by Steve Kindle
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all. Lk. 2
In less than one week Christmas Day arrives. It is one of the joyous days in the lives of children and most adults. In non-COVID times it meant large family celebrations, the exchange of well-meaning presents, great meals, and good feelings for all. The day after is often devoted to picking up piles of wrapping paper, finishing cleaning up the kitchen, and running to the stores for exchanges and deep discounts. Christmas trees find their way to the trash not long after. Christmas is considered over on December 26th, and the Christmas Spirit follows not long after.
A friend of mine once remarked that the Christmas Spirit seems to come later and later each year. Sometimes it never arrives at all. What was he talking about? I think the Christmas Spirit is what the angels in Luke announced as “…on earth, peace, good will toward men.” It’s the generosity we feel as we encounter the needy on the streets. It’s the warm feeling we get writing out our Christmas cards as we remember our good times with friends. It’s the willingness to extend forgiveness for the moment understanding we all have our “moments.” For some, the Christmas Spirit is that warm feeling that settles over us suggesting that “God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.”
The longer we live the more resentment some build-up toward our companions on this earth. The deep divide in our political life, the discomforts associated with having to shelter in place, the loss of employment and income, the deaths of beloved family members, and the general commercializing of the Season all combine to diminish the joy of Christmas. It becomes harder and harder to have feelings of goodwill toward all. Can anything be done to extend and even enlarge the Christmas Spirit?
It’s my view that the reason the Christmas Spirit diminishes quickly over time is that it is not practiced much prior to the Season. We do our best to conjure it up but don’t have the reserves to fall back on. It’s all bound up in living the Golden Rule and the Two Great Commandments. The more we live into the spirit of Christ, the Christmas Spirit will follow. The best way to ensure our Christmas Spirit all year long is to realize it is not reserved for a time, but for a lifetime.
The angels on that long-ago night didn’t just announce the birth of the Messiah. They proclaimed a longing deeply felt in the human heart. We all seem to desire a world that is “fair.” Where it isn’t necessary to defeat another to live well in our world, but to live in harmony with one another. We long for Eden, for shalom, for universal peace and wellbeing. Some have extended this, the Christmas Spirit, to at least our loved ones. Some extend it to their tribes. Others even to strangers.
Much of the world including non-Christians see in Jesus a model for living. Is not that model the Christmas Spirit? Christmas should not have an on/off switch. Let’s do what we can to celebrate Christmas all year long.
PRAYER Long after the Twelve Days of Christmas have passed, we pray, O God, that your Spirit will continue to guide us into greater love for our neighbor and deeper involvement with your purposes in the world. AMEN