On this episode of Finding Christ in Cinema, we hang pantookas on the ceiling and pile pankunas on the floor as we find Christian themes in Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas. What is it about the Whos that initially offends the Grinch but ultimately transforms him? All that and more in 3…2…1!
The Grinch and the Clean, Pure Heart
How The Grinch Stole Christmas is centered around the theme of heart transformation (much like A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life, both of which we’ve discussed on this podcast before). The story starts with a series of images that show how nasty-wasty the Grinch is. According to Thurl Ravenscroft, he’s a bad banana that’s as cuddly as a cactus that nobody would even touch with a 39-and-a-half-foot pole (amongst other descriptive phrases). The Grinch then demonstrates this vileness by robbing all the Whos down in Whoville of their Christmas presents and festivities; he then expects them to mourn about their loss. The Grinch believes that the Whos only celebrate Christmas out of hypocritical materialism, hence his reason for stealing the materials in the first place.
But the Whos take the Grinch by surprise…well, its not a surprise to the audience because we’ve been hearing them sing it since the beginning of the show: “Christmas Day is in our grasp / So long as we have hands to clasp.” The Whos don’t see Christmas as a commercialized holiday meant for things to be enjoyed and consumed; instead, they see Christmas as a humanized holiday meant for relationships to be relished and experienced. The Grinch never heard it before because he didn’t have the ears to hear it – that is, he wasn’t ready to accept it. He is ready, however, when he actually listens to the Whos’ song after stealing their gifts.
In the beginning of the story, the Grinch had a small heart (two sizes too small, to be exact); but after he learns that the Whos hold Christmas to a higher, more noble standard (in which people are valued more than things), his heart begins to soften and accept the Whovian way of life. For the first time ever, the Grinch begins to believe that “maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store; maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” This revelation is what begins the heart transformation within the Grinch, and he ultimately ends up with a heart three sizes too big and “the strength of ten Grinches plus two” with which he returns everything to the Whos and restores them as well as himself in the resolution.
God calls us all to experience this type of heart transformation. When we realize that our hearts are not where they should be – whether we had ears to hear that message or not – we lament like King David as he does in this psalm:
Create for me a pure heat, O God!
Renew a resolute spirit within me! (Psalm 51:10)
Just as he showed us what a defiled heart can do by killing Christmas, the Grinch now shows us what a pure heart can do by restoring it. Likewise, through both our own wickedness and by witnessing the wickedness of others – all of which point to the separation between us and God – we know what a defiled heart can do. Thankfully, we also have an example of what a pure heart can do as seen in Jesus the Christ. Jesus even blesses those with a pure heart by announcing that they will see God. This Christmas – and all throughout the year – let’s strive to activate that pure heart that God wants to create for us; let’s further strive to use it to activate God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.
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Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.
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