“The spirit of Christmas needs to be superseded by the Spirit of Christ. The spirit of Christmas is annual; the Spirit of Christ is eternal. The spirit of Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural. The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ is a divine person. That makes all the difference in the world.” ~ Stuart Briscoe
One of the problems of living in the world — which is not grounded in Christ — is the fact that the traditions and culture of the world can lead us away from Him as it focuses our attention on things that will get us nowhere. Christmas is a great example of just that.
As children, we “learn” that Christmas is all about the externals. We get caught up in signing our names on Christmas cards, going Christmas shopping, baking Christmas cookies, and all the things associated with the season. We also make lists. There is never a doubt in parents’ minds about what their children want for Christmas.
I remember, when I was young, browsing the Sears and JC Penney Christmas catalogs. It was phenomenal to think that they had entire catalogs dedicated solely to Christmas presents. If that didn’t say that Christmas was about things, I don’t know what did. Being children of the world, we would look through the catalogs and make lists for Santa. To make sure that he knew exactly what I wanted, my list had not only the names of the presents but also the catalogs they were in, the pages they were on, and, to be doubly sure, the item numbers. I wasn’t going to miss out.
When all of these things are our first experiences of Christmas, it is difficult to incorporate the spiritual. As children, we thought Christmas was all about getting. All of a sudden, there were people telling us that giving was more important. As children, we thought Christmas was all about celebrations, Christmas cookies, and other trappings of the day. Then, people told us that Christmas was about Christ and that there were important religious significances involved in the day.
As adults, we often end up trapped somewhere in the middle. We want to believe in the solemn dignity of Christmas but our inner child longs for the external trappings of the day. It’s all about balance. There is no problem experiencing all the trappings of Christmas as long as we don’t allow them to draw our focus away from He who is most important: Jesus Christ.
Advent allows us the time to adjust our focus. We can enjoy the social aspects of the season and prepare for all that comes with Christmas and, at the same time, focus upon the spirit of the season. By prayer, good works, going to Mass, and other spiritual works, we can keep our feet planted on firm ground and praise the glory of God.
FAITH ACTION: Don’t let the trappings of Christmas keep you from focusing upon the true spirit of Christmas.