Feature

It Need Not End

"The Christmas spirit—God’s Holy Spirit—isn’t just for the holidays." by Commissioner Kenneth G. Hodder
Cardboard box overflowing with Christmas decorations with an baubles, Christmas tree balls, ornaments and string of lights with lettering text - Merry Christmas.

The holiday season is synonymous with miracles. There is a feeling of excitement, a sense of magic in the air. Streets glitter with lights, children’s eyes are wide with wonder, and there is a heightened spirit of giving and compassion that brightens every heart and mind.

In the media, this “atmosphere of the miraculous” is reinforced by all kinds of holiday movies and programs. At what other time of year, for example, could you prove in a court of law that a kindly old gentleman with a cane is in fact Santa Claus? When would you otherwise expect to have a bumbling and inexperienced angel by the name of Clarence show you how good it is to be alive? And how often could the Grinch’s heart grow three sizes in one day? Only during the holiday season.

And yet, for far too many of us, that’s where it ends. January will see the vanishing of Christmas lights, the recycling of the family tree and bargain hunting online. It will mean a return to routine and the mundane duties of life. Responsibilities gleefully set aside in December will be taken up once again, and we will be more acutely aware of how melancholy daily life can be—the laundry needs to be done, the car has to be washed, the credit cards paid. The high expectations of December will dissolve into the unremarkable. As we place the last box of decorations in the garage, we’ll say to ourselves, “So much for another year. Now it’s back to business.”

But this isn’t how it has to be. In fact, from a spiritual perspective, it’s not at all how God intends it. In His plan, Christmas should never end.

Think about it. Christmas is the day on which we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the day on which God’s Son entered human history. The second chapter of Luke tells us that an angel announced the glorious news of Christ’s birth to terrified shepherds and that all of Heaven immediately echoed the marvelous message: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests’” (vv 13-14 NIV). This was no mere occurrence, but rather an event around which human existence itself would henceforth be measured. It was world-shaking, history-making and life-changing.

Declare the Wonder

And it didn’t end there. Luke tells us that the shepherds spread the word about what they’d seen and heard (v 17 NIV), and that their own wonder and amazement were quickly replicated in the minds of others. Significantly, he doesn’t say that things then settled down or went back to normal. Instead, he implies that there was no limit to what Christ’s birth would mean for the world. With every retelling, the miracle would happen anew.

And it does. Jesus Christ never promises that if we follow Him, we will escape our everyday concerns. January will still come. But Christmas does promise that if we will allow Him, God will redeem our routine. 

He will place everything about our lives into proper perspective. When we are exhausted, He will restore our strength. When we are discouraged, He will renew our zeal. When we lack direction, He will refresh our vision. And when we seem to be getting nowhere, He will show us that we’ve already arrived. Why? Because of the greatest miracle of all—He loves us.

Ponder the Significance

Of course, not everyone responds to the miracle of Christmas in the same way. Unlike the shepherds, Mary’s reaction to the birth of Jesus was more contemplative: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (v 19 NIV).  She too was amazed, but she also had a sense of what it might mean. After all, she was part of a divine story and her son Jesus would be the instrument by which God redeemed mankind.

We’re not often encouraged to pause and consider what something might ultimately mean for us or others. To the contrary, life normally demands that we move and act quickly—things to do, people to meet, places to go. Scant attention is given to moments of reflection. Yet it is in such moments that we can also find the miracle of Christmas. When we take a moment to pray, to read God’s Word and to listen for His direction, the miracle happens all over again. We’re reminded of who we are, to whom we belong, and of the immense love that God showers upon us through His Son. 

Glorify the Source

Finally, Luke tells us that “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (v 20 NIV). Having found the Christ child precisely where the angel had said they would, the shepherds’ hearts were gripped by the sheer truth of it all. God kept His promise! He will save the world! To have been so privileged as to receive that message was overwhelming to them and the only reasonable response was praise.

Every Christian can testify to the same experience. When someone accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they discover the Truth about themselves, the world and God’s unlimited grace and love. It’s a moment that forever changes who you are, what you value and how you intend to live your life. You’re never the same again. And you’re glad of it.

So, Christmas need never end. The miracle can happen at any time to anyone. Regardless of what time of year it might be, we can always declare the wonder, ponder the significance and glorify the Source of our salvation. The lyricist E.C. Baird put it like this:

I am the Christmas spirit.

I enter the home of poverty, causing pale-faced children to open their eyes wide, in pleased wonder.

I cause the miser’s clutched hand to relax and thus paint a bright spot on his soul.

I cause the aged to renew their youth and to laugh in the old glad way.

I keep romance alive in the heart of childhood and brighten sleep with dreams woven of magic.

I cause eager feet to climb dark stairways with filled baskets, leaving behind hearts amazed at the goodness of the world. 

I cause the prodigal to pause a moment on his wild, wasteful way and send to anxious love some little token that releases glad tears—tears which wash away the hard lines of sorrow.

I enter dark prison cells, reminding scarred manhood of what might have been and pointing forward to good days yet to be.

I come softly into the still white home of pain, and lips that are too weak to speak just tremble in silent, eloquent gratitude.

In a thousand ways, I cause the weary world to look up into the face of God, and for a little moment forget the things that are small and wretched.

I am the Christmas spirit.

Nothing about that depends on the calendar. That’s because the Christmas spirit—God’s Holy Spirit—isn’t just for the holidays.

This article was published in the December 2023 issue of The War Cry.

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