This is the time of year when Vince Guaraldi's album that was recorded over 50 years ago is played on radio stations and online streaming services throughout the world. It is a beautiful ballad of jazz and Christmas spirit produced for another piece of art titled A Charlie Brown Christmas. There is a specific song that I always make an effort to listen to each holiday season. The song is "Christmas Time Is Here" and the last stanza of that song has a hope that I think we all wish would become a reality. The children sing "Oh that we could always see such spirit through the year".
When you think about though, there are many different ways that line could be interpreted that have nothing to do with the true reason for the season. The word "spirit" alone has many different forms. For some it is a physical thing because their Christmas spirit comes from a bottle of spirits. For others, it is feeling they get when they give something to someone else. If you would have asked Ebenezer Scrooge, he’d probably say that the Christmas spirit was an actual ghost. So with so many different forms of the Christmas spirit, how can we know which one we need more of?
Let’s take it all the way back to the start of the Christmas spirit. In Luke 2 we find the history of the birth of Jesus and the actions that happened afterward. Jesus is born and then the group of shepherds are told of this by a choir of angles proclaiming that he deserves all the glory. Essentially, the first action of the angles after their king was born was giving him worship and telling others about him. You may be thinking “They are angels and that is specifically their job, right?” For the sake of comparison, lets look at what the shepherds do after they are told about Jesus’s birth. Luke 2:15 says “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” So the initial action after hearing the news was that they were drawn to go see him. Once they found him, the scripture goes on to tell us that they spread the news to everyone they came in contact with. This sounds a lot like the angels.
If you haven’t caught on to the point I’m trying to make, here is one last example. In Matthew 2 we find another group of people that had just found out about the birth of Jesus. These were not men that worked in the fields or used their physical body to earn a living. These where the intellectual men of the land and each where kings in their respective kingdoms. So what do you think the first recorded words out of their mouths were? “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” Where can we find him? We have come to worship him. The first group of people to ever celebrate Christmas spent it finding Jesus and giving him the glory. So, in the purest form, the Christmas spirit is to find God if you don’t know him and then worship him with everything inside of you. It is not only what we should do around Christmas time, it is also what we were created to do for all of time. It is in this action that we find our purpose and our direction. It is in this action that we are filled with peace on earth and goodwill towards men. Everything else fits into place when we worship the one worthy of all our praise. I hope this season you become renewed in the Christmas spirit and continue to spread it into the new year.
“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men."
[Quoting Reverend Phillips Brooks]
― John F. Kennedy
In just a few weeks we will be welcoming in a brand new, shiny year and archiving that worn out old year in the attic of our past where it belongs. The closer it approaches the more we hear those not so new phrases peppered throughout conversation.
"New year, new me."
"A fresh start."
"2017, this is going to be my year."
"The best is yet to come."
It's not breaking news however, that the resolutions we set for the upcoming year tend to be left unfulfilled before we even store our winter jackets away. According to a 2013 article in Forbes, over 40% of Americans set New Year resolutions but only 8% keep them throughout the year. While that winning number is small, that doesn't stop most of us from starting all over again at the top of 2017. It's just too enticing to not give it a shot. I have made a mess of this year and so out it goes along with my 2016 calendars. I am going to make a brand new me.
The thing is, while our intentions and ambitions are held high at first, our flesh is weak and our time is precious. So excuses and well worn habits sneak back in until we can easily find ourselves in a discouraging loop of goals and failures.
Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)
12 I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.
13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us
Paul too struggled with being a better person, but he knew in order to even get near perfection he had to set his aim towards the perfect one, Jesus. It takes constant daily communication, where we find ourselves getting to know the voice of the one who gave us life. A deeper prayer life than we've ever known before that is taking us away from those paths of destruction and opening up opportunities of not only blessings but strength during our trials. It's a basic thought but it's a thought that can break the loop of failed resolutions.
A better you doesn't have to be limited to January first, it doesn't have to be sought after in self improvement books or podcasts. It can start right now with a deeper commitment to your relationship with Jesus.
Let's find the best version of ourselves through prayer in 2017.
Sister Amber Klein