The Life-Changing Spirit of Christmas

By Maria Fontaine

Sending Jesus to earth on that first Christmas was part of the unfolding of God’s great love plan that made it possible for us to live our lives for love. We celebrate this gift of God’s love not just one day a year, but all year long with all who understand the real meaning of the season. Christmas continues throughout the year as we joyfully proclaim Jesus’ birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection through our words and our deeds.

What we celebrate at Christmas is a love so monumental that it encircles all mankind, and can be expressed in any language, by anyone and to anyone. At the same time, it is a love so intimate that it understands each one’s unique and deepest heartcry and provides the perfect personalized solutions, because that love knows and understands us better than we understand ourselves.

Christmas is about giving in every way—God giving His Son, Jesus giving His life, us giving our love, which is His love. God started Christmas giving and we carry it on.

As one writer put it, “Christmas is not just a day, an event to be observed and speedily forgotten. It is a spirit which should permeate every part of our lives. To believe that the spirit of Christmas does change lives and to labor for the realization of its coming to all men is the essence of our faith in Christ.”1 There’s a beautiful poem that expresses the mission Jesus gave to us when He came into the world:

Christmas is not in tinsel and lights and outward show …
The secret lies in an inner glow.
It’s lighting a fire inside the heart …
Good will and joy a vital part.
It is higher thought and a greater plan.
It’s a glorious dream in the soul of man.
Christmas begins deep down inside …
Then engulfs the world like a mighty tide!2

I love the spirit of giving that permeates Christmas. It’s often a time when even the least generous people become more giving. Somehow it just feels right. It’s a time when children can learn the joy of giving as they brighten the lives of others or share what they have. It’s a time when everyone can give something, whether they have a little or a lot, and find some reward in it. As has been aptly said, “The finest Christmas gift is not the one that costs the most money, but the one that carries the most love.”3

Christmas is also a time when talking about Jesus is more readily accepted and appreciated in most parts of the world. There is the ever-present commercial aspect of Christmas, but even amidst that, witnessing Christians can help people to know the true meaning of Christmas. Because most of the world celebrates Christmas in some way or another, it’s a perfect opportunity to share the message of Jesus and His gift of salvation. It’s much easier than bringing it up out of the blue at a random event in everyday life. Christmastime can be the easiest time to bring up the topic of Jesus, even if you don’t have any prior relationship with the person you’re talking to.

Meaningful gatherings with loved ones, friends, and fellow Christians at Christmastime are another beautiful aspect of Christmas. It’s just a precious gift to gather together with those that you love at Christmas, to do something special and out of the ordinary, to share spiritual fellowship of some kind, and just to be there together in one place celebrating the one who is so worthy of celebration. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to be centered around Jesus, His love, and brotherhood and friendship in Him.

Another beautiful thing about Christmas is Christmas music. So many of the Christmas carols are very meaningful. I like the old religious carols because they express deep truths about Jesus’ birth and death and resurrection. I like the newer ones too. Any song that brings attention to the “Greatest Gift” is wonderful. Many such songs have been translated into other languages and are being listened to and sung all around the world.

Sometimes it’s easy to become familiar with the Christmas carols that we hear a lot, but if you stop to listen to the words and meditate on their meaning, it’s amazing how powerful and full of truth many of them are, like “O Holy Night” and “What Child Is This?” and others.

Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!
So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant, king, to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him!4

One year David and I went to a Christmas Eve candlelight service late at night in Israel, a Catholic Arab Mass. It was beautiful to worship with the Christians there, to hear the same beloved songs being sung in Arabic, even though we couldn’t understand the words. When we were in Israel we would sometimes eat in the little cheap restaurants run by the Palestinians, and they invited us to their Christmas service. I remember it being extremely cold, but singing the beautiful carols with those Christians really warmed my spirit.

Christmas lights are another thing I love about Christmas. They remind me of Jesus, the light of the world. If I were going to build a manger scene, I would put beautiful Christmas lights all around Jesus in the manger. There are usually lots of little Christmas lights, often hundreds on a tree, which remind me of the many blessings Jesus gives us all throughout the year.

Speaking of lights, I’m praying for each one of you, that your Christmas will be filled with light and love, as we each do our part to light others’ lives with the love of Jesus. The world knows so much darkness and can use all the light it can get! And let’s look forward to and praise Him in advance for the many lights of blessing and care that He is sure to brighten our lives with—and the lives of those we love—in the coming year.

Now light one thousand Christmas lights,
On dark earth here tonight;
One thousand, thousand also shine,
To make the dark sky bright.
He came to bring us love and light,
To bring us peace on earth.
So let your candles shine tonight,
And sing with joy and mirth.5

Compiled from the writings of Maria Fontaine, originally published in December 2010 and December 2011 respectively. Adapted and republished December 2015. Read by Debra Lee. Music taken from the Rhythm of Christmas album. Used by permission.

1 William Parks.

2 W. A. Peterson.

3 Henry Van Dyke.

4 William Chatterton Dix.

5 Swedish traditional carol, author unknown.

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James

I am a missionary of Jesus Christ serving God in Japan.

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