In this season, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” will be read or viewed as a movie innumerable times. Dr. Seuss’ classic story portrays a creature who had a heart too small. He did not like Christmas, the noise, the presents or the feast. Why, he didn’t even like the roast beast.
After 53 years of enduring his neighbors’ Christmas festivities, the Grinch determines how to stop Christmas and all its excesses from happening. That night he dresses up like Santa, ties antlers on his dog, drives a sleigh to the village, and steals everything from everybody. He returns home, quite confident that Christmas can not happen because he has all the trees, gifts and food.
Gloating in his victory over those noisy, festive neighbors, the Grinch leans his ear to hear the wail of the awakening villagers. He hears something, but not wails. The villagers have gathered and are singing their Christmas songs together – the one thing he really hated. It took him three hours to puzzle through the fact that Christmas had come in spite of everything he had done. And then he thought, “Maybe Christmas is more than gifts, trees and food. Maybe Christmas does not come from a store. Maybe Christmas is something more.”
With that his heart grew three sizes and the Grinch takes his overflowing sleigh back to the village, returns everything and he, himself, the Grinch carves the roast beast.
As I prepare to carve a small roast beast, I think back to a recent study in our series about Women in the Bible. You would have to call her a Bad Woman of the Bible: Athaliah. I call her the Grinch who tried to stop Christmas from ever arriving in the first place.
Like Herod, the second Grinch who tries to kill off Christmas by attacking all the boys under two, Athaliah the queen mother orders all the male relatives killed after her son Ahaziah dies one year into his reign. Athaliah liked being in the palace. She liked the power it gave her and wanted more. This descendant of Jezebel, this worshiper of idols, succeeds in her grab for the throne. She becomes the only female monarch over Israel. Her story can be found in II Kings 11.
How would this have stopped Christmas from coming? She ordered the death of all the descendants of King David. God had promised that through David, the promised Messiah, the eternal king would come. With all of David’s heirs destroyed, there would have been no Mary to be His mother or Joseph to wed and protect her.
Athaliah dictated death to all; but God preserved one life.
“She began by massacring the entire royal family. But Jehosheba, daughter of King Joram and sister of Ahaziah, took Ahaziah’s son Joash and kidnapped him from among the king’s sons slated for slaughter.”
That phrase “the king’s sons slated for slaughter” catches my attention every time. I envision a room or building of guys gathered for the executioner. Somehow in slips Jehoseheba (Ahaziah’s sister and possibly Athaliah’s daugher). This is the only time she is mentioned, this brave woman who is married to a temple priest, She grabs and runs with the child Joash taking him to her husband a priest at the temple.
One woman doing a Grinchy things and grabbing the sons of the king to kill them; another woman grabbing one son to hide in the temple and save him. Jehosheba, like the Who villagers, does not slump down in defeat during this political coup. She dares to defy the circumstances. In Whoville they sang. In Jerusalem, they hid the child king in the temple until he turns seven and then they shouted and sang.
When Jehoiada, declares it is time to celebrate and have a coronation for the king, the citizens of Jerusalem gather and sing like the Whos. The palace guards protectively circle the child king and blow the trumpets announcing his arrival. (As the trumpet will sound when our eternal King and Lord arrives to take over this wicked world.)
Athaliah hears the sound of victory, runs to the temple she has never visited before (she is a Baal worshiper), sees the coronation and cries out “Treason! Treason!” The priest Jehoida orders her taken out of the temple and killed. No one comes to her rescue. No one mourns her degrading death at the Horse Gate. No one buries her. Unlike the Grinch, the longer she reigned, the more her heart shrank.
And so through a young woman, Jehosheba, Christmas was saved because she believed in God’s promise and risked her life to save the baby’s life. Because of her, Christmas did arrive hundreds of years later with the birth of Christ, a descendant of King David. Because of her, and her husband’s protection during the next six years, the line of David returned to the throne.
Because Christ came at Christmas, we each can embrace our Messiah and Savior, the one sent to die for our sins. The Grinch may try to steal Christmas from our hearts, but if we stop and listen to the music of God’s love, our hearts too can grow three sizes, big enough to accept Christ as our Savior and eternal King.
And then we, like the Grinch, can join in the wedding feast God has promised to those who believe.