WORD FROM THE PASTOR: Christmas Spirit
A lot of the things we associate with Christmas are fragile. Ornaments, some perhaps passed down from generations ago, that we carefully hang on the Christmas tree (and inevitably every season one or two will plummet to the floor and shatter). Packages that we mark “handle with care” so that they will arrive safely. Knickknacks, like the ceramic reindeer whose antler has been repaired more than once.
But I think the most fragile thing of all...is the “Christmas spirit”.
I’m not sure I could define the “Christmas spirit”, but I know it when I feel it. It’s that inner warmth you get at holiday time, that childlike joy that is supposed to fill you at this time of year. It’s what makes the holiday special.
But it is fragile. Like all human feelings, it can be swept away in a moment. An argument with a family member or friend...tight finances at the holidays...bad news from around the globe...disappointment with the way one’s life is going...an overwhelming number of things to do during the holidays...sometimes even a warm and snowless December...all these can break that fragile thing called “Christmas spirit”.
And when this fragile Christmas spirit gets broken...how do you fix it?
Sometimes I bake. A kitchen filled with the aroma of cinnamon and allspice and cloves fairly shouts “Christmas”. Surely baking will restore the Christmas spirit.
Sometimes it does...but sometimes, it simply feels like going through the motions.
Listening to music can often fix Christmas spirit. We all have holiday albums that we treasure. If you’re around my age, the crooning of Crosby or Como can conjure up Christmas joys from the past.
But sometimes even the music doesn’t fix Christmas spirit.
There’s always the movies, though. “Holiday Inn”, “White Christmas”, “Prancer”, maybe even “Jingle All the Way”. Watching these great seasonal films is sure to restore Christmas spirit!
But again–it’s not always the sure cure. Sometimes even the movies don’t work. So what does?
A clue is given in a great Civil War poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in which the poet loses his Christmas spirit. Shortly before Christmas 1863, Longfellow heard that his son had been wounded in battle. This prompted him to write “Christmas Bells”. The famous first line declares “I heard the bells on Christmas day.” But the good feeling conjured up by those bells are fragile, and the war threatens to destroy them:
And in despair I bowed my head,
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
But the bells continue ringing, and they declare:
“God is not dead, nor does He sleep
The wrong will fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Longfellow had a great insight. Restoring Christmas spirit ultimately involves paying attention to the message of Christmas. The message declared by those bells–that God is alive, that He has not abandoned us, that He sent Christ to dwell with us.
The Holy Spirit speaks to us in that message. And in the end, it’s the Holy Spirit who can restore our Christmas spirit. The Spirit speaks joy and peace to our hearts when we hear the Good News of Jesus. Really, it was the Holy Spirit who made the first Christmas possible–as the Angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, so that the Holy One who is born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:36). And the same Spirit who made the first Christmas possible can bring us a beautiful Christmas this year, too. While I certainly appreciate all the time I spend in the kitchen and by the stereo and in front of the TV, the place where I really get my Christmas spirit restored is in God’s holy house. There I hear the bells, there I hear the Word, there the Spirit takes hold of me and brings me to Christ who was born for me.
My “Christmas spirit” is fragile...but the Holy Spirit is unbreakable! The Holy Spirit unites me to Jesus...and when I am united to Jesus, I truly have the joy of the season!
This year I want to catch the Christmas spirit–the true Christmas Spirit!–by spending time in prayer, in reading Scripture, and in worshiping God in church. The true Christmas Spirit is not fragile–rather, He is so powerful that He stays with me beyond Christmas...and makes every day a day of joy!
God loves you and so do I! A blessed Christmas to all!