Saturday, January 2, 2016

Christmas Spirit and the New Year's Challenge

Certain people would say I'm a grinch. It's true that I dislike hearing Christmas music before December, and, if it was left up to me, I wouldn't put up my tree before Christmas Eve. I do like the holiday, though, whatever grinch-like things I may do or say earlier in the year.

But this December I was having more trouble than usual getting into the Christmas spirit. (I know I wasn't the only one.) My heart felt...tired and dull. Even the lights of Oxford street, Bing Crosby's croonings, and all the marzipan I wanted to eat couldn't produce a sense of real delight or warm fuzziness. I was in an inner huff about it.

But as the days passed, I became increasingly convicted that I was thinking of Christmas spirit in the wrong way, and part of my problem was that I was focused entirely too much on myself.

Today I read something that beautifully and powerfully sums up what God has been whispering to my heart about real Christmas spirit:
"We talk glibly of the 'Christmas spirit', rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But...the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning. 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...

"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 -- not just their own friends -- in whatever way there seems need."
(J.I. Packer, Knowing God) Frankly, it's hard to live like this! Thinking of myself comes much more easily than thinking of others, yet the inescapable call remains: "You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had."

(Thankfully, a few verses later we are assured that we're not alone in producing this attitude and lifestyle-- "For God is working in you, giving you the desire and power to do what pleases Him.")

This is God's challenge to us not just for a few days in December, but as we go into the New Year, and for all our lives.

May I, and may you, take the true spirit of Christmas into 2016 -- a spirit of selfless love in action, the spirit of our Master.

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