Lacking Christmas Spirit???
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him (Mt. 2:1-2; 9-11, NIV).
I love Christmas, but I am having trouble getting into the “Spirit” of it this year.
For the kickoff of the holiday season, Thanksgiving week, I came down with Covid, shared it with my wife and other members of my family including my 86-year-old mother. The big plans we had for a holiday feast, the plans to celebrate Christmas with one part of the family, and the plans to just have time to “be away” was cancelled as Deb and I returned home to follow proper Covid protocols.
The isolation also meant that we missed the Christmas concert that Debbie had been looking forward to attending. It was presented by one of her favorite a capella groups. Further, although I recovered in time, she has not been able to attend the Regional Christmas parties that we both enjoy so much.
Then, on top of all of that, the unexpected death of one of our retired pastors, a man whom I not only considered a friend and colleague, but also a mentor … one of those people from whom I would often seek advice … suddenly passed away.
All of this adds up to the fact that the only Christmas spirit I have right now is the kind that comes in a bottle to be imbibed, and I don’t even feel like enjoying those kinds of spirits right now!
Makes me feel a little guilty since I’ve tried to emphasize the importance of the Incarnation in my ministry throughout these many, many years … but right now … the spirit, the joy, the influx of energy and passion I usually experience at this time of year is not there.
What’s more, I know that I am not alone in this … I know that many of my friends, acquaintances, and fellow believers are in the same boat.
So how do you approach Christmas when you’re not feeling the Spirit? You follow the path of the Magi, and you seek to find ways to worship the Christ Child.
You see, when you read the Christmas narratives in both Matthew and Luke, the emotional pattern of the characters is not Joy (Christmas Spirit?) followed by Worship; but instead, Worship followed by Joy. The Magi had to engage in the journey in order to worship, and it was only as they neared the end of their quest that they experienced joy. Mary – in obedient worship – had to say yes to the directions of Gabriel before she could espouse the Magnificat. And the Shepherds were impacted by the worship of the heavenly host before they were moved to encounter and to worship the Christ Child.
Worship precedes Christmas Spirit! And that worship takes on different forms for many of us.
For many, worship involves the singing of hymns and listening to Christmas music. For others, it means times of quiet reflection, and still, for others, it involves selflessly serving others. We see all of these forms of worship in the Christmas narratives … none lifted up as being more important than other forms … just simple acts of worshiping the baby who was to be called Jesus, because He would save His people from their sins.
As we worship the Christ Child in whatever form best fits us, like the Magi seeing the star, we will find our Christmas Spirit. Indeed, just writing this makes me want to sing “O' Come, All Ye Faithful” in my best “opera” voice to annoy my daughter.
All in the name of Christmas Spirit, of course.
O' come, all yea faithful, joyful and triumphant, O' come yea, o' come yea to worship Christ the Lord. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran