And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
(Acts 20:32-35 ESV)
Well, we are finally there—Christmas day—the climax of our twenty-five-day odyssey to the heart of Christmas. And although at first blush it may seem an odd one, I want to ask you a question: Do you have the Christmas spirit? I mean, do you really have the Christmas spirit? Better yet, what is the Christmas spirit? Is it the warm and familiar feeling of being with family and friends around a soothing fire and flickering candlelight? Is it the joy of seeing anticipation in the eyes of a child? Is it the satisfaction of un-wrapping a special gift? Or is the spirit of Christmas something else? The answer is found in Christ, who for our sake came that Christmas morn over two thousand years ago. Who for our sake condescended to cloak Himself in human flesh. Who emptied Himself. Who “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man” (Philippians 2:7–8). Who, far from grasping the prerogatives of divinity, “humbled himself” (v. 8).
That, I would argue, is the spirit of Christmas. It is not the rush we experience when we get—get a gift, get a feeling, get a bonus. All these are wonderful in and of themselves. The real spirit of Christmas, however, is found not in what we get, but in what we give. It is becoming ever more like our Savior in the spirit of selflessness. And not just during the Christmas season or on Christmas Day, but rather throughout the remainder of our lives. This Christmas season, my family and I have a prayer for you just as we have a prayer for ourselves. It is that as we see images of the poor standing in soup lines on our television screens, we might see ourselves placing a piece of bread in the hands of the hungry. As we remember those in nursing homes, we might envision ourselves dispensing a hug. As we remember the widows and the orphans, we might imagine ourselves healing their hurts. Ultimately, doing so is in the service of dispensing the bread of life. “I am the bread of life,” said Jesus. “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. . . . I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” ( John 6:35, 51). So, as you see, the spirit of Christmas is not a once-a-year experience. It is a spirit to be embraced throughout the coming year. It is the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge who experienced a complete metamorphosis after his encounters with the spirit of Christmas past, the spirit of Christmas present, and the spirit of Christmas yet to come. It is the spirit I want reborn in my soul as each Christmas my family and I watch yet another rendition of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. So this year, as you and I wish each other a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, you and I know exactly what we mean! Merry Christmas, dear friend . . . and to all a Happy New Year!
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
(Matthew 25:35-40 ESV)
Hanegraaff, Hank - The Heart of Christmas. Thomas Nelson, (2009)