This Sunday was our first Sunday of Advent, so Eric and Sara Diemer lit the first Advent candle, focusing on the hope that we have in Christ. We also thus asked everyone to stay after the service for our baked potato bar, and then to help decorate the church facility. The place looks amazing, so thank you to everyone who helped.
So somebody at a store today asked me if I’ve got the “Christmas spirit” yet, and I had to tell them that I don’t. I mean, if “Christmas spirit” comes from buying presents, then no -- I do that all year long and hide them in my closet until Christmas. If “Christmas spirit” comes from buying a tree and decorating your home, then no -- the only thing we’ve done yet at our house is to hang a few lights outside. If “Christmas spirit” comes from loving your neighbor, then no -- I try to consciously do that all year long, so it’s not really a “Christmas-y” thing for me. But what the storekeeper was really asking is if I already feel that special, magical feeling that comes from this special, magical time of year... so again, no -- I don’t really think of it as a special, magical time of year.
See, it’s tempting to get caught up in the “holiday TV special” sense of Christmas, where love and magic just infuse the snow-capped world and somehow -- because it’s Christmas -- they can magically overcome the grumpy and dull world that we live in the rest of the year. So peace is possible simply because it’s December? That’s just silly (especially since we don’t even know if Jesus was born anywhere near the end of December).
No, the truth of the matter is that the Christmas story is a childish myth (just put Baby Jesus, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny in the same basket), or it’s a mystical story (probably still a myth) that makes everyone feel a little bit better for a limited period of time, or else it’s honest-to-goodness history. It’s a magical fairy tale, or else it’s Truth.
If the Christmas story is a fairy tale, then accounts of Zechariah meeting with the angel Gabriel in the Temple, the miraculous birth of John the Baptist, etc., -- all of that boils down to simply being colorful details that embellish the story and help lead up to the denouement of Christmas Eve (i.e.; you can see the magic building up as the story approaches its climax, and that’s why the season is so special).
But if the Christmas story is actually true -- if the birth of Christ is not just a magical moment at the climax of a magical story, but really an actual event in history -- then we really shouldn’t just see this as a special season. If God Himself really did take on human form and live amongst us as one of us, specifically so that He could take our sins upon His sinless human shoulders and eternally change us, then we cannot think of that as simply a special, seasonal thing, but as a change in the essence of our very lives, every single day. It has to change the way that we live in August, in February, etc., or else it hadn’t really changed us at all.
One of the most iconic, “sappy magical Christmas season” kind of stories has got to be A Christmas Carol. Ironically, the story’s climax has Scrooge declaring, “I resolve to honor Christmas in my heart, and keep it all year long!” because he realizes that if the “Christmas spirit” is ever to be real in our lives, then it needs to be real all of the time in our lives.
So enjoy the season. Enjoy the decorations, and the gift-giving, and the extra family time. Enjoy people’s willingness to actually hear about Jesus Christ during this time of year. But make sure that your “Christmas spirit” -- your “I’ve been changed by Christ’s birth” spirit -- is evident and active all year long...