Sustaining the Spirit of Christmas
As we start a new year, can we feel God with us? Are we 'living, moving' and 'having our being' in God? As a family, make a list of wonderful active words that remind and help each member of the family to express the Christ all year long.
Christmas Day is over, but the spirit of Christmas is forever in our hearts. In theory, we know this to be true - we've heard it from many different sources since our earliest days. But do we understand this in a practical way? Are we living the spirit of Christmas – or have we essentially tucked it away with the decorations and ornaments for another year?
Christmas marks the advent of the Christ among humankind. The birth of Jesus unfolded the light of Truth, Life, and Love – of divine Spirit, God – in our midst. Those words – "in our midst" – refer to much more than something filling the space between us. The Christ is the essence of our individual being. It connects us inextricably to our supreme and almighty Father/Mother, God. It's the foundation of our identity, and it animates our nature. The Christ is "Immanuel" – "God with us."
What does Christmas mean in a practical sense? What do we teach our children about it? Surely, Christmas means feeling and expressing more love and compassion. Just as surely, it means sharing and giving to others before thinking of ourselves. As we talk with our children, we lead them to follow our example – to contribute to family gift-giving, to participate in Christmas pageants and traditions, to donate a toy to a child in need, to be good, kind, and generous. We also teach them the Nativity story from the Bible, including all the side-stories to the birth itself. A close look at the role of angels throughout the story is, in itself, meaningful and full of spiritual import. Each time we review this story, we are touched in some new way by a particular aspect of it– perhaps it's the watchfulness of the shepherds; or the depth of Joseph's love for Mary and of his trust in God; or the protection provided to Mary during her unwed pregnancy. Or maybe it's the delivery in a stable and the days of fleeing from Herod's harsh decree. The significance of each chapter of the Nativity story is timelessly relevant to our own lives. The more we take this story to heart, discerning the underlying laws of God in action, the more we are aware of the presence of the Christ in our own lives.
Every year, like clockwork, my family and I pledge anew to appreciate the Christmas season in a relaxed, lighthearted, living-in-the-moment way. We agree to think of meaningful gifts to give (and receive), and to spend more time remembering the real meaning of Christmas rather than getting caught up in the whirlwind of shopping and, inevitably, overspending. By mid-December, we are breathlessly aware of time flying by without much progress being made in the enjoy-the-season lane of life. Yet, there is joy and laughter, and great thoughtfulness given to gift-giving. When Christmas Eve arrives, there are still too many presents to wrap, and not enough time to be still and simply absorb the moment. Even so, there's a wonderful sense of family and togetherness, and a warm glow of goodwill towards others. The spirit of Christmas is present, palpable, and abundantly expressed.
So, what happens now as we look ahead to a new year? We might as well make a list of resolutions; we may promise to do and be more as well as weigh and whine less. These are fine goals to set, and they generally lead to fresh resolve and renewed effort. But are we feeling "God with us" as we move forward? Are we consciously aware of "living, moving" and "having our being" in God (Acts 17:28)? The answer to these questions can be evaluated quite simply in terms of verb tense. Verbs ending in "ing" reflect a state of ongoing activity – without interruption or change or cessation. And that's the nature, the essence, of the Christ – unceasing communication between God and His idea, His beloved child – man.
Together, your family will think of wonderful "ing" verbs that express God every day. Make a list of all the words you can come up with – and make it a family challenge to add to it regularly. Think of interesting words…make up a few, if you're so inspired! Then post the list in different places around your home or office to remind you of the presence of the Christ in your midst all year long. The spirit of Christmas truly can – does! – last all year long, if you're opening the door to the Christ in your heart each day. There's the first word for your list: Opening!