The Spirit of Christmas

I know it seems a bit odd to write a Christmas message after Christmas, but hopefully by the end you will understand my motives.

And unlike department stores, I am not trying to get an early jump on the 2010 Christmas market!

It’s that time of year again!

You know that time….when slight depression creeps in.

No, it’s not the frigid weather (although constant days of below 30 degrees are not nice)

It’s not the lack of daylight

It’s not the bills piling in from the holidays

And no, it’s not even having to go back to school or work

It’s the time of year when your Christmas tree comes down!

Perhaps that annual tradition has already occurred in your home or perhaps you are among the many holdouts that wait well into January.

But either way, it’s an inevitability….the tree will come down.

And it hurts….oh how it hurts!

You see, we have this huge build up  leading up to Christmas.

Lights, parties, cards, decorations, Frosty the snowman, trees, even our favorite radio stations start playing Christmas music 24 hours straight.

And then, just like every other year, Christmas comes and goes.

And everything goes back in the box

Back to the basement or up in the attic.

Somehow, once December 26th hits, the department store lines we are in for returns seem a bit longer and we seem to have just a bit less patience.

Do you know that feeling?  The post-Christmas let down?

I think one of the reasons why we miss Christmas so much once its gone is that it truly is such a special time of year.

People call it the Christmas Spirit

Movies and songs focus on it.

You will hear people say things like, “I am trying to get into the Christmas spirit”

Just think about how wonderful the spirit of Christmas is…..

People get together with friends and family, try to put their differences behind and reconcile.

Food, love, and laughter is shared together in community

Money is spent (which is good for the economy)…but not for ourselves, rather for the ones we love.

Time and money is given to charities and the poor are tended to and cared for.

You let people cut in line in traffic, and a friendly wave is offered instead of a finger.

And the miracle of all miracles..a stranger here in the Northeast will actually say Hello to you and wish you a Merry Christmas!

When asked what makes Christmastime so special here are some of the feelings that are attributed with the season:

love

patience

joy

caring

kindness

goodwill towards others

peace

charity

faith

hope

goodness

As they say, there is something special in the air around Christmastime.

You can tell by the way the kids are all grinning
And by the size of the crowds in and out of church
When there’s this many men
Out shopping with the women
You know it’s not just another day off from work

“Perfect strangers on the sidewalk singing songs
Giving is such a part of living
Oh I wish it could be Christmas all year long”

If people smile even when it’s against their nature
When the news hunts down something nice to say
And they even get along in the legislature
You know it’s not just any old holiday

Ray Charles sings of this in his song The Spirit of Christmas (probably made even more famous by National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!)

Christmas is the time of year

For being with the one’s we love

Sharing so much joy and cheer

What a wonderful feelin

Watching the one’s we love

Having so much fun

I was sittin by the fire side

Taking a walk through the snow

Listening to a children’s choir

Singing songs about Jesus

The blessed way that he came to us

Hearts are glowing full of joy

Sense the gifts that we’re giving

And the love that we’re living

Why can’t it remain

All through the year

Each day the same

Heyeah, that’s what I wanna hear

Heh heh

It’s truly amazin

That spirit of Christmas

He asks the question that I believe we all ask around this time of year, “Why can’t it remain all through the year?”

What happens when all the decorations get put back in the box?

When the radio stations stop playing Silent Night?

When the snow disappears and the grass makes itself known?

*disclaimer for “ya’ll” in the south…only the first 2 questions may apply! (and I how I envy you especially in Jan and Feb!)

The overarching question is really this…

What happens when you base that Spirit of Christmas on a season?

It fades away and grows dimmer day after day.

As the calendar moves further and further away from Dec 25th, so do does that Christmas Spirit that so warmed your heart so much.

So we wait…until around Labor Day when all the shops now seem to start selling Christmas stuff again.

We wait for next year to try to get back into the spirit of Christmas.

And that is why we hear songs like this one:

I wish every day could be like Christmas

And if I could have one wish come true

I wish every day could be, full of peace and harmony

I wish every day could be like Christmas, I do

I saw a child sit with old Mr. Clause,

Looked him in the eye and he asked old Santa what peace on earth was

Now the old man grew cautious, on how he would say

That it’s the greatest gift what you could give, every day

I wish every day could be like Christmas

And if I could have one wish come true

I wish every day could be, full of peace and harmony

I wish every day could be like Christmas, I do

Now the mistle-toe and the house aglow

All the world seems at ease tonight

And all that I ask when these precious moments pass

Is why can’t every day be so bright

I wish every day could be like Christmas

And if I could have one wish come true

I wish every day could be, full of peace and harmony

I wish every day could be like Christmas, I do

Honest I do, yes I do now

Those are actually words from a modern-day poet and prophet….. bon jovi!

I want to offer hope Bon Jovi and the rest of us this holiday.

Jesus didn’t come so we could celebrate a holiday once a year and give and receive another tie or fruit cake

He said, “I have come that you may have life…and life to the full.”  John 10:10

The reason why he came as a baby was to die

Yes, he lead a great life that we can and should model.

Yes, he taught about the kingdom of God and brought the kingdom to earth with his life.

But he came to take our place and by his death and resurrection provide the way for intimacy with God…a way to stay connected with the Spirit of God.

As the apostle Paul writes, in his death we too die so that we may live.

Romans 6:4-8

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with,that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

Now, this is important, because around Christmastime you hear people saying that they feel truly alive and whole.  However, often these same people fall back towards despair and depression after Dec 25th.

What Jesus came to do was provide the way for something not temporary but eternal.  Something that no season can give or take away.

Rather than focussing on the Christmas spirit, this New Year, let us pray for the Spirit of Christ

Romans 8:9-11

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Jesus paved the way for His Spirit to live in and through us all year-round.

This is called the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and unlike the Christmas spirit, it is not seasonal or temporary.

The Holy Spirit breathes life into us each new day including Dec 26, Jan 26, June 26, etc…

Think back to the attributes written above that people love about Christmas

Now, read with me Galatians 5:

Life by the Spirit

16So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (any of those look familiar?)

25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

In Christ and through Christ alone is this Spirit possible every day friends.

Jesus promised his friends and promises us today in this that His very spirit can fill our hearts, minds, and lives.

And unlike many of the gifts we received last week, no returns are necessary.

He gives us something we actually need and want.

Something that our hearts yearn for each day.

Now, that is the gift that keeps giving the whole year-round! (courtesy of cousin Eddy!)

John 14:26-28

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

What I have come to realize is what we all need (and what our world truly needs) is not Christmas every day, but Christ every day

We need His Spirit to sustain us, guide us, protect and provide for us, to help us be His hands and His feet and His words of love.

The true reason why Christmastime is so wonderful is that we are living for a moment the life we were created to live forever.

During the Christmas season we get a glimpse of what it looks like and feels like to live as a Christian.

And, at least for a few weeks, the world sees that it is a very good thing!

The hope and promise is that it can last the whole year-long.

I will end with the lyrics from a classic song “KEEP CHRISTMAS WITH YOU ALL THROUGH THE YEAR”

From the TV show “Sesame Street”

Before you read it, I would suggest doing the following:

Replace the words “keep Christmas” with keep “Christ” and let that be our prayer this New Year

When Christmas time is over and presents put away, don’t be sad

There’ll be so much to treasure about this Christmas day and the fun

we’ve had

So may happy feelings to celebrate with you

And, oh, the good time hurry by so fast,

But even when it’s over there’s something you can do to make

Christmas last:

Christmas means the spirit of giving

Peace and joy to you,

The goodness of loving,

The gladness of living;

These are Christmas too.

So, keep Christmas with you

All through the year,

When Christmas is over,

Save some Christmas cheer.

These precious moments,

Hold them very dear

And keep Christmas with you

All through the year.


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