The Spirit of Christmas
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for him in the inn. Luke 2:6-7
“But when the time had fully come, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Galatians 4:4
Christmas? Just a bit early, isn’t it? Thanksgiving isn’t even here! Yet there is a method in my madness. It may be more fortuitous if you meditate in November on the Spirit’s sustaining the continuing celebration of Christmas all over the world. Make use of the opportunity the Spirit provides in your plans for this Christmas. As much as you have planned differently in past years it is difficult to not become annually inundated with the demands of time and thought which normally comes every Advent/Christmas season. Once the season is on you there is not much time devoted to focused meditation because of traditional activities requiring your efforts which surround this most celebrated of all holidays. I encourage you to consider the Spirit of Christmas before the season arrives in all its busy-ness. I do not think the almost universal celebration of Christmas throughout the world, even when there are all types of secular celebrations on the fringe of the true core, is disconnected to our calling as Christ’s servants. The Spirit of God has sustained celebrating the Savior’s birth which bears witness to the gospel and the Word made flesh, notwithstanding Jingle Bells or I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas. It is not an obscure holiday or unobserved practice. Interestingly, search as you might you can find no reference to a celebration of the Savior’s birth until some 300 years after it took place. I do not fully know why, though there are a number of conjectures. Yet as the intervening 1700 years have progressed, the celebration of Jesus’ birth has spread throughout the earth in one fashion or another, some most noticeable, others not so much, but still everywhere, even in predominantly non-Christian lands. This is a fact worthy of meditation.
Why is it so universal? Because as the Bible reveals in Revelation, “The Lamb who was slain purchased men for God with his blood from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9) This amazing, diverse yet united family of God, scattered throughout the globe over hundreds of generations, knows the birth story and knows this One who was laid in a manger in Bethlehem in real time and history; and they love to celebrate his birth with family, and with one another. The world has seen and adopted Christmas with the unique and intriguing celebration which it is. This is not a bad result. Indeed it appears to bear all the imprimatur of the Spirit of God. Christmas has made a universal impact in all parts of the world. The point is not what the exact date was; a universal agreement with December 25th or January 6th has been accepted. Nor is the point a unanimous opinion of scientifically explaining the star of the Magi, even though it remains a permanent part of Christmas. The central message is that the incarnation truly took place, Emmanuel came and lived among us, and his birth is not a secret to the multitudes which populate the globe. How it eternally impacts many of them is a different story. But the Spirit provides an opportunity to those who know the Savior to communicate the gospel message with a truth which is universally celebrated and recognized as Christmas, even if by many in a flawed, not fully aware manner.
The true Spirit of Christmas which amidst the fallen nature of a sinful world still manages to invade most homes and many a celebration sprinkled with the emotions and commensurate actions of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You all well know that every Christmas celebration does not exhibit all of these characteristics genuinely or consistently; in many cases and places, just the opposite. But you also know in your own history of Christmas you have experienced all of the above in some measure. It is why there is in most every heart a yearning, a nostalgia, for Christmas. As I have observed and am aware of Christmas in many places throughout the world there is a festive, decorated, gift-giving, family gathering, special meal celebration which brings people back to the same practice, Christian or not, year after year.
Take a look on the internet of “Christmas around the world and read of the types of celebration from December 24th to January 6th in every nation of the earth, though some of necessity in a few nations takes place in the privacy of homes; and share that information with your family. The real Spirit of Christmas with the emotions and actions of Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of this Spirit, is the third person of the Trinity, God. The Spirit’s proclaimed work is to reveal Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity; to make him known and bring glory to God, Gloria in excelsis Deo! The celebration of Christmas, remembering the birth of the Savior, penetrates cultures everywhere. The Holy Spirit tells redemption’s story, He spreads the news of Emmanuel; the manger’s message is told in millions of creche’s. Oh, there are many who participate in the Christmas traditions of their family and are seemingly impervious to any personal engagement with the Christ-child or the triumphant Savior; but the gospel is going out to the ends of the earth as Christmas is celebrated everywhere, in spite of Satan’s best efforts to squelch it, as here in recent America or a place like North Korea. Even in Muslim lands or Japan there is a “contradictory love of singing or hearing Christmas carols; all the “secular carols like Jingle Bells or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer would not have been written or sung apart from Jesus’ birth being an historical event with historical meaning for humanity. Take a moment and read again the words of the many carols, genuine and secular, as your heart hums the familiar tunes and observe the joy, the rejoicing, the peace, the hope, the expectations, the glory of this event in history that exudes from the music and words of every carol; there is nothing quite like it! There are culture-peculiar celebrations with dancing and apparent joy in every people group, but they are localized and certainly not universal.
Many are wont to criticize the commercialization, the crassness of some/much of the celebration of the season. But I thank God for the manner in which Christmas still penetrates this fallen world and the Holy Spirit testifies to the birth of its only Savior. Such is not the practice for Allah, Muhamad, Buddha, Maroni, Hindu gods, even Mother Earth. Many may not fully know what it is to love and cherish the babe in the manger, as well as the babe-matured and dying on a cross for the sins of His people, but the message is within reach of all in their celebration of Christmas; demonstrating the truth of which Moses speaks in Deuteronomy 30 and Romans 10, “The word is near you!
This Christmas, you can testify to the gospel meaning of the birth of Jesus with a relevant and ready entrée, asking those who are estranged from a personal relationship with Christ: “Why has this event been celebrated all over the world for centuries and even now by you? Why has Christmas celebration persisted for all these centuries? Is there any meaning here for you to personally consider and engage? A fantasy or a myth would not have lasted nor been more universally celebrated if there were no truth to it. But what does it mean and what is it in Christmas which brings joy to your heart? There would be no Christmas without the Christ who came! There would be no Christmas spirit apart from the Spirit of God at work in the world.
Clothe yourself with the SPIRIT of Christmas. As the Bible says, be filled with Him. “Walk in the Spirit and thus fulfill the law of Christ! With planning, thought, and purpose this December communicate to someone outside His family this same message the Spirit has sustained in the world through the celebration of Christmas in every tribe and language and people and nation.
“Joy to the world! The Lord is come: let earth receive her King; let every heart prepare him room, and heav’n and nature sing, and heav’n and nature sing, and heav’n and heav’n and nature sing.
(1st verse of Isaac Watts’ Christmas Carol, “Joy to the World, 1719)
Sign up for our monthly newsletter and weekly devotional