Did you know ECS has its very own resident Grinch residing in a spare room in the back corner of ECS? When it comes to Christmas, he truly has garlic in his soul; no tinsel will grace his toes, no Jingle Bells tickle his ears. He is about as cuddly as an eel…but that has nothing to do with the yuletide.
In truth, he’s not really a nasty-wasty skunk, and in a grand twist of irony, both his wife and his mother-in-law are some of the most festive Whoville-ians you will ever meet. No, Mr. Weinberg’s Grinchness resides in his adamantine dislike of all things kitsch* and his bedrock insistence on the genuineness of things (after all, Mrs. Bowers, Jesus was probably born in July, not December).
* Kitsch: /kiCH/noun
- art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality
In this, he is a true Raggant. As Raggants we reject things that are sentimental, garish, and just downright ick. We work every day towards an embracing of the real, whether that is the absolute nature of 2+2 equaling 4 or the revealed truth about a dicey portion of Scripture involving a concubine and a Levite somewhere in Judges.
So we love the baseline real, that which we know only by the grace of a God who revealed His absolute realness in creation and His Word, both written and stuffed into a single cell in Mary’s womb. Plato, whom the Omnibus IV students are reading right now, would have killed – theoretically – for one piece of the straw in that manger, one atom of the realest real he longingly pursued his whole life.
Plato may have been a contemporary of Nehemiah, and in my wildest dreams, I imagine they somehow met, or Plato discovered one of Daniel’s dust-covered scrolls holed up in a library somewhere. What if, in a wild turn of history, in the last days of Plato he discovered the prophecy of the true Philosopher King? What if he finally found an answer to his famous Allegory of the Cave? In that illustration in The Republic Plato argues that we are all chained in a cave, forced to only see the shadows (our world) playing out before our eyes, while the real things (the ideal Forms and Ideas) exist somewhere beyond our reach, operating behind a fire at the back of the cave. He hypothesized that it was a philosopher’s job to free humanity, turn our heads around, and show us the True instead of the shadow. But he knew something was lacking. He knew the philosophers were bound by their own limitations and failings.
Fast-forward to Advent of 2018, where we walk the toy aisles, knowing that a little baby was born into a cave to set the shackled captives free. He became the true Carpenter-King, who broke our bonds of sin and shattered our false illusions. Like the Grinch emerging from his dank mountain cavern, this also enables us to see blinking lights of Christmas that picture the Light of Christmas, to smell fresh-baked gingerbread that incarnates the Aroma of Emmanuel.
Some of the tinsel, rotund figures, ugly sweaters, and Santa-baby songs are Plato’s false shadows – puppets dancing upon the walls of a hollow screen-projection of reality. They present us a cardboard cutout of sentimental love that selfishly fulfills but requires no sacrifice of ourselves. But so much of Christmas is real because it points to the Reality, and the real traditions that emerged from a horde of groggy cave-dwellers whose eyes were adjusting to the blinding light of the Truth that had pierced their eyes and the joy that was remaking their broken souls. Those men and women of Christmases past took little bits of this broken shadow world, and they pieced them together in an attempt to physically celebrate their God who took on physical flesh. They sang songs and lit lights and feasted and gifted to incarnate an Incarnation that made the angels sing and fired a star in the sky and brought the bread of life to Earth and gave its very life unto death.
It’s why the Grinch’s heart grew a few sizes: he realized that the true spirit of Christmas does live in our hearts, but it also works itself out garlanded along our hearths, hung across our gutters, wrapped beneath our trees, in the poetical lyrics of our Whovillian singing…and swaddled into a stinky feed-trough beneath a star pulsating with brilliant light.