Finding and feeling the Christmas spirit is something that I struggle with and have written about several times over the years.
This year is no different. I find that I get the greatest clarity from my jumbled thoughts when I sit down to write. So this is my way of processing it together with you. (Though if you’re reading this, I will have edited it, so it is not as jumbled.)
In our brief time together, here is what I want to cover:
- What is the Christmas spirit anyway?
- Why is it different for Christians than for anyone else?
- As Christians, how do we “find” and keep the Christmas spirit?
Alright, friends, let’s dive in!
What is the Christmas spirit, anyway?
This one gets awfully muddled, which I believe contributes to my struggles each December.
You have movies like “A Christmas Carol” (and its many remakes), “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and similar that lay bare the darkness of the human condition (we’re all miserable, selfish jerks), only to resolve the tension by having the protagonist hit a brick wall of realization about what’s important.
In many cases, the realization is feel-good things like generosity, family, gratitude, etc. Those are all wonderful things. But they are missing something: the “why.” They stop short of explaining why those things are so important.
As I seek to find the Christmas spirit, I come up empty if I don’t have a definition for what it is. It’s like chasing a ghost–pursuing something undefined.
Is it a feeling? Feelings come and go based on circumstances in the moment.
Is it an aesthetic? Once I have the house perfectly decorated, will I find it then?
Can I find it in giving? If I purchase generously, selecting gifts that will bring delight to the receivers, is that the ticket?
Will having a perfect tree to show off on my Instagram be the thing? What about the family picture in front of the tree? If we look perfect and cute, and can get our cats to look at the camera and not scratch our faces off being held against their will, is THAT it?
The answer to those questions, I’ve found, is “no.”
So what is the Christmas spirit?
I’ll jump to my next point to further refine the concept.
Why is the Christmas spirit different for Christians?
I mentioned some of the secular, cultural aspects of Christmas above. They bring excitement and happiness, sure.
But for Christians, I’m convinced that our spirit of the season is captured in remembering why we celebrate. “The reason for the season,” as per the Christian bookstore stickers I loved when I was younger. We need to look at the actual biblical account of the first nativity, carefully passed down to us by God’s divine intent in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Not only that, but consider the entire biblical narrative and where the nativity fits in. A bright light in the middle of a very dark portion of history for God’s people.
When we think deeply on the incarnation of our Savior, and His humble arrival on earth from the majesty of heaven’s throne, to give us lost sinners “the thrill of hope” and redemption, that is where we find the true spirit of Christmas.
So, in a simple phrase, I’d boil the Christmas spirit down to “remembering the nativity and worshipping the Savior.”
When we worship Him, that is the meaning of Christmas.
Just like the magi, the shepherds, the angels, and Simeon in the temple did: they beheld the long awaited Savior and their lives were never the same.
That takes a lot of pressure off.
That’s not to say completely throw off the seasonal extras that have become embedded in our traditions. Many of us enjoy them, quite a bit. They are the highlight of the year. I’d just caution to not let them overtake the foundational stuff.
That brings me to my final point.
On finding and keeping the Christmas spirit
I’ve already alluded to the answer, but here are a few closing suggestions for Christians.
- Don’t neglect church during advent. It is there that we are most likely to come into the spirit of Christmas as I’ve defined it, by singing biblical songs about the nativity and hearing the word of God preached.
- Actively and deliberately think about how seasonal traditions can point you to Christ. I came up with a few ideas about doing that in this post.
- Praise God for His gift of Jesus Christ.
- Ask Him to help you keep your mind on Him and the true meaning of Christmas. You can’t pray too much. 🙂
What would you add to this list?
In conclusion, my motivation for writing this post was to help me think through what I consider disappointment in my not feeling a certain way during all of December. I’ve come to realize that the “feeling” isn’t really based on anything concrete or even rooted in the biblical account of Christmas, in many cases.
I’m willing to guess that I’m not the only Christian who struggles with this. I hope you’ve found this helpful. If so, I welcome you to forward it to anyone else you think might benefit from it.
As always, thank you so much for reading. It means more to me than you know.