There is a term in our language and cultural base that is impossible to define. It is either stated as the “Spirit of Christmas,” or the “Christmas Spirit.” Answers.com says the following in regard to the definition of “The Christmas Spirit”:
“You don’t hear that expression too much anymore these days, but if you go back more than 30 years when Christmas was still seen as more of a religious celebration and a family thing as well, Christmas had an element in it where people felt it was a good thing to do to be a little more tolerant of the misdeeds of others, to be a little more charitable. One time when I broke some sort of traffic rule, ( I forget exactly what it was,) the cop said, “You are lucky its nearly Christmas, otherwise I would have booked you.” People showed a little extra tolerance and love for each other and even the animals around them. Today you see very little of that. Today we treat such sentiments with suspicion, and take the inspiration out of it by referring to it as ‘holiday’ instead. The Christmas spirit was a thing of extra tolerance and love based on the teachings of Jesus’ Holiday.”
The Urban Dictionary’s definition could not be printed, and several other sources cast about trying to find some way to describe it. An online devotional came closer. It said in part:
“The true spirit of Christmas, of course, gives Christ His rightful place. This does not mean more manger scenes and sacred carols–it means more of the mind and attitude of Christ. To catch the true Christmas spirit is to be characterized by the self-giving spirit of our Lord.”
I have a dear friend who told a heart-warming story of something she had experienced a few days ago in the drive thru line of a fast food establishment. Her tale gives more credence to the idea of the Christmas Spirit as something positively contagious. She ordered her meal, drove forward to pay for it, only to find that the person in the car in front of her had paid her bill. This was an act of kindness and giving by a total stranger for a total stranger. My friend decided to do the same, and while she was alone in her car, and the car for whom she picked up the tab had several passengers, she was happy to do it. The next car did the same, as did the next, and there was joyous chaos as a result occurring inside the fast food place amongst the staff and patrons. I think it was a manifestation of what this time of year is supposed to be about.
For me, I “caught” the Christmas Spirit in a different way when I was in Israel recently. I had the privilege of helping out with praise and worship all over the country, my guitar being faithfully toted by me, along with others who would come along side to carry it. One night, more than 200 of us gathered on a hill overlooking Bethlehem, the birthplace of the only One who ever perfectly manifested the Spirit of Christmas, Christ Himself. We sang Christmas carols about Him, and I don’t think I had ever been more in awe of their message. “Santa Baby” was noticeably missing, and “O Holy Night” rang out down into the valley.
We could not go any closer, as, ironically, these days Bethlehem is a dangerous place for Christians and Jews alike. Indeed, there was even concern that the very hillside upon which we stood might have been turned into a minefield as a result of the increased attacks and hostilities against Israelis and Christians in recent weeks, both in Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.
We sang anyway, “Peace on the Earth, goodwill toward men/ from Heavn’s all gracious King/ The world in solemn stillness lay/ to hear the angels sing.” We aren’t angels, but sing we did, and eventually safely made our way back up to our buses. Maybe someone below “caught” what we were giving, and then again, maybe not. All I know is that there will come a time when Bethlehem will be safe again, and the Spirit of Christmas will be a positive, permanent, global pandemic.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner