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What is Christmas spirit, really?

December 6, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Posted in: Christmas

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:4-7)

My favorite Christmas movie is probably Elf, the 2003 movie starring Will Ferrell. One of the obstacles in the movie that has to be overcome in order for there to be a happy ending is the decline of Christmas spirit in the world. Christmas spirit, if you watch closely, seems to be defined as having a childlike faith and wonder, especially as it comes to believing in Santa Claus. Now, (spoiler alert!) anyone who can read this article knows that Santa isn’t real. But the idea of Christmas spirit still perseveres in our culture. What is Christmas spirit? Consider, if you will, these challenging words from J.I. Packer’s book Knowing God about this thing we call “Christmas spirit”:

We talk glibly of the “Christmas spirit,” rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But . . . it ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas. And the Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round.

It is our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians–I will be more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians–go through this world in the spirit of the priest and the Levite in our Lord’s parable, seeing human needs all around them, but (after a pious wish, and perhaps a prayer, that God might meet those needs) averting their eyes and passing by on the other side. That is not the Christmas spirit. Nor is it the spirit of those Christians–alas, they are many–whose ambition in life seems limited to building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the submiddle-class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian, to get on by themselves.

The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor–spending and being spent–to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others–and not just their own friends–in whatever way there seems need.

There are not as many who show this spirit as there should be. If God in mercy revives us, one of the things he will do will be to work more of this spirit in our hearts and lives. If we desire spiritual quickening for ourselves individually, one step we should take is to seek to cultivate this spirit. “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart” (Psalm 119:32 KJV).

Amen. May God work into us that true Christmas spirit that is willing to, as Jesus did that first Christmas and throughout his life, “take the nature of a servant” in order to bring life, blessing, and joy to others.

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