What gets you in the mood for the holidays? Is it all the holiday paraphernalia that gets
stocked onto the shelves of stores in October? Maybe it’s all the different light displays that get put up, be they icicle, colored, blinking, twinkling, etc. How about Christmas trees and “decking the halls” with decoration and ornaments? For some folks, holiday music gets them in the mood, from Jingle Bells to Silent Night; while others prefer the crunching of snow beneath their boots and the wintry cold air for holiday cheer. Speaking of cheer, this is what often sparks the holiday spirit or should I say “spirits” as some indulge in holiday libations while others can’t seem to get enough eggnog (yours truly) and hot cider. Of course there are the smells… If you have ever been to NYC and smelled chestnuts being open-air roasted, you know what I’m talking about! But no doubt there are many a kitchen these days with wafting scents of freshly baked Christmas cookies (my mom’s and Julie’s grandma’s being the best, of course!) and sweets (no I’m not talking about our church secretary Sue) such as fudge and divinity that seem to arouse our holiday senses. Who could also forget holiday parties, Christmas shopping at the mall, delightfully wrapped gifts, the colors red, green and gold, “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas (can you believe that I actually met someone recently who had never seen this!?)” and jolly ole’ St. Nick?
Now while many of these things are nice and certainly to be enjoyed, are they
representative of true Christmas spirit? JI Packer in his classic book Knowing God addresses the matter, “We talk glibly of the Christmas spirit, rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity…it ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temperament] of Him who for our sakes became poor,…the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor – spending and being spent – to enrich their fellow men, giving time, thought, care, and concern to do good to others…in whatever way there seems need.”
Philippians 2:1-8 might seem like kind of a strange Christmas text, it’s not Isaiah 9 or
Luke 2, but I think it sums up true Christmas spirit in the most appropriate of ways. Listen to Paul’s Holy Spirit inspired words: “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Friends, this passage is all about true Christmas spirit; how in Christ believers have unity
and how this unity should spawn in us humility and selflessness. That as new creatures in
Christ, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are to put off selfishness and empty conceit and humbly regard others as being more important than ourselves. We are to not just be concerned with our own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
And why is this? Because this was the attitude present in Christ! Jesus’ whole life was
about being a servant and putting others first. Christ had to humble Himself by leaving behind, for a time, His heavenly home with His Father and all of the honor and glory that surrounded Him. He had to trade the worship of angels for the abuses of wicked men. He also had to subject Himself to certain human limitations while on the earth and in addition He had to experience sorrow, pain, torture, humiliation and even death in one of the most grotesque and excruciating ways. Why did He do this? The answer: John 3:16. Because of His great love for us, Jesus demonstrated true “Christmas spirit.” He was a selfless, self-sacrificing, humble servant whose whole entire life was about putting others before Himself and He did this because of His deep and unconditional love for you and for me. Remember, God didn’t start loving us once we became righteous people; no, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 6:8; emphasis added).”
This Christmas season (and really always), let us ask God to help us demonstrate true
Christmas spirit by looking out for others first, considering others as being more important than ourselves, taking on a self-sacrificing attitude and being a servant to others the way that Christ did, to all we come in contact with. This means our family and friends (who are often times the hardest to be self-sacrificing towards); our co-workers, bosses or employees; the people at the grocery store, post-office, Costco, the pharmacy, the mall including unruly shoppers; other students at school or teachers; acquaintances, people you’ve never met before (even telemarketers and tail-gaiters!) and even your enemies. Ask the Lord to give you a humble heart and a desire to serve others this Christmas season. With so much on our plates this time of year, I know it’s tough to be others-focused but I also know the blessings and rewards you will receive will be some of your most cherished gifts!
Oh, and don’t forget to say “Merry Christmas!”