It is a widely agreed precept that a many of a certain age, if he is sane, ought to be a curmudgeon.

Definition of curmudgeon

1crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man

Why should he be a curmudgeon? Because by the time he has reached a certain age he should also have attained a certain level of wisdom and knowledge which will cause him to understand with increasing clarity how stupid, vain, shallow, lustful, greedy and idiotic most of this world and the people in it actually are.

For those of you who are Bible lovers, go to the venerable Book of Ecclesiastes for your proof text:

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
    at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
    and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
    and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
    but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
    there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
    a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    nor the ear filled with hearing.

And so the curmudgeon greets the world, and at this time of year he may be accused of being a Scrooge.

Long live Scrooge, saith the preacher, and spare me the saccharine sentimentality of Tiny Tim with his ukulele.

“Ah, but Scrooge was converted!” but what was he converted to? A gospel that consists of bringing an extra goose to the table?

Doing good is not the same thing as being good, and the Catholic curmudgeon might well say about Scrooge’s jumping ship and going over to the do gooders, “Bah Humbug!”

“Oh Fahhhther!” I can hear the prissy self righteous exclaim, “Why are you against the corporal works of mercy!??!”

I’m not you silly sentimentalist. I’m all for them, but one of the problems these days is that too many nice Christians mistake the corporal works of mercy for mercy itself.

The works of mercy are the result of having received mercy first. In other words, I bring a goose to the table of Bob Cratchit because I’ve realized what a goose I’ve become, repented and been converted inside out. I’ve had all the stuffing knocked out of me. That’s why its in the goose.”

That may well have happened, and I can’t tell the state of anyone else’s heart so I will say “Well done”. If they do good with a goose, then good for them. Who am I to judge?

I can still grumble because that’s what curmudgeons do.

But this was about how to be a joyful curmudgeon. The fact of the matter is, when you scratch most curmudgeons you find a joyful person underneath. Its just that they’re not prone to pasting on a smile and doing the small talk.

The Christian and the Christmas curmudgeon is joyful but it’s way down deep–as joy should be. Joy does not consist of an artificial smile. That’s plastic Barbie and Ken stuff.

Joy is the water at the bottom of a deep well.

To be sure there are cynical curmudgeons who have no joy…only despair.

But the Christian curmudgeon is a joyful curmudgeon because beneath the grumpy exterior is faith, hope and love…and usually a few good jokes.

After all, he’s only being grumpy because he really believes the world ought to be a better place and that people should be better than they are.

He’s disappointed with the shabby, scabby, shoddy behavior and expects better. That’s hope. He thinks this sad, tired, vain and silly world should (and will be) redeemed, and that’s faith. He actually wants what is best for the other person–and that’s love.

And if he’s disappointed with the way things are, there’s one person who disappoints him more than any other: