Don Merrritt has a wonderful Christian Blog called “Life Reference“, and today posted some thoughts about the Christmas spirit (The Attitude of Jesus) that prompted me to comment. I’ve been a subscriber for a while now, and really enjoy Life Reference. His reply to my comment was very gracious, and I’m following his suggestion here, without much editing. May this sacred season bring you great blessing and peace, Gentle Reader!
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“It’s less than a week until Christmas now and the Christmas spirit is abroad in the land… When I was 10 years old, I knew what that was, but as I get older and older, I’m not so sure what it is. .. To be truthful, neither my 10-year-old view of “that Christmas feeling” or my parental view of “whew, survived” is really the right way to view the situation, as I’ve come to understand now that the kids are grown.” [Don Merritt: The Attitude of Jesus]
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What a fabulous question, Don… “What is the ‘Christmas Spirit’?”
This question, and your thoughtful answer, plucked strings of reflection in me as I read, and while I do not DISAGREE in any way with your considerations here, I thought I’d share what echoed in my own heart on this.
Your answer is thoughtful, loving, reflective… brilliant, even. Probably much more thoughtful and “grown up” than the one that came to my own heart. In my own life, I’ve found “theology simplifying” and the Lord focusing me on ever simpler understanding of Himself, His heart, grace, love, what He expects of me and equips me with and for… So, while I don’t apologize for the rather simplistic or childlike response I’m about to make to your fabulous question, I did think it needed some grounding in this context.
For me, the answer to the question “What is the Christmas Spirit?”, is/was contained in the question itself… the keyword there being “Spirit”. As “spirit”, it is prone to all the challenges of semantics and syllogism, reason and theology. We can approach it, we can discuss it, but we cannot adequately contain or define it. Like Jesus’ disclosure one day to a lonely outcast woman that, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” As I pondered your question, Don, I simply “became aware” of something that I cannot adequately express, but I’ll try to describe… and it is totally subjective… so if it fits and blesses you or any other, great, and if it does not fit, please cast it aside without hesitation. But it came down to two questions: “Is the Christmas Spirit real? If so, what is it?”
“Is it Real?”… Yes, yes it is. Somehow, right across eras and cultures, humankind seems to experience an annual perception of Advent and Nativity. Our responses and expressions of that awareness or perception are cultural and mutable, but the stimulus seems consistent.
“What, then, is IT?”… I cannot adequately wrap words around this answer, but my mind/heart flashed back to the opening of “Godspell” that I saw years ago… a darkened auditorium, and John the Baptist’s penetrating acapella solo… “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”… or the breathtaking choral piece “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”.
It seems to me as if, each year, the very Cosmos itself pauses and trembles in just a moment, a single, solitary moment, of stillness and awe… that echoes the reality of God’s grace planned from before the foundations of Creation. As if all the universe, for just the space of a single heartbeat… stops… in sheer worship and awe… at the wonder and incomprehensibility… that “God became flesh, and dwelt among us.”
In my own heart, the “Spirit of Christmas” is a moment of awareness in and of all of consciousness and creation. A very simple recognition that, beyond all hope, beyond all reasoning, beyond all philosophy or theological sophistication, God Himself came to be with/among us… purely, solely, and totally because He loved/loves us that much!
The Spirit of Christmas is a moment, when the universe itself, and all within it, each year echoes with a chorus of…. “Wow!”
Thank you for such wonderful questions!