Who Stole the Joy?!

It was an unusual interview. The interviewer explained she was writing an article for a national women’s magazine on clever ways to put more joy into the holidays.

In that I’ve written a book on the subject, she called hoping I would help her with the story. I knew that I could.

In my typical overly excited manner I proceeded to pitch to her one marvelous holiday cost-cutting idea after another—some of them principle-based, others uniquely practical.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that something wasn’t right. One after another, my ideas landed with a thud. She didn’t like them at all.

And that’s when she made a comment that effectively brought the interview to a screeching halt.

She called me a grinch.

Now she didn’t actually come right out and say, “You Grinch!” She said that if she wrote an article encouraging the unthinkable practice of not incurring debt, buying fewer gifts or cutting back in any way, her readers would think she’d interviewed that old you-know-who himself.

While she suggested my ideas would take all the fun and joy out of the season, she assured me it was nothing personal. But still, she called me a grinch.

Listen to Mary’s Christmas message here …

Not being one who can easily let things go, I had to get to the bottom of this. I had to find out if what she suggested about me was in any way true.

In my zeal to encourage people to take back control of Christmas from the locked jaws of commercialism, had I taken on a striking resemblance to that cranky old holiday grump, the Grinch?

I was quite certain I knew where to find out. And sure enough, right there on the shelf between Horton Hears a Who and Hunches in Bunches I found it—that familiar bright red storybook: How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

The Grinch hated Christmas. The whole Christmas season! Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason….

It seems that for 53 years the Grinch has lived in a cave just north of Who-ville—he’s an ornery old soul with a heart two sizes too small.

The Grinch detests the holiday celebrations down in Who-ville. He hates the singing, the celebrating—all that noise, noise, noise, noise! So he devises a great Grinchy trick to get rid of Christmas forever: He dresses up like Santy Claus, ties a big horn to his dog Max, and hitches him up to a makeshift sleigh. He waits until all the Whos are fast asleep then heads on down into Who-ville.

He steals all their presents, their ribbons, the wrappings; the tags, and the tinsel, the trimmings—the trappings!

He hauls all the loot to the top of Mt. Crumpit where, in a huge fit of glee, he proceeds to—you guessed it—dump it!

There! His task is complete. He’s taken care of Christmas once and for all. All the noise of the fun, all the joy and the love—even the smallest hint of the season is gone forever.

But what’s that sound? It’s not sobbing, but singing! The Whos begin celebrating with no presents at all. The Grinch couldn’t stop it, Christmas came just the same. It came without packages, boxes, and bags.

I sat there recalling why I love this story so much. And I admit it, I felt delightfully smug. That writer was way off base.

I’m not the grinch in her story. I didn’t steal the joy. Her grinches are consumerism, overindulgence and overdoing—the attitudes that insist Christmas is something we can find in a store, mail order catalog or the Internet.

If you’ve noticed the joy of the season is missing from your life—that no matter how hard you try, something’s just not right—maybe those grinches are to blame. Maybe it’s time to let them know they’ve lost their power.

Authentic joy comes not from all the outside trappings, but from our hearts; from the story of the birth of a small baby who would become our Savior—from that love, that can fill our lives with giddy joy.

So let the singing begin!

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21 replies
  1. Jackie says:

    I loved your article Mary. I guess I have been a Grinch my whole married life. I shop yard sale, resale shops and sales. One year i made it my idea to shop the sales at the Base commissary when we were both in the Military. I started in January and had finished my shopping by June. Then the inevitable happened. We were transferred. I found the presents just after Christmas. I mailed them as belated Christmas gifts and everyone loved the idea. It spread out the holiday into January.
    This year I found little cast iron skillets with a baking mix at the store and bought a bunch for about $40 I bought Christmas presents for 5 people at church. The skillet is big enough to make a personal pan size pizza. They can cook eggs in them or just about anything they want to use them for. I am giving my new daughter in law who live in a small travel trailer and don’t have the space for a lot of big Cast iron skillets but they can use them to make whatever they want to cook when they want to eat in their trailer. (They eat with us a lot). I got a few more expensive gifts but that was in the way of clothing that my daughter and daughter in law needed.

  2. Dan says:

    Yes, that interviewer has a Grinch of undisciplined spending and giving. The idea that people can get more joy by being thrifty in seeking out better deals so you get more in your gifts for others seems to have created a short circuit in her thinking. And it’s no virtue to ignore one’s responsibilities to your family and yourself, when gifting.

    Thank you for your tips Mary. They’ve allowed me to get more joy and more gifts for others this Xmas.

  3. Melanie Dobson says:

    This is so true, Mary! I had to take my daughter to the mall yesterday (23rd) and I couldn’t believe how angry people were. Stunned, actually. I’m not a big shopper so this was a wake-up call for me. Your article was another great reminder that we are celebrating JOY in this season, the birth of a Savior. Not worshipping the stuff that we can (or can’t) buy. Instead we have a far greater treasure for our hearts. Off to a Candlelight Service to celebrate the eve of this beautiful holiday.

  4. Gina Stevens says:

    After years of living alone in a state with my beloved seasons, I gave that up. I moved south to live near my son. Tonight, my son and daughter-in-law will pick me up so that we can attend Midnight Mass together. THAT’S CHRISTMAS! Thanks Mary, for a heartfelt sentiment. Love and hugs!

  5. Judy says:

    I guess I’m a grinch, too. However, I’m an absolute ray of sunshine in January when the bills come in and I already paid with cash!

    • BARBARA M REDD says:

      Amen Judy!! Nothing like an all cash & paid for Christmas. Thank you Mary for all the absolutely fabulous ideas & suggestion all year along. Merry Christmas. Folks Christmas isn’t about stuff..JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON

  6. Daria says:

    Thank you for this article, Mary. I am fighting a feeling of utter misery today. I agree with you 100%, but my family does not. Not sure what’s going to happen when they wake up. Onward and upward to all of us.

  7. Lori M McArthur says:

    For a while in my life I lost the joy of Christmas. I was in a difficult marriage and working hard to keep everyone happy. I have learned joy again. My second wonderful husband and I have cut back our guest list. And make jams and other food goodies in the summer when there is more time. I get all the decorations up early and then relax. I dont try to attend everything, just a few things. And we try to give experiences. Never try to make everyone happy. You will always miss. Remember the joy of your faith, and find a way to spread joy to others. Thank you for your ideas Mary

  8. Kay Jones says:

    I am blessed with being surrounded by friends and family of different beliefs. Before it became awkward to have a civil discussion about the differences we have, I was able to ask questions about their beliefs. I was delighted to find kindness was the core value in all of them. Some have taken things out of context, but the absolute core value was kindness. At Christmas I celebrate not only my beliefs, but the kindness my family and friends show. There is much more we have in common than we realize.

  9. Joanne says:

    Thank you Mary. I might say the same for holiday overeating. Make small compensations on your other meals thru these days with a view to enjoying rich indulgences of only the best that is offered in sane portions. Keep your mind engaged by savoring slowly every delicious bite, and I know you will feel like you’ve celebrated fully. When the holidays are over, celebrate January 2 with no weight gain, having served nor eaten no side dishes called “guilt”. That’s a true joy. Blessings, all.

  10. angel-n-alabama says:

    You nailed that one Mary! Thanks for reminding us all that the best gift isn’t one one we can give or get…it’s the gift we receive from the Christ child. Freely given.

  11. Linda says:

    Nice article Mary!! So thankful for you and your work which changed our lives many years ago… I imagine the delivery workers around the country this Christmas wish we would get back to the real reason for Christmas, too!!

  12. Angela L says:

    I was thinking of this just last night. My 14 year old said it didn’t feel like Christmas to her. We talked about how we get caught up in all the trapping that is supposed to ‘feel’ like Christmas. Our Christmas gift giving is much smaller this year due to a job change, but we are still so blessed. Jesus is why we celebrate and that is enough.


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