Christmas, The Spirit of

Christmas, The Spirit of

by Rubel Shelly

The Spirit of Christmas

Ted had agreed with some reluctance to go Christmas shopping with Karen. He hated driving around the crowded mall. He resented having to fight crowds of shoppers. And the one gift item he had in mind to buy was not to be found in the store he tried.

As he grumped his way to the car and piled their purchases into the trunk, he muttered the equivalent of Ebeneezer Scrooge's immortal line: "Christmas? Bah! Humbug!"

Karen's response was to ask, "Where's the old Christmas spirit?"

Where is the Christmas spirit? What is the Christmas spirit? And must it be limited to the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day?

The spirit of Christmas is kindness. Tolerance for an unpleasant relative. Allowing someone else to turn first at a busy intersection. Smiling and saying something nice to a harried clerk who has just been chewed out by an irate customer.

The spirit of Christmas is compassion. Food for hungry people. Secret gifts for needy children. Spending part of your holiday time with a lonely person in a nursing home.

The spirit of Christmas is understanding. Feeling the emptiness of someone who is spending her first Christmas without a husband who died recently. Listening to the mixed-up musings of a teen-ager who has gotten into trouble. Reaching out to someone whose personal anguish over a lost job or divorce has him on the brink of suicide.

The spirit of Christmas is sacrifice. Children breaking piggy banks to buy gifts for their parents. Someone missing a party to be with the rest of the family on Christmas Eve. Someone refusing to pass an unkind judgment or choosing to forgive an insult.

The spirit of Christmas is love. Paying special attention to children. Still being thoughtful during the most hectic days of the year. Doing something for someone who cannot repay you.

Kindness and compassion. Understanding and sacrifice. Love. Not one of these is a "secular" virtue which arises naturally from humankind. They are primary spiritual qualities which have been exhibited best in this world by Jesus of Nazareth. With all due respect to Santa Claus, he is not the one who brought us these gifts.

Santa is reindeer and elves, snow and red cheeks, pretty packages and stockings from the mantle. Jesus is much, much more.

Jesus was kind enough to befriend the people everyone else avoided. His compassion made him weep with Mary and Martha when the sisters' brother had died. He understood fickle Peter and questioning Thomas. He sacrificed all personal ambition and eventually his life for the sake of others. His very name is synonymous with love.

The "spirit of Christmas" did not originate with Charles Dickens or Jimmy Stewart. They merely wrote and performed the Christmas spirit in artistic settings. This special sentiment is rooted in a religious tradition which changed the world. It is produced by our imitation of the Son of God.

Whatever it is you like most about this season of the year cannot be perpetuated by carrying the wallet you get under the tree or wearing the cologne someone gives you. It will endure only for those who remember the Babe of Bethlehem year round and allow him to live in their hearts.

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