The Spirit of Christmas

Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build
you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that
these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my
companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard
work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus
himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

—Acts 20:32–35

Please check back daily during the month of December as through Christmas we’ll have an entry from The Heart of Christmas: A Devotional for the Season.

Well, we are finally there—Christmas day—the climax of our twenty-five-day odyssey to the heart of Christmas. And although at first blush it may seem an odd one, I want to ask you a question: Do you have the Christmas spirit? I mean, do you really have the Christmas spirit? Better yet, what is the Christmas spirit? Is it the warm and familiar feeling of being with family and friends around a soothing fire and flickering candlelight? Is it the joy of seeing anticipation in the eyes of a child? Is it the satisfaction of unwrapping a special gift? Or is the spirit of Christmas something else?

The answer is found in Christ, who for our sake came that Christmas morn two thousand years ago. Who for our sake condescended to cloak Himself in human flesh. Who emptied Himself. Who “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man” (Philippians 2:7–8). Who, far from grasping the prerogatives of divinity, “humbled himself ” (v. 8).

That, I would argue, is the spirit of Christmas. It is not the rush we experience when we get—get a gift, get a feeling, get a bonus. All these are wonderful in and of themselves. The real spirit of Christmas, however, is found not in what we get, but in what we give. It is becoming ever more like our Savior in the spirit of selflessness. And not just during the Christmas season or on Christmas Day, but rather throughout the remainder of our lives.

This Christmas season, my family and I have a prayer for you just as we have a prayer for ourselves. It is that as we see images of the poor standing in soup lines on our television screens, we might see ourselves placing a piece of bread in the hands of the hungry. As we remember those in nursing homes, we might envision ourselves dispensing a hug. As we remember the widows and the orphans, we might imagine ourselves healing their hurts. Ultimately, doing so is in the service of dispensing the bread of life. “I am the bread of life,” said Jesus. “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. . . . I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:35, 51).

So, as you see, the spirit of Christmas is not a once-a-year experience. It is a spirit to be embraced throughout the coming year. It is the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge who experienced a complete metamorphosis after his encounters with the spirit of Christmas past, the spirit of Christmas present, and the spirit of Christmas yet to come. It is the spirit I want reborn in my soul as each Christmas my family and I watch yet another rendition of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

So this year, as you and I wish each other a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, you and I know exactly what we mean! Merry Christmas, dear friend . . . and to all a Happy New Year!


Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:34–40)


What is the spirit of Christmas?

What traditions might help your family more fully embrace the spirit of Christmas?

Christmas Carol


Away in a Manger
—Verses 1–2 Anonymous
Verse 3 by John Thomas McFarland

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head;
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky,
And stay by my side till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.