Christmas is drawing ever-closer... FIVE more days as I type this!! I know a regular debate in recent years has been over the fact of how Jesus wasn't born ON the 25th or even IN December. I believe it is good to know these facts, however, it is just as good to hold dear a season of remembrance for the fact that he was born. (Honestly, not every year's resurrection Sunday is the exact day Jesus rose again, but we still honor that).
In today's final pull-over from the "Ordinary" Advent series I wrote a few years ago on my other blog, we pause to recognize the true "Spirit" of the season and importance of these annual commemorations, whether or not the dates are exact....
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths
and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the in.
- Luke 2:6-7
"I'm just not in the Christmas 'Spirit' this year"
"I don't know what it is, I just can't get 'into' Christmastime"
Christmastime is here. Come this time next week, presents will be unwrapped, New Years Resolutions will be considered and the holiday hubbub will be drawing to a close. Another year over. Some will be relieved, some will feel longing... either way, it will be the fact of life.
In my own household, Christmas "spirit" sentiments like those above are confided every year. Some really tough stuff has gone down in my family's lives around the holidays. Not because of the holidays, but simply in conjunction. This year is no exception.
For me, I lost my mom unexpectedly when she was at the young age of 48 on October 28, 2002. I was pregnant with my youngest, spent the first week of November making funeral plans, casket selections, grave plot choices and following a hearse too soon to her final "resting place" - a memory I always mist at - and the rest of the month combing through her life's belongings. December that year was cold and lonely and full of pain, waiting the final weeks till my daughter's birth and longing for my mother though she be gone.
But the Spirit was there.
When we read on in the historical narrative of Christ's arrival, we see the ritual presentation of the infant at the Temple. While there, we are told of an old man, Simeon. I won't just sum, the Bible says it too beautifully to detract:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
"Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for the glory to your people Israel."
- Luke 2:25-32 (emphasis added)
Let me make a suggestion here: what if the "Spirit of Christmas" isn't what everyone thinks it is.
It isn't a jolly old man in a red suit jumping down chimneys. Sure, he has always visited our home and we enjoy reading and making up various stories upon his adventures. He was a real man once. A man so devout to the true Spirit of Christmas and generosity towards children and the under-privileged that the church made him a Saint. But while we enjoy that frivolity, all my kids are beyond Santa Claus age, it isn't where the "Spirit" of the holiday lies.
No, the original motivation of the real Santa can be our clue.
Look at Simeon. What was he filled with? My answer... the original and first ever Christmas Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God and the joy of promises being fulfilled and hope coming to a dark world. God through Jesus didn't instantly do everything he promised in that moment as Simeon's eyes met God incarnate. No, but God had shown the people hope had come.
Simeon was ready and waiting, room in his heart to see the wonders of God.
The days were dark, the plight of the people was dim, but the Light of the world helped them rejoice.
Common every day people with room in their hearts to consider the promise.
Shepherds going about the fields.
Wise men going about their observations.
Residents and travelers going about their days.
Devout Jews going about their temple rituals.
Ordinary days made extraordinary by the arrival of a Promise and the twinkle of Hope. And inside the ordinary comings and goings we glimpse the true Spirit of Christmas in Simeon.
In my Bible, next to Luke 2:7, I have penciled, "Leave room for Jesus". The inns were full of everyone and everything else, they could not receive Him. No Christmas Spirit there. Just business.
Perhaps I'm going too far out on the limb, but somehow this speaks to me deeper than any other passage on the hope and promise and True Spirit of Christmas. The year my mom died looked to be the 'worst Christmas ever'... but it wasn't. It was lonely without her. Many tears were shed. My marriage was rocky. Our finances were strapped. My children were too young at the time to understand... they needed me.
In the midst of this dark time in my young life, I never lost the "Spirit of Christmas" because the true Spirit of the season isn't something you can loose. And it isn't something which just exists in December.
It is the celebration of our salvation which was made possible that O Holy Night when the Promise issued into the cold dark world and gave Light to mankind.
Lights on a tree or strung along a home's gables are merely symbolic of the Light in the darkness.
Gifts chosen and given with heart are symbolic of the Greatest Gift all mankind could ever hope to receive.
Evergreens bedecked with baubles and berries are a reminder of eternal life, even in a winter's storm, we can know strength and beauty in the most harsh of climates and conditions.
If our Christmas Cheer is done with a heart to love, be relational, and share hope, all as God did through Jesus Christ, then the Christmas Spirit is in us.
But what if you just can't "get into" the Spirit of Christmas. May I make a suggestion? Perhaps you are going about it all wrong.
Getting "into" the Christmas Spirit isn't about buying more gifts, hanging more lights, going to the next Christmas Party or decorating another corner of your home. Those things aren't bad... but they aren't the source of Holiday Joy. When we celebrate birthdays and occasions of significance, we decorate, make a cake and give meaningful gifts. I believe Christmas frivolity to be an extension of this concept. But, no, it is not the headwaters of joy and love and Spirit. Even during the worst times of our lives, Christmas Spirit can simply be the clinging to hope. If frivolity is our focus, we will forget. But if HOPE is in heart, the frivolity is the outward manifestation of the inward work of the Spirit.
Not sure how to get to that place? That Heart of Christmas? Here are some navigational tips:
- Get into your Bible more. Not a glaze over, "Yeah, I did my 15 minutes of Bible 'study' today: check." No, read closely each and every line of the wonderful first Christmas narrative. Look up the cross-references. Dig into passages on salvation, Christian living, hope and strength and truly consider Christ and the magnificence of the salvation and eternal hope He has given you. Contemplate His Truth and make ready to modify your life in areas His Word shows you need deeper application.
- Pray. Talk to God. Give Him your cares, your worries, your struggles. Invite Him to clean house in your heart! Not white-wash, no, ask him to bring a bucket of hot soapy water and a high-grade scrub-brush!! Get all sparkly clean. I won't lie: it hurts at first. But the harder more space you give for Christ to scrub, the easier it will become... you will learn to LOVE being cleaned up!
- MAKE ROOM for Jesus. Clear out the clutter in your heart. Old hurts: forgive them. Longings: give them to God for His timing (if) and delivery. Broken relationships: ask God to heal them. Everywhere anxiety, stress, control, insecurity and any other counter-productive feelings are sitting in an easy chair making a mess, ask God to help you usher them out, clean up the debris and REPLACE it all with Jesus. Anxiety and stress: surrender and trust Jesus, regardless of outcomes, God has a plan. Control: you were never in control to begin with, quit trying to grab the wheel from God and let Him do the steering (I promise, He won't steer you wrong, even if the road gets bumpy). Insecurity: may need some DEEP elbow-grease scrubbing to wash away, but here is a starter: in Christ you are Secure and it is OK to own that truth!
Make Room for Jesus and the Spirit will fill you. The lights of Christmas will seem brighter, the decorations cheerier, the Jolly Old Man more purposeful and the manger... that manger will appear as more than hay and babe. No, it will become the brightest light and fullest Spirit of Christmas you have ever experienced.
You don't have to forgo traditional celebrations to enjoy the true "Spirit of Christmas", you simply need to prioritize your heart, what you are thinking on through the holiday season, and the drive of your frivolity. We don't forget hurt and struggles at Christmas, we simply put them into their proper perspective: God is in control and what matters most in life is the hope of salvation we have because He sent a babe to a manger. A babe who would one day become a Man ready and willing to not only teach the most profound lessons in life but also to DIE so we could live forever with Him.
Sweet friends, I pray, this Christmas season, that you are able to make room for Jesus in your heart. It doesn't have to be perfect and clean for Him to take up residence, nah, he's good with the broom and scrub brush, he'll help you clean house! I pray, also, you may find faith like Simeon: not yet seeing ALL that Christ will do for you and others, but recognizing the hope and promise He brings to your life and be FILLED with the Holy Spirit... the true Spirit of Christmas ♥️
Merry Christmas Blessings,