Posts Tagged With: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Enrich Your Christmas Season With Special Stories

Christmastime offers us more than scrambling for appropriate gifts for everyone and hurrying to get our homes decorated in time for holiday festivities. Our hearts long for meaning and heart-stirring stories to inspire and bring us together. Many movies provide spiritual and emotional sustenance, but books, too, turn our eyes toward deeper themes. Three of my favorites to share with my readers are The Gift of the Magi , How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Story of the Other Wise Man.

Gift of the Magi

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry is a short story set in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. A husband and wife are scraping by in their early years of marriage and seek to find a meaningful Christmas gift for each other. Money is certainly an object and there is literally not enough to buy even a single gift. Their story of sacrifice and generosity strips the gaudy materialism off American Christmas gift giving and shines a light into the heart of loving through sacrificial giving. Hopefully, O. Henry’s message will take the poor and rich on the same journey because it is not about “what’s in your wallet”, but about how one chooses to show love. Here is the ending, but I entreat you to read the story, too, to understand the profundity of this lovely language:

“The magi, as you know, were wise men–wonderfully wise men–who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.”

How_the_Grinch_Stole_Christmas_cover

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss is a well-known Christmas story that is only fifty-seven years old, but still resonates with us today as we face a holiday that is a very mixed bag of holy and holly. It is funny and outrageous and profound; within its pages hides the answer to what is wrong with us Americans at Christmastime.

It opens with the Grinch up on his solitary mountain looking down, literally and figuratively, on the Whos as they prepare to celebrate Christmas with traditional and extravagant noise, gifts, food, and singing. Dr Seuss masterfully captures so many of our Christmastime difficulties: too much feasting, too much spending, and too many social encounters, but he turns the problems on their heads and teaches us that the heart is at the center of the solution:

“And what happened then…? Well… in Who-ville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day! And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight, he whizzed with his load through the bright morning light and he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast! And he…. HE HIMSELF…! The Grinch carved the roast beast!”

When our hearts are ready to experience the good in Christmas then we can participate, like the Grinch did, in the joy: time with friends and family, generous giving that delights others, and fun in the traditions and events.

OtherWiseMan

The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke is an old story, originally published in 1895, with a deep moral theme summed up at the end of the book with a quote from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25:

“The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

The main character of Van Dyke’s fictional account is a fourth wise man, Artaban, who misses the rendezvous with his three friends as they set off on the arduous trek through the Arabian desert to the birthplace of the Messiah. Artaban also earnestly desires to follow the star and offer his valuable gifts, but is continually waylaid by the needs of desperate people and, in the end, gives away all the treasure that was meant for the Christ Child. This precious story is told with a Middle Eastern voice, eloquent and mystical, and would be best read to younger children due to its complex sentence structure and vocabulary. The poignant ending of Artaban’s pilgrimage imparts a message to us all that the seemingly unimportant aspects of our lives can be sacrifices to God.

I hope you can add a little deep and touching reading to your Christmas busyness.

Categories: Children's Books, Classics, Inspiration, Read Aloud | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Enrich Your Christmas Season With Special Stories

Christmastime offers us more than scrambling for appropriate gifts for everyone and hurrying to get our homes decorated in time for holiday festivities.  Our hearts long for meaning and heart-stirring stories to inspire and bring us together.  Many movies provide spiritual and emotional sustenance, but books, too, turn our eyes toward deeper themes.  Three of my favorites to share with my readers are The Gift of the Magi , How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Story of the Other Wise Man.

Gift of the Magi

 

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry is a short story set in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. A husband and wife are scraping by in their early years of marriage and seek to find a meaningful Christmas gift for each other. Money is certainly an object and there is literally not enough to buy even a single gift. Their story of sacrifice and generosity strips the gaudy materialism off American Christmas gift giving and shines a light into the heart of loving through sacrificial giving. Hopefully, O. Henry’s message will take the poor and rich on the same journey because it is not about “what’s in your wallet”, but about how one chooses to show love. Here is the ending, but I entreat you to read the story, too, to understand the profundity of this lovely language:

“The magi, as you know, were wise men–wonderfully wise men–who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.”

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss is a well-known Christmas story that is only fifty-seven years old, but still resonates with us today as we face a holiday that is a very mixed bag of holy and holly. It is funny and outrageous and profound; within its pages hides the answer to what is wrong with us Americans at Christmastime.

It opens with the Grinch up on his solitary mountain looking down, literally and figuratively, on the Whos as they prepare to celebrate Christmas with traditional and extravagant noise, gifts, food, and singing. Dr Seuss masterfully captures so many of our Christmastime difficulties: too much feasting, too much spending, and too many social encounters, but he turns the problems on their heads and teaches us that the heart is at the center of the solution:

“And what happened then…? Well… in Who-ville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day! And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight, he whizzed with his load through the bright morning light and he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast! And he…. HE HIMSELF…! The Grinch carved the roast beast!”

When our hearts are ready to experience the good in Christmas then we can participate, like the Grinch did, in the joy: time with friends and family, generous giving that delights others, and fun in the traditions and events.

OtherWiseMan

The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke is an old story, originally published in 1895, with a deep moral theme summed up at the end of the book with a quote from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25:

“The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

The main character of Van Dyke’s fictional account is a fourth wise man, Artaban, who misses the rendezvous with his three friends as they set off on the arduous trek through the Arabian desert to the birthplace of the Messiah. Artaban also earnestly desires to follow the star and offer his valuable gifts, but is continually waylaid by the needs of desperate people and, in the end, gives away all the treasure that was meant for the Christ Child. This precious story is told with a Middle Eastern voice, eloquent and mystical, and would be best read to younger children due to its complex sentence structure and vocabulary. The poignant ending of Artaban’s pilgrimage imparts a message to us all that the seemingly unimportant aspects of our lives can be sacrifices to God.

I hope you can add a little deep and touching reading to your Christmas busyness.

Categories: Children's Books, Classics, Inspiration, Read Aloud, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Read Aloud – A Christmas Carol

Good literature is a pleasure to read aloud.  The words roll off the tongue and provide a wonderful opportunity for children to hear the English language used artistically.   A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens may be a prime example of a book that is a pleasure to read aloud, and one that appeals to many age levels.  I hold nothing against the many movie versions of this classic tale, but I do want to point out that they all cut out great bites of the original book.  Charles Dickens is a master of the English language and although that can be daunting to the average reader, most of his vocabulary words can be understood in context.  As an example, Dickens describes Scrooge at the outset of the story as: “… a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire…” (p. 10).  I get this, don’t you?  Scrooge is miserly, cold-hearted, and loveless.

One Christmas vacation, I read A Christmas Carol in its entirety (88 pages unabridged) to my husband as he drove the long tedious I-70 highway from Denver, Colorado to his hometown near Kansas City, Kansas.  My fourteen-year old has re-read the book twice during her Christmas break.  She is hoping to read it a third time this year.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, author Gladys Hunt encourages us to keep reading aloud even when our children can read independently: “What most parents do,… is stop sharing books as soon as a child can read alone.  That makes reading a solitary happening, with no chance to talk about a book or discuss what it is saying. ” (Honey for a Teen’s Heart, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2002).  Steve Demme, an inspirational homeschool speaker and founder of Math-U-See curriculum read at night to his four sons by positioning a chair in the hallway within earshot of his boys’ rooms and reading from there.  I vividly remember when I was called on during a babysitting job to read aloud to five children at bedtime.  They lined up on the couch and listened attentively while I read them the next chapter of the third Narnia book.  They knew where their mother had left off and they didn’t want to miss a night!

We can teach our kids to read with expression by our own example.  We benefit from listening to books also in the development of our imaginations.  Books with “boring bits” describing places are just opportunities to make a “mental movie” of what is happening in the book.  Doing the voices of the characters can be fun, especially when there is interesting dialogue between well-drawn characters.  To mix it up, the family member who is the usual family narrator can take a break while others take a turn reading aloud.  It’s important to switch genres of books to accommodate the tastes and ages of different family members.  Vacations, trips, and sick days are all wonderful times to put in extra reading moments.

Family closeness is precious and we value it even more at Christmastime.  I am beating the same drum as I “requote” Jim Trelease, the author of the Read-Aloud Handbook: “Next to being hugged, reading aloud is probably the longest-lasting experience of childhood.”  Read aloud and build closeness!

Other resources with wonderful read aloud book lists:

Sonlight Curriculum catalog

Hunt, Gladys M.. Honey for a Child’s Heart: The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.

 

Categories: British novels, Children's Books, Classics, Inspiration, Read Aloud, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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