I Just Ain't Got It
I was at a luncheon this week attended by local businessmen who desire to integrate their faith and their work. (It's a regular luncheon provided by CMBC, a Christian men's group.) One of the men present said what I feel increasingly each year, "I just don't have the Christmas spirit this year." And he felt like he was doing something wrong by not having it.
Which led me to lose track of the ongoing conversation thinking, "What exactly is the 'Christmas spirit' for a follower of Christ?"
Certainly, for a lot of people, the Christmas spirit is not exclusively a Christian phenomenon (but not inherently bad, either): Christmas trees, family, presents, food, candy, music, shopping, time off of work, Santa and Frosty, and so on.
For Christians, there is also a refocusing on the birth narrative of Jesus, Christmas carols, and a candlelight service. All good stuff, no doubt. I certainly embrace all these Christian elements of Christmas with all sincerity and appreciation.
But "spirit" - that's the word that gets me. What exactly is that? Is it essential for Christians to have it? Am I bad for having so little of it?
OK, so ... that's not my real question. I said all that to say this:
We know to not let the world define Christmas for us in terms of Santa vs. Jesus and the like. That's easy to understand. But are there ways that we are letting the world define how we feel about the Christmas season? Do we uncritically adopt the world's pathos about Christmas without really thinking it through? What should a Christian feel at Christmastime?
Years ago, I put together a Christmas Eve service that was way darker than I had intended, and that church family left the service a bit down. I intended to show the state of the world that Jesus was born into and the reason He came. That's pretty dark stuff, which I let overwhelm the Good News.
Rightly or wrongly, that's part of what I feel at Christmas. I feel the joy and love the family time together (church family and biological family). But every Christmas, I also have a heightened awareness of why Jesus was born, and to be honest, my "Christmas spirit" includes the heaviness of humankind's sin.
That's not necessarily how anyone else should feel. (And perhaps it's why I don't get invited to Christmas parties any more ... :-) ).
But my joy at Christmas is not the presents or the tree or Santa. It's only a little bit about retelling the Christmas story and singing good Christmas songs. My joy at Christmas ... my "Christmas spirit" ... is a reminder yet again that this world, and indeed my heart, are very dark places lit up by the Light of the World.
(image: The token - a Christmas and New Year's present (1830); Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons)