Bought by the Blood

December 14, 2009

The Christmas Spirit

The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity – hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory – because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross.  It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard or will hear.

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 itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all 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 Levite in our Lord’s parable, seeing human needs all around them, but (after a pious wish, and a perhaps a prayer, that God might meet those needs) averting their eyes and passing by on the other side.  That is not the Christmas spirit.  Nor is it the spirit of those Christians – alas, they are many – whose ambition in life seems limited to 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 submiddle 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.  For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor – spending and being spent – to enrich their fellow  humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others – not just their own friends – in whatever way there seems need.

-J.I. Packer

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