Thursday, December 21, 2006

"To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more difficult with every year."
~E.B. White, author of Charlotte's Web

There are spirits of Christmas, more than Dickens' Spirit of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. For one, there is the spirit of commercialism that induces people to take out loans to fund their Christmas purchases. Another is the spirit of greed that infects people with a lust for the biggest and the most expensive. "I don't want that! It's ugly. Buy me this instead!" Neither of these spirits can really be called the Spirit of Christmas, but they do get associated with the holiday anyway. Everybody knows Christmas is about the gifts. Somehow, our self worth gets caught up in the size of the gifts we give and receive.

The true Spirit of Christmas is giving, but it isn't the size or price of the gifts we give that matters the most. Heaven outdid all our feeble efforts. The greatest Gift lay in a manger filled with hay: no fancy packaging, just wrapped in simple swaddling.
At Christmas, it's easy to leave Jesus a baby in the manger, surrounded by awestruck shepherds and wisemen and singing angels. We miss the significance of the Gift of Christ's birth. Our challenge is to, like Mary, "ponder these things in [our] hearts." What does Christmas mean? Christ's birth means that we can live, forgiven, with hearts filled with another gift of God, His Spirit. And this is the Spirit of Christmas.


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