The evidence of Christmas being in full swing is everywhere you look. We’re singing Christmas songs in church; decorations line every street and every aisle in every store. Trees have been purchased, school plays are being attended, and the College Football Playoff teams have been announced. Yep, it’s that time of year! Black Friday and Cyber Monday are history for 2015 as December 25th is rapidly approaching with a Polar Express-type pace. Personally, this is my favorite time of the year. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I do my best to not get on an airplane, and we fill our home with traditions and memories. My wife and kids are constantly baking to the sound of Christmas music playing while the scented candles are burning and an environmentally friendly fire log is crackling in the fireplace (we live in Orlando, FL, where it’s 80 degrees in December so we have to pretend with the whole fire thing!). As a family, we go see Christmas lights, attend a play at the theatre, or just go walk around and let each kid pick out an ornament. Yes, it really is the most wonderful time of the year.
Have you noticed that, during this time of the year, many people seem to be a little happier and kinder? Can you think of any other time in the year when complete strangers go out of their way for each other and part ways with a cheerful little saying, i.e., Merry Christmas? And how do we describe all this joy that seems to permeate the air we breathe and infect our demeanor in such a way that we express ourselves by wearing ugly sweaters and consuming eggnog (which really tastes like a blend of cough syrup and milk)? We describe it with one simple phrase: the Christmas spirit. Its arrival is as mysterious as its existence to many, and its departure seems to exit stage right as soon as the ball drops and the toasting glasses are empty.
I would like to suggest that the very existence of the Christmas spirit has infinitely more to do with the eternal than the temporal. This feeling that comes over us each year, despite our religion or lack thereof, is actually evidence of something much more meaningful than presents or parties. The Christmas spirit is, in one sense, an apologetic for the birth narrative of Jesus as revealed to us in the Scriptures. Let me quickly explain.
The Scriptures can be understood as the Grand Narrative, that is to say the greatest story. It is the story that gives meaning and purpose to all other stories, whether those stories recognize it or not. And the central theme, character, and event of that story are redemption, the Redeemer, and the redeeming act of Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of mankind. Every page of the Bible bears witness of God’s redemptive plan. Therefore, it could easily be said that the purpose of Scripture is to make one wise unto salvation (see 2 Timothy 3:15)…which is to make one aware of redemption, the Redeemer, and his redeeming work.
So how do we connect redemption with the Christmas spirit? Well if a life born into sin has the fundamental need of being redeemed, then the Christmas season is a time in which our need for redemption meets the hope of what the Redeemer can offer us. The very existence of the Christmas spirit points towards a shared hope of humanity being realized because a promise was fulfilled (Isaiah 9:6-7). The Christmas spirit is a time filled with promise, purpose, hope, and commitment. These are the ideas and sentiments that serve as thread that would make up the tapestry of God’s redemption story. These are some of the concepts that jump off the pages of the birth narrative in Luke 2. The Christmas spirit exists because the birth of Jesus was real and offers us a promise fulfilled, a purpose understood, a hope realized, and a commitment that each of us were intended to make. In the following weeks, I will offer several observations from Luke 2 in an effort to better understand the secret behind the mystery of the Christmas spirit.