by: DALE NESSMITH
If there ever was a Christmas which warranted “The Christmas Spirit,” it surely must be Christmas 2020. And, if there is anyone who can get us in the right Christmas Spirit it’s Jesus Christ, The Lord of Glory and King of Kings. No doubt 2020 has caused us to see more clearly than ever that we need Jesus, The Holy Spirit, and The Heavenly Father’s mercy and grace and we need them all desperately. The best part of all is that we have them and that is the platform or foundation for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
COVID 19, corrupt government, hurricanes and wildfires have all shaken us loose a bit from worldly attachments and secular matters and have resulted in our having a tighter grip on God’s Holy Word, our loved ones, and our church family. Actually, that’s what matters most anyway! That’s why we ought to be primed particularly this year to have the Christmas spirit, because the right Christmas spirit is based upon what matters most. The truth is, God knows us way too good, so He sends or allows pandemics, politicians, strong winds and hot fires to drive us back to the cross. The closer we are to the cross the better our Christmas spirit will be.
Fanny Jane Crosby’s hymn “Near the Cross” may not be a Christmas carol, but it sure will get a redeemed child of God in the Christmas spirit.
“Jesus, keep me near the cross, there a precious Fountain, Free to all, a healing stream, flows from Calvry’s mountain.
Near the cross a trembling soul, love and mercy found me; There the bright and morning star shed His beams around me.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God, bring its scenes before me; Help me walk from day to day with its shadow o’er me.
Near the cross! I’ll watch and wait, hoping, trusting ever, Till I reach the golden strand, just beyond the river.”
Certainly, Jesus is the reason for the season and He is the center and circumference of the Christmas spirit. But right in the heart of Jesus’ incarnation is the cross of Calvary. Don’t you see the cross in Matthew, Chapter one, verse twenty-one? Joseph was anywhere but in the Christmas spirit when the angel announced what was happening to Mary, who to call his son, and the reason for Him coming. After Joseph heard the good news, everything changed because His heart and attitude changed. The circumstances did not change though. They got worse. Joseph was in the Christmas spirit now and that meant he and Mary would go to Bethlehem if the government ruled that they were to go there. And, Joseph was not ashamed to take Mary to be his wife, nor did he care what others thought or said about it all. The Christmas spirit is surrendering to God’s providence as we walk by faith to a place we are not sure of nor desire to go. It’s bowing your back and going forward against the grain of the world because you know the Lord has your back.
Joseph’s encounter with God through the angel cleared up a lot of confusion about what was going on in his life. If there is anything that can squelch the Christmas spirit, it’s confusion. God is not the author of confusion, so the Bible tells us. The incarnation of The Lord Jesus Christ should clear any confusion that we may have. If we spent less time trying to figure out why things are the way they are and more time on obeying God, we would be happier and holier people. The incarnation of Christ Jesus resulted in the God man, Jesus, taking our place on the cross and by His death, He paid our sin debt totally and fully. So, we don’t have to work to be good enough, nor be defeated because we are bad enough. All we need to do is believe that the Lord Jesus died for our sins, that He rose from the grave and that right now He is interceding for us at the right hand of God Almighty from Heaven’s throne. But it takes God’s intervention, His encountering grace, to clear our hearts and minds and to cause us to change our attitudes and head out to a place we never thought we’d go. It happened to the Apostle Paul, and it happens to us.
“And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” Acts 9:6
Really, an encounter with God the Father, The Lord Jesus Christ, The Son, and The Holy Spirit is a Christmas miracle. God’s amazing, irresistible grace can put a rebellious
sinner like you and me in a spiritual sleigh decked with the evergreen holly of eternal life, so that we’re singing with jingle bell joy all the way to Heaven!
While the first encounter with God is entirely His idea and timing; for the rest of our lives on Earth, we are blessed to have the sweet privileges of God encounters in response. Prayer, fellowship with other Christians, Bible reading, repentance and obedience all are consequences of the incarnation and should keep us in the Christmas spirit. A redeemed child of God should be in the Christmas spirit all the time. Yes, we can have Christmas in July or March because God is always with us and always loves us. A strong and steady Christmas spirit will enable us to have victory through Christ even when it appears we’re in a mess. Think about it. Joseph and Mary were expecting a star lit room in a Bethlehem inn, but instead wound up in a stable. Oh, but when we have the Christmas spirit, we realize our disappointments are often God’s appointments.
Joseph led his espoused wife to Bethlehem trusting in the providence of God, submitting to a governor’s decree that didn’t make any sense, because he knew the Savior was coming. Likewise, all of us should take off our old coats of sin and selfishness and put on our new coats of grace and sacrifice as we lead ourselves and others to Christ’s nativity. Even when what we’re doing doesn’t meet the world’s approval, nor make sense, or we end up in what looks like inadequate accommodations, it’s worth it all because we know a Savior is coming again. The Christmas spirit is not only what every believer desires, it is also contagious. Let’s see how Joseph’s Christmas spirit might get us in the mood to celebrate God’s mercy this Christmas.
Bring means to carry, convey, conduct, or cause someone or something to doing a certain thing or be in a particular place. Christmas is the noel of good tidings of great joy!
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” Luke 2:10
The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ is God bringing salvation to us. Christmas is about God bringing love from Heaven to Earth. The spirit of bringing is about forgiveness because the babe in Bethlehem is how God brought forgiveness to His people.
The Holy Spirit is a bringing spirit! Mary wondered at how she could be with child. The angel told her it was the Lord’s bringing and that was enough for her because right then and there she realized that nothing was impossible when God does the bringing.
“And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:38
Sometimes we may wonder how we’re going to make it. Sort of like Mary’s “How can these things be?”— when that happens, trust God hard and the Christmas spirit will carry you above your problems. He will be the wind beneath your wings. Always remember God knows the end from the beginning. He is not going to leave us hanging or at the precipice of a valley we can’t cross. Remember, if God brings it to you, He will bring you through it. Although the world offers little hope in 2021, when we are filled with the Christmas spirit, we can truthfully and sin- cerely say, “Bring it on!” It’s exciting really, to think about and see what God is doing in and with the world. He is on the throne ruling and sustaining the universe and His unseen Bringing Spirit can comfort the most troubled heart and stay the spread of COVID 19.
Just as we live because He lives, we are to do some bringing because of what God has brought us. Everything we have is from God and we should not hesitate to give it back to Him. The Christmas spirit helps us know that we cannot out give God, because when we bring all we have to Him, He blesses it and it satisfies us and helps many others as well. The bringing spirit is a cross bearing spirit too. We can carry our burdens because God gives us strength and grace to do it for His glory and our good. And we can bring our fears and problems to our Heavenly Father in prayer knowing that He cares for us. The bringing spirit is a spirit of responsibility to share what God has brought us with others. And the greatest gift God has brought us is salvation.
The Christmas spirit is a “Jesus” spirit because it is a celebration of His birthday. Although our Lord and Master is eternal, His taking on human flesh, wrapped in the incarnation is the greatest gift ever given to mankind. One of the high points on Christmas is opening the gifts. The sound of paper tearing and the sight of colorful ribbons flying reminds us of joyous times with our family and friends. The clean up time seemed jolly and easy because the Christmas spirit overwhelmed our weakness and laziness with responsive love shared during the gift opening time. Every gift had a name and the name indicated who the gift was for and from whom the gift was given. Each Christmas, we ought to be excited about receiving a most special gift from God. Did you know that God has not only written your name in the book of life, but has also written it on the manger in Bethlehem? Wrapped in swaddling clothes just for you! Now, Christmas gifts are wrapped in various shades of colors and designs or emblems. They vary and are a lot like church denominations. What’s most important though is not the wrapping paper, nor even the swaddling clothes, but what’s inside the package. The Christmas spirit is a naming spirit when we realize the gift is for us and it came from God.
A naming spirit is not a blaming spirit, rather it’s a forgiving spirit. A naming spirit also is a taming spirit as we get a hold of our sinful desires and bridle them with grace. And, a naming spirit is a framing spirit when, like an artist working on a painting, we step back for a moment to reflect on or touch up a work of art. This naming spirit too will fill our hearts with gratitude. The hymn “Count Your Blessings” provides a strong Christmas spirit chorus citing the thanksgiving generated when we name our blessings.
“Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings, see what God hath done.”
This Christmas, no matter what’s under our tree, whether we like it or not, can use it or not, if it fits or not, or if there is nothing under our tree, or we don’t even have a tree, there is something under the cross and it’s just what we need—a Saviour!
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
I suppose one of the toughest restrictions for the Christian church imposed by the COVID 19 pandemic social distancing guidelines is that of not singing worship and praise songs. When Christians get together, they sing! They sing because they are forgiving and they sing because they love God and they sing because they love each other. Christians sing when their hearts are broken and they sing when they are overflowing with blessings and goodness. Christians sing too when they are in trouble. Paul and Silas sang so heartily when they were in jail that doors opened and the ground shook. A redeemed child of God always has something to sing about. When the Bible says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,”it means let the redeemed of the Lord sing so.
The Christmas spirit is a singing spirit for only one reason—we have been saved from our sins. Really, it’s the only reason we have to sing. And, the thing about it is, we don’t have to know a single note to sing this song. What we do have to know though, is that we are sinners and that we needed saving. I understand that John Newton’s hymn “Amazing Grace” has been at the top of the charts since it was written. No wonder it’s number one. We have an amazing God who has saved us by His amazing Grace by sending His amazing Son to take our wretchful place on the cross of Calvary.
Christmas at our house always includes gathering around the piano and singing Christmas carols together with family and friends. Why do we do that? Not because we are musicians or chorus members. It’s because we have been saved from our sins and want to praise the Lord! Singing is a way we express an emotional response springing from our hearts. Singing will not only increase our faith, but will also get us in the mood to praise the Lord for His mercy toward us. Singing tunes our souls to sing His Grace. In a sense, singing is one way we work out that which God has worked in us. I heard recently that the reason birds sing so much early in the morning is to get tuned up and warmed up for the day ahead. Maybe we should go ahead and start singing before we have to face the trials and troubles of our day. We shouldn’t wait until the pandemic is over or for things to work out for us in life like we think they should.
God is pleased with singing songs that glorify Him and His deliverances. That’s because any song that has any meat or merit has to include faith. The Bible includes many songs including two books called by that name. Singing is a way we stop our hurried lives and settle into a spirit of trust and thanksgiving to God for what He has done for us. I think God notices our songs of praise like Jesus noticed the one leper who took the time to come to Him and thank Him for his cleansing. We too have been cleansed from all our sins by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. That song in your heart is from God and it’s the spirit of Christmas. You cannot be a scrooge and for God you will be used!
Not only was Joseph in the Christmas spirit after his encounter with the angel, so was Mary. The Christmas spirit is contagious and can overcome any unseen virus. If we must wear a mask, let’s wear one that brings joy, names Jesus and sings grace. Mary’s magnificat was her song of Christmas spirit. May we join with her and multitudes of the redeemed with the spirit of Christmas.
“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” Luke 1:46-47