In the movie, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” with Jim Carrey, Cindy Lou Who asks the Grinch what is the meaning of Christmas. He immediately blurts out, “Vengeance!” I can’t help but burst out in laughter when I hear that. It’s the most bizarre answer I can imagine to that question. Vengeance? Getting even through hostility? Punishment in retaliation for being wronged? What does that have to do with Christmas, the celebration of the birth of the one who teaches love of enemies?
If there was vengeance involved in the relationship between humanity and God, it could be vengeance on God’s part toward humanity for humanity’s desecration of life. For abuse and oppression. For domination and violence. All of which are against the law of God for the flourishing of human community. God could be taking vengeance on humanity for not adhering to divine intentions for the human race to thrive and live in peace. Vengeance from God could be easily justified according to scripture and the understanding of the relationship between God and humanity of the Jewish community in Jesus’ day.
But our story does not tell us of God seeking vengeance. Instead our story tells us of God fully embodied in a human person, the incarnation of love, in a vulnerable, dependent baby. That is the opposite of vengeance. The story of Jesus is a story of God coming to help us, to serve us, to heal us, to show us the way. It is not a story of punishment or vindication or retaliation.
At Christmas we receive an unexpected, unwarranted, enormous gift, with open hands and hearts and minds. We are to look deeply at all we are being given in Jesus and then to say, with gratitude and passion, YES!
Prayer Sometimes it is easier to give a gift than to receive one. At Christmas, we are the recipients of a transformational, life changing, world altering gift. And it is a gift of peace which disarms all hostility and vengeance. May we say YES! Amen.