The Christmas Spirit

Christmas treesChristmas is a cherished holiday with any number of traditions. Consequently, the “Christmas spirit” has been fashioned out of the best of the season. In fact, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, his well-loved story about this season, takes to task those who disparage the qualities we most associate with the Christmas spirit—generosity, love, and joy.

Noticeably missing is fear. Odd, since fear played a great part in the first Christmas. Joseph was afraid to go through with his planned marriage because Mary turned up pregnant. He and she both were afraid, at separate times, when an angel visited them. So were the shepherds. Joseph again, having moved his new family to Egypt to keep Herod from killing their baby, was afraid to move back to Judea.

In other words, the first Christmas wasn’t about the warm and fuzzy, the beautiful lights and winter-scene cards or a warm fire with stockings all hung by the chimney with care. In fact, no presents showed up that first night. Some gawking strangers smelling like sheep did, parroting something about good tidings of great joy. All Mary could do was to file their words away to think about later. After all, she had a baby to feed—her first born, and what did she know about being a mother? Might she have been just a little fearful?

Appropriate to this topic are words Jonathan Rogers quoted in his blog some years ago:

I love Andrew Peterson’s song “Labor of Love,” sung like an angel by Jill Phillips on Behold the Lamb of God, my favorite Christmas album ever. Here’s the first stanza and chorus:

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David’s town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother’s hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love.

But not without fear.

In fact, fear followed Jesus throughout His life. He provided a miraculous catch of fish for Peter and he was afraid. He healed the guy who couldn’t walk, and the whole group of witnesses were afraid. He walked on water and His disciples were afraid. He raised a young man from the dead and the whole crowd was afraid. He kicked out the demons from a possessed man, and everyone in the entire district was afraid.

Actually Jesus seemed to validate their fear. At one point He said, “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:5). As it turns out, Jesus is that One.

Yes, He is the Judge. Granted, His first appearance as a baby wasn’t to bring judgment. That will come when He returns. Isaiah says the government is on His shoulders. In Revelation it is the Lamb Himself who breaks the seals issuing in the final judgment of the world.

What’s my point. Only that the true Christmas spirit should include reverence. Love, sure. Generosity, joy, gladness, definitely. But worship—the bowing down part of Christmas—shouldn’t be neglected. The events surrounding Jesus’s birth created awe in those who witnessed them. In the same way, I’d do well to look with awe on our Savior. After all, fear is part of the Christmas spirit.

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Published in: on December 21, 2015 at 6:46 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 Comments

  1. Well said, Becky.

    I just had a conversation with a couple of kids, one who always gets exactly what she wants for Christmas. She picks it out, her parents buy it and wrap it for her. “That’s sad,” said the other kid. “Where’s the fun in not being afraid you won’t get what you want?”

    It was interesting, but once again I was reminded that those emotions and feelings we like to dismiss as bad, serve a vital purpose in the world. No fear, no excitement either, no anticipation, no pleasure…and no learning how to cope when we don’t get what we wanted. Fear of God is like that too, the world loves that babe in a mangers, but we tend to forget we’re celebrating the birth of a King, one with the power to move mountains. He comes to us sweet and gentle, but if we don’t recognize His authority, we also fail to understand His power.

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    • We do forget. We are such a forgetful people. As I read through Scripture, I see it time and again. The people wake up, have a revival, make a commitment to follow God, and within a generation or sometimes sooner, they are back to living the way they want to, not the way God has set out for them. I guess, in a nutshell, that’s why I write. I don’t want people to forget who God is! 😀

      Becky

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  2. Very real. Earthy, smelly, dirty. And true. How we have romanticized that night. And how we have softened the reality of God come in the flesh. And why. Yes, we need to fear God and bow the knees of our hearts to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb …
    Thanks again, Becky.

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