I would like to take the opportunity of wishing you all a very Happy Christmas, because it was the imminent Christmas season that began my thoughts for this letter. In the coming weeks we will hear much about the Christmas spirit or the spirit of Christmas, but do we ever seriously consider the Christmas spirit from a genuine Biblical perspective?
Is there such a thing as the Christmas spirit? Essentially the answer is ‘No’, but Paul comes pretty close to it when he writes, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, or as the footnote says which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:5) The passage that follows this verse describes Christ’s spirit or attitude as He came into and lived in this world that first Christmas.
We are told initially that though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. (v.6) The Christmas Spirit begins with sacrifice. He did not hang on to His rights. On the contrary, he made himself nothing, (v. 7). He exercised humility and condescension. People often use ‘condescension’ in a disparaging way, but genuine condescension means that we are prepared to meet people exactly where they are without making any point of how we might have adjusted our position to fit. As a man Christ exercised His divine power, but on rare occasions only displayed His inherent glory.
The Christmas spirit also demands “taking the form of a servant” (v.7). Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem as subjects of the Roman Emperor, who demanded a census, but they also went, because that is where God wanted them. Jesus Christ, although the Creator God lived as the servant of God and of other people. He went about doing good.
We as human beings will never understand what “being born in the likeness of men”, actually feels like. We are all born in the same way, but Jesus Christ was the source of life having been active in the Creation of this world and yet in order to fully help those He created He became fully like them. We live in a world that has a social conscience, the millions of pounds raised for Children in Need and countless other charities each year makes this clear, but it is reasonably easy to give money in a generous and sacrificial way. It is quite a different matter to go and live amongst the needy. That is the Christmas spirit.
If becoming a true human being was not enough he went to the extent of allowing himself to be put to death as a criminal. How often have you said or thought, “I was only trying to help, why did they treat me that way?” Yet this is what Christ did – “becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.(v.8)
Very few of us can get into the “Christmas Spirit” without thinking either “I wonder what I’ll get this year” or perhaps “I wonder if I will get anything this year”. Our thoughts are so quickly selfish, but the true Christmas spirit says “I know what I can do for or give to others, therefore I will act.”
May each of us enter the Christmas spirit and live for the good of others and for the glory of His Name.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14)
In His Love this Christmas,
Bernard Lewis December 2015