What Does the Spirit of Christmas Look Like?

It just might be nearly a month since we celebrated Christmas, but recently reading J.I. Packer’s powerhouse book, Knowing God got me thinking about it once again.

“We talk glibly of the ‘Christmas spirit’, rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning. It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of Him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas. And the Christmas spirit ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round.

It is our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians – I will be more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians – go through this world in the spirit of the priest and the Levite in our Lord’s parable, seeing human needs all around them, but (after a pious wish, and perhaps a prayer, that God might meet them) averting their eyes, and passing by on the other side. That is not the Christmas spirit.

Nor is the spirit of those Christians – alas, they are many – whose ambition in life seems limited o6to building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the sub-middle-class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian to get on by themselves.

The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob.” (Packer, J.I. Knowing God. Hodder and Stoughton, Toronto. 1975)

These are tough words for me to take in, process, and even more difficult for me to let them change my life. At the same time, I begin to realize as I interact with people who don’t believe in Jesus, friends of mine who don’t see any value in Christianity, and as I travel from time to time, that maybe the North American dream simply isn’t where its at. Maybe it’s not all about living the middle class suburban dream. Maybe life isn’t about comfort and things. Maybe here in Canada we Christians have been deeply mistaken by the culture that surrounds and consumes us.
I have challenged myself this New Year, as mid-January hits tomorrow, to really investigate the words of Jesus, His Spirit and His calling on my own life. What does faith really mean and how does it play out from day to day? That’s what I intend to find out this year!

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