Notes from Jan

Puzzling Over Christmas

December 6, 2022

Yesterday I drove to Lynnfield’s MarketStreet with two gifts in mind. MarketStreet’s a unique collection of shops and restaurants, unlike enclosed malls. While different, I didn’t expect a sermon. As I approached the first rotary, a single blinking sign, BELIEVE, “preached.” Granted, at noontime the lights didn’t dazzle but BELIEVE lit something inside me.

Fresh from teaching a Sunday School class, the day before, with the Grinch as part of my theme, I knew better than to BELIEVE Christmas came from a store. Remember how the Grinch, who lives just north of Whoville, hates Christmas. While the Whos love the whole Christmas season. So he decides to rob the town of its JOY and anything smacking of Christmas. Full of vim and vinegar, he figures all he has to do is sneak about while the Whos are fast asleep on Christmas Eve and haul off their presents, feasts, trees and any trappings of Christmas. And he does just that. Nothing’s left. Nada! Zippo!

But come Christmas morning, while the Grinch perches precariously atop Mount Crumpit, sleigh bloated with stolen goods, he listens expectantly for the boohooing of the Whos. But not a sob’s around. Instead he hears singing. And they’re holding hands, not wringing them! They act like the trimmings and trappings are just that. Stuff. Not the heart of Christmas.

Well, you’ve gotta believe this messed with the Grinch’s mindset on the meaning of Christmas and life. His, in particular. Then Dr. Seuss’s beloved story recounts how the Grinch puzzled “until his puzzler was sore. And then he thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more.”

And perhaps that’s why Bethlehem beckons still. We know there’s gotta be more to Christmas. And life. Even just “a little bit more.” Start with a baby-sized gift. Jesus. And, if we’re willing, maybe this season of Advent can become a time to “puzzle until our puzzlers are sore.” To slowdown and ask some questions, starting with Who? What? When? Where? and Why? Questions about the Christmas story, and our stories, as well.

Well, God only knows, how much What and Who we BELIEVE matters. If we risk believing before seeing, faith-ing before knowing, we just may find ourselves singing, instead of sobbing. And holding hands with folks we’ve distanced ourselves from for too long.

No wonder Bethlehem beckons.


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  • Reply Irv December 6, 2022 at 7:18 pm


    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 6, 2022 at 10:15 pm

      What a fun surprise to see your name, Irv. Thanks so much for taking time to read this blog. I miss seeing you at church. So many connect on-line now. The green Grinch reminded me of your focus on green chemistry and helping heal our environment. You’re no Grinch, for sure, unless it’s the Grinch at the end of the story with a BIG heart.

  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe December 6, 2022 at 7:27 pm

    Jan, you have the gift – and it’s beautifully wrapped – of saying so much in so few words. WHAT and WHO matters a great deal in Whoville and everywhere else. I wish I could have heard your lesson on the Grinch. That story was the good doctor’s finest, I think, and I’m glad to be reminded of the profound wisdom found in a simple tale. BELIEVING with you.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 6, 2022 at 10:23 pm

      Thank you, Maggie, gifted dramatist and writer. I think the Grinch was Dr. Seuss’s best, also. Nothing quite like a good story to work off of. And nothing like sharing our Norwegian heritage. Tusen Takk. to you in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina.

  • Reply Dale December 8, 2022 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks Jan,

    It took 79 years (glad I lived this long) to figure it out: Jesus was born for me and while I did not know I needed Him He still loved me. Bethlehem has become a special place. Blessings, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 9, 2022 at 9:27 pm

      For me,too, my dear friend. “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.” And day after day grace upon grace. I’ve been listening to a song by Cynthia Clawson, Jesus Wept. In it she sings that we’ve heard that baby Jesus in the manger “no crying he makes.” But she goes on “but I believe that Jesus wept.” And we know babies do cry but more that the Bible tells of times Jesus wept. And still does. Which is part of why Bethlehem still beckons. Jesus knows, understands, weeps with us and “still loves us.” The peace and hope of Christ continue to flow through you and Marty. You’re gifts to me and so many more.

  • Reply Wendy December 15, 2022 at 5:04 pm

    So good! This story “preached” to me – in the most beautiful of ways. 🙂

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 15, 2022 at 10:04 pm

      Thanks, dear Wendy. It “preached” to me, too.

  • Reply Wendy December 16, 2022 at 11:49 am
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