What is This “Christmas Spirit?”

reason-for-the-season

I must confess that I have enjoyed several of the Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel during the past few weeks. My wife and I watched them together; I think we are just romantics at heart.

With many of these movies, I can predict not only the outcome but also the sequence of events that eventually brings the unlikely couple together. Things rarely get resolved before the last seven and a half minutes of the movie. Despite knowing the ultimate outcome, they somehow hold my interest until the very end (although sometimes I would like to see more of the story after the couple finally realizes they are in love, but that’s just me).

One thing, however, has bothered me more this year than in previous years. Many of these movies emphasize the “Christmas spirit” as though that is of ultimate importance.

What is this “Christmas spirit” and why does it matter? Obviously, I do not expect these movies to end with a presentation of the Gospel message. That would be great, but perhaps not a logical expectation for Hallmark.

However, this phrase still leaves me wanting to hear more. What is this “spirit” without Jesus? Why would we even want to celebrate the holiday without emphasizing the life and hope the Lord gives to us?

Jesus is the Reason for the Season

Jesus is the reason for the season. This has been stated so many times that I fear we simply gloss over the words without taking them to heart. The truth embodied in this phrase is, however, at the root with my disappointment with the elevation of the so-called “Christmas spirit” that usurps the celebration of Christ’s birth as the sole purpose for the holiday.

Do you ever wonder why much of the world celebrates the birth of Jesus? There have been many men and women in history who have accomplished great things. We benefit from the sacrifices of many who gave their lives so that we could be free. It’s not that we demean their contributions or their service in any way; we just do not get our families together, give gifts, and celebrate their births.

But we do so with Jesus. Why is that?

One verse that has caught my attention more than once this past year is 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” What, you may ask, does this have to do with Christmas?

It has everything to do with it. If Jesus is still in the grave, there would be no such thing as Christmas, no holiday season, no gift exchanges, no feasting on good food . . . I think you get the picture. Jesus claimed to be one with Father. If He had remained in the grave, no one would have believed that He was God in the flesh. The church would not have even begun yet alone endured for two thousand years.

If Jesus is still in the grave, there would be no such thing as Christmas, no holiday season, no gift exchanges, no feasting on good.

Because Jesus rose from the dead and is alive, we have reason to celebrate His birth. He brought light, life, and hope into a dark world. He is truly the reason for the season, apart from Him it would not exist.

Without Jesus, the world would have remained a dark place, without hope and light and life.

Jesus is the Word that Became Flesh

The Gospel of John describes Jesus’ birth in this way, “In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the only Son from the Father (1:1, 14).

Jesus’ birth represents God becoming flesh so that through His death on the cross we might inherit eternal life. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus came to give us life; He walked out of grave to prove He alone can forgive our sins and bring us safely to heaven. This is why the angels proclaimed Him as “Savior” in announcing His birth (Luke 2:11). He is indeed the Savior of the world; there is salvation in no other name (Acts 4:12).

This sentiment has no ability to save us or deliver us from our sins. It gives us no reason to celebrate Jesus’ birth any more than other great people.

This is why it matters that we go beyond some feel-good “Christmas spirit.” This sentiment has no ability to save us or deliver us from our sins. It gives us no reason to celebrate Jesus’ birth any more than other great people.

The apostle John also tells us this in regard to Jesus’ arrival on earth, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). We have a choice. To reject the Savior is to spurn ones only chance of eternal life and thereby endure an eternity apart from the presence of God.

This is what Christmas is all about: it’s the Son of God becoming a man so that through His death we might have eternal life. It’s because of His birth, death, and resurrection that we have life and hope in the midst of a dark world filled with despair. Jesus is the only way to eternal life, the only path to the Father (John 14:6).

At Christmas, we celebrate the entrance of life, light, and salvation into the world. It’s so very much more than simply tradition or some fleeting warm fuzzy feeling of the season.

I’m not opposed to the spirit of celebration that surrounds Christmas each year; it’s just empty without a focus on Jesus and His message of salvation for the world. Without His words of life, this so-called Christmas spirit leaves us with no ultimate hope once the new year arrives.

If you do not yet know Jesus as your Savior, please call out to Him today. There are no preconditions for coming to Him apart from recognizing your need of forgiveness for your sins and your need of the life He freely offers to you. He changes us; we do not change to be acceptable to Him.

Thanksgiving Ramblings

springs-of-water-2

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name.”[i]

Since this is my first Thanksgiving with a blog, I thought I would share some things on my heart in that regard. I have much with which to be thankful this season.

Of course I am thankful for my wife, my family, and all my extended family and friends.

There are a few other things, however, that occupy my thoughts today as I think of the coming holiday.

Living Waters

First of all, I am thankful for Jesus, the source of eternal life. He alone is life. That has been so easy to forget during the heated debates of the past few months.

One passage that jolted me back to reality was Jeremiah 2:11-13 and in particular verse 13, “. . . for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” The imagery of God’s Word is so rich, is it not? Who would ignore a reservoir full of fresh clear spring water to dig out a muddy hole in the ground that cannot hold any water?

While I remained mindful that Jesus was my only hope during this the past election season, at times it did not come across as clearly as I would have liked. As I reflect this morning, I see that putting one’s hope in any person or ideology or even in religion is the same as digging a porous hole in the ground thinking all the hopes you put into it will be there in the end. This never works out well. Such hopes eventually turn muddy and evaporate like water in a muddy pool.

It’s certainly not wrong to be passionate about things in this life. The problem comes when we forsake the Lord in the process and allow our ultimate hope to rest in anyone or anything other than Jesus.

In responding to the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus spoke these words, “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”[ii] How easy and equally foolish it is to put our hopes in the things of this world that ultimately disappoint. Only Jesus has the words of life. I have tasted the muddy waters of politics and it’s so refreshing to get back to my true source of hope and feel His life bubbling up inside my heart.

Jesus is the Word of God. He became flesh so that we might have eternal life. He is the fountain of living waters that will never fail to refresh us with life.

God’s Sovereignty

Another verse that comes to mind this morning is Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Notice that the Lord does not say that all things are good, but through the apostle Paul the Lord assures us that he is able to bring together all things for our good, although we frequently wonder how in the midst of our suffering.

In late August, issues with a-fib kept me awake for most of the night. I saw my cardiologist later the next day and he put me back me on a heart monitor for a month. Ugh! That was the last thing I wanted.

However, it was through wearing the monitor that my doctor discovered a flutter in my heart and saw my continuing issues with a-fib. As a result, he sent me to another cardiologist to talk about an ablation. That doctor ordered a stress test.

The stress test revealed an “abnormality” and that led to a cardio catheterization, which I had yesterday, Tuesday. My cardiologist found a blockage (85-90%) in one of the arteries in my heart and fixed it with a stent. If the blockage had remained undetected, it could have led to a heart attack or perhaps a stroke.

So what began as a miserable night struggling with a-fib led to the fixing of an issue that could have led to very serious health consequences if left undetected and untreated. God is so very good and He indeed works in mysterious yet wonderful ways!

While I am able to now see how God worked through a terrible night a few months back, often we do not see the purpose in what happens right away or even in this life.

Yet we know God is sovereign in all things and for that I give thanks this morning.

Hope

In June of this year I retired from my career as a financial analyst to pursue my love of writing. I felt the Lord leading me in this direction and in particular guiding me to write about our hope as believers for eternity. The lack of emphasis on the Lord’s appearing and future things became a growing burden of my heart and led to my decision. This remains a burden even as I write this morning.

I am not sure where this path will lead. I hope to eventually have books published, but this may not be what the Lord has in mind. Already through my writing the Lord has opened up paths to minister to hurting people in need of reassurance and hope. Maybe that will be the full extent of what He has for me.

Regardless, I am thankful for the hope I have in Jesus for His leading down this path. He is life, as I said earlier, and He is the sum total of my hope.  He will never fail in the promises He makes to all His children. He is coming soon to take His church up to His Father’s house in heaven.

There are a million “What ifs?” but only one hope, one source of life: Jesus is His name.

What if the blockage in my heart went undetected? What if something had happened before the catheterization? What if the Cubs had lost the World Series?  (Okay, I need to get back on point.) There are a million “What ifs?” but only one hope, one source of life: Jesus is His name.

Jesus is and will always be a spring of living water in my soul. What greater hope could there be other than that? What greater certainly for tomorrow could there be apart from our risen Savior? Who more deserving of all our thanksgiving and praise than our Jesus?

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[iii] That was true two thousand years ago; it is equally true today. Jesus is who He claimed to be and is coming again, just as He said. Jesus is the spring of living water; He is the way, the truth and the life.

Maranatha!

[i] Psalm 100:4

[ii] John 4:14

[iii] John 14:6