As we enter the Christmas season… a term that is often referred to is “the Christmas spirit.’
It may be a parent telling their children to get a better attitude… or hinting to your boss to give
you some extra slack or time off.
But what really is the Christmas spirit?
Perhaps there are many qualities that come to mind that this season can bring.
Generosity… peace… hope in the midst of uncertainty…wonder & worship…
Many qualities get muddled… deep within the events… flows divine qualities that beckon
us…but get so easily mixed with this thing called ‘the holidays’
I would suggest that celebrating the holidays…and entering into the true spirit of Christmas…
of what flows from the birth of Christ… are two different things.
> Series… “Restoring the True Spirit of Christmas”
We often think of Christmas in terms of peace … and this can begin to be reduced to that which
is cozy and comfortable. But the events that we are invited to enter… begin with the opposite…
Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married
to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy
Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to
public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an
angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid
to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his
people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the
prophet: 23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him
Immanuel"--which means, "God with us." 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of
the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her
until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
This is only a portion of the events… and a poetic summary….
What God was doing… didn’t offer some sort of cozy quaint retreat. Now I know we all have
Hallmark cards that look pretty shiny.
> The reality is that these lives were not called into retreat… but RISK.
“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about…”
Got enters a womb and creates what is a social outrage and a political threat…. And those
involved must enter and every one of those who enter the story have a choice.
The wonder of Christmas that captures something in our spirits… is that a world that something
entered the world that was truly right… something to make things right… and what it was and
how it came was itself an act so divine it holds wonder for every soul who ponders it.
It was light entering darkness.
Perhaps the initial step in restoring the spirit of Christmas… is to realize that it is not simply
that of light… the light of God… but such light entering darkness.
The whole act of God we gather around in this season… is one of light penetrating darkness…
of right penetrating what is wrong… of divine power penetrating human powers. Something
had to initiate… to leave the comfort of home… to lay aside it’s prerogatives … and step
And in doing so… all who come seeking to enter… are beckoned to do the same…
everyone who enters in… must step out… in RISK.
Mary just a young peasant woman looking forward to getting married and likely
starting a family amidst her life in the village. …now she would face being stoned to death.
She could have run off… perhaps stayed with Elizabeth.
Joseph… it would appear he was a man who valued being honorable… and now he faces
disgrace… a man whose own manhood is lost. In an instant all that he had built his reputation
on was gone. How would he be seen? He’s either not been so righteous and self controlled… or
more at hand… he waited well…. while the women who was to make him proud as his wife…
had chosen to be with someone else.
The Nativity Movie released this past year captures this…
MOVIE CLIP – The Courage of Joseph
Joseph reveals remarkable courage… yet his story is usually in the background. In nativity
scenes he stands silently next to the manger in which the baby Jesus is laid. And yet the
courage of Joseph was what made it possible for the child to be born in Bethlehem and to
survive the life-threatening early years of his life. Joseph was the man to whom God entrusted
the task of protecting the mother and her child from the time she conceived Jesus. He was the
rugged and brave man who led Mary safely along the dangerous roads to Bethlehem, to Egypt
and eventually back home to northern Israel.
· Shock. Joseph thought that Mary was a pure and chaste girl. He must have been shocked to
· Deep sorrow. His dreams of marriage to this young girl now seemed to be forever shattered.
· Anger. Joseph must have felt betrayed. His manly pride would have made him want to punish
somebody! No one would have blamed him if he had caused a terrible scene in the village.
This stretched far beyond their tight community. The ruling king caught wind…
threatened… soon setting out to find them… and kill this child. By the time Magi (wise men)
come visited from Persia… Herod is so afraid… orders that all children under the age of two be
But the Magi. Still come find the child… Shepherds… Mary … Joseph…
Why did they risk…
Heroes? … not with superpowers… In a time when the world certainly had some who ruled
with great control… who were deified with power… it would have been a perfect time for a
superhero… perhaps Messiah man… a kind of “Righteous Rambo.” .But God made his choice
clear… choosing the ordinary to bring the extraordinary into life….. a teenage peasant and her
> They were made of the same stuff you and I are… self conscious… afraid… uncertain…
So why did they risk? What was at work that helped them join God in bringing light into the
TWO REASONS that run throughout all who joined Christmas.
1. They were responding to God’s initiative / God had initiated… God was
stepping out to rescue those
God had called them into his activity…
If this is a story of danger and risk… who sis at the center? Who …but risk is only in response
to the risk of God… who came in dependency and diapers.
From our vantage point… we see the birth of Christ as that which makes the world softer and
safer… but from a Divine perspective… it is anything but quaint and safe.. it’s dangerous… for
it wasn’t simply a child being born… but born to a fallen humanity.
Three years ago… Christmas Eve… handed our newborn son… as I had done years
(There won’t be any more live illustrations.)
• I couldn’t walk more than two steps without turning and taking that child back…
• Yet God entered a teenage mother’s womb… birthed in a barn…. Being sought by a
paranoid King who history reveals had killed his own brother and countless others
whenever he felt threatened…. and would eventually bear the hatred of humankind….
Risk begets risk…
2. The world needs a Savior
The oppression and injustice of the world called out… and it still does.
> This is our time to join God in making the world right.
The outer reflections of Christmas … can be found in the cozy gatherings… but the inner
reality that lies in the depths of Christmas… involves going out… stepping out… in risk for
Example – Story of kid breaking into my car one Christmas Eve… taking him
with me to hand out cider to other homeless.
End with WWII truce (Movie Silent Night)
In 1914, in five months of war, 1,000,000 lives had already been lost. Pope Benedict XV had called for a
Christmas truce, which was ignored by political and military leaders. The Germans were winning, and both sides
were digging dugouts in the water logged fields of Flanders, which were sometimes below sea level. The drainage
system had been destroyed by the war, so they were in a sea of mud. A cold snap turned the mess to frozen
mud. Field troops had simple rations, while the staff at the headquarters ate vast gourmet holiday meals.
On Christmas Eve, the Germans began singing carols like "Stille Nacht," "Silent Night." Thousands of
Tannenbaum had been shipped to the front, which the Germans decorated with lit candles on their parapets.
Along the line, Germans wrote signs like "We No Fight, You No Fight, " and walked into "No Man’s Land" under
white flags to arrange a truce
The soldiers decided to "play the game," as they put it, before higher up officers could stop them. Thousands
celebrated together, exchanging plum pudding for sausages and beer for tobacco. The Germans could speak
more English than the British knew German. 80,000 Germans had lived in Great Britain. before the war, where
they often worked as cabbies, barbers, and waiters. Called up for military service, some had families still in
Britain. One German barber recognized a British client on Christmas Day and gave him a haircut! There was a
brisk exchange of souvenirs. Especially prized by the British were the pointed German helmets and their belt
buckles with the inscription "Gott mitt uns" ("God with us"). In the spirit of Christmas, small groups of men were
laughing and joking along much of the line. The men did play a great deal of soccer or football on Christmas Day,
1914, However, first, the dead soldiers left in "No Man’s Land" (some had been lying there for weeks) had to be
buried. At one joint memorial, the 23rd Psalm was recited in English and German. As Weintraub points out, along
the front religious rites celebrating both birth and death were conducted that Christmas Day.
The soldiers had few real soccer balls, so they played with things like a cap filled with straw. The enemies played
with great enthusiasm, eager to compete in a non-deadly way.
> Will we leave our trenches?
ILLUMINATE: to make something visible and brighter… to make
something easier to understand
Light in darkness
• Some opportunities through ministries we have or are connected to
• Many ways to choose something within your own spheres as well
o Harold and Tami Toumayan - First annual block party
o Leah and I
I know we all face the challenge of this season’s busyness. But it is about choosing to
experience Christmas rather than celebrating holidays.