the light of wisdom; for by it, those who worshipped the stars were taught by a star to adore Thee the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Orient from on high. O Lord, glory to Thee." (Troparion of the Feast) May this season of the Nativity draw you yet even closer by escaping the prisons of this life for the hope of what is to come and grow your heart so much that it just can’t be contained in your chest! Glory to Thee who has shown forth the Light!