In the days following Christmas, haven’t you said, “I wish we could keep the Christmas spirit going forever!” As I was closing the church after the midnight Christmas Eve service, I reflected on the people who were present, the special smiles on their faces, and the utter joy that was so easily expressed. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could keep the special sense of Christmas joy all the year long?”
Recently, I remarked to my wife how many persons spoke so lovingly their words of appreciation to me. She reminded me, “Harold, of course, every one of them meant it. But, after all, it is Christmas. Those things are just easier to say at Christmastime.”
There is a special happiness during the Christmas season. There is a special and unique joy at Christmas. We all express our loving concern for others more eaily. It is much easier to share our love at Christmas.
I would certainly hope that we could keep that spirit going. I would hope that the Christmas spirit would be so contagious that we would be continually reinfecting one another. I would hope that there would be an epidemic of Christmas cheer and joy every day during the coming year. Our human actions and attitudes are contagious.
I was recently reading about that autobiography of Billy Martin, the irrepressible baseball manager and player. Back in the days when he and Mickey Mantle were playing for the New York Yankees, they wanted to go hunting during the off-season. Mickey had a friend down in Texas where he often was allowed to hunt.
Mickey drove Billy Martin out to the ranch, suggested that he stay in the truck while he went into the ranch house to check for permission to hunt from the owner. Mickey was given immediate approval. But, the owner asked for one favor. His mule was going blind, but the rancher could not kill the animal. He wondered if Mickey would do it for him. Mickey saw an opportunity to have a joke on Billy Martin.
He sulked back to the truck, got in, and slammed the door. Billy Martin asked if something was wrong. Mantle replied that the rancher wouldn’t let them hunt on the ranch. He said, “In fact, I am so mad, that I’m going over to that barn and shoot one of his mules.” Martin protested that they could not do that. But Mantle was stern, “Just watch me. He wouldn’t let me hunt, I’ll show him!” Mantle marched over to the barn, went inside and shot the mule.
When he came out, he was shocked to see Billy Martin standing near a barn with a smoking rifle, shouting, “That no good son-of-a-gun; I just shot two of his cows.”
The contagion of attitudes and actions indeed reach out to others.
In the Letter of Colossians, there are some words that speak directly to our desire to keep Christmas going: “Then put on the garments that suit God’s chosen people, his own, his beloved; compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience. Be forbearing with one another, and forgiving, where any of you has cause for complaint: you must forgive as the Lord forgives you. To crown all, there must be love, to bind all together and complete the whole. Let Christ’s peace be arbiter in your hearts; to this peace you were called as members of a single body. And be filled with gratitude. Let the message of Christ dwell among you in all its richness. Instruct and admonish each other with the utmost wisdom. Sing thankfully in your hearts to God, with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Whatever you are doing, whether you speak or act, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:12-17)
Let me try to summarize all these ideas of Paul in four brief directions. I am convinced that we shall keep Christmas going if we follow them.
First, be patient and forbearing. I looked up that word, “Forebearing” and it simply means to endure and to tolerate. How easily we lose patience with one another! How soon we are ready to condemn and to accuse! As many of you know, I am not one of the most patient of persons.
Yet, my years in the ministry have taught me the gift of patience. I have seen actions which some church ought to take, and I knew that if they would only do just that, they would surely benefit. But, I have had to wait; I have had to be patient; I have had to give those people time to be ready for such action.
Many times I have thought that I knew what would be best for some individual. I have so wanted to tell them plainly what they should do. But, the Lord has taught me that His time is not my time; and that my will is not His will. I must wait. I must be patient, until God can lead those individuals to their own understanding of what is best for them to do.
Almost every week our church staff goes through the record cards of persons who have visited in our church and might wish to unite with our congregation. Those people seldom take that step on my schedule. We are often tempted to put that person’s card in the back of our files. However, when we are able to be patient and wait for God to work, they do respond to the promptings of God’s spirit and unite with the church. When we are patient and wait, they respond at the right time for them.
If we would keep Christmas going, we can exercise the gift of patience. We can be forbearing with one another.
Second, be forgiving. The essential message of Jesus Christ is, “You are forgiven.” The essential truth of the Christian faith is, “You are forgiven.” The essential characteristic of the Christian life is forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the only thing that will enable us to endure one another. There are some very imperfect things about ourselves. Yet we often forget those imperfect things about ourselves and other persons.
We must learn and practice forgiveness of others. If not, we will constantly live with disappointment in their imperfections. Christmas is a time for forgiving and forgetting. We send our Christmas cards to persons who have forgotten to send us one. We forgive those who have slighted us. We forgive those who have hurt our feelings. All this we do because we know that we have been forgiven by our Heavenly Father. To keep Christmas going means the practice of a forgiving attitude every day of the year.
Third, be loving. Someone has written a two line poem,
“To love the world to me’s no chore,
My big trouble is the person next door.”
Loving is the key to the joy of Christmas. We see that love shining in the eyes of Mary as she looks down into the manger and sees that bundle of flesh and blood. Love shines as she sees the completion of the promise of the angel. We see love in the reverent attitude of the shepherds kneeling in the stable. More than anything else, Christmas is the coming of love into our world.
Christina Rossetti penned the words that have become a hymn for the season:
“Love came down at Christmas
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angel gave the sign.
Love shall be our token,
Love be yours, and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.”1
No human being of our time was more of an agnostic and skeptic than Bertrand Russell. Yet, he wrote: “If you want to have a stable world, the root of the matter is a very simple thing, a very old-fashioned thing, a thing so simple that I am almost ashamed to mention it, for fear of the derisive smile with which wise cynics will greet my words. The thing I mean — please forgive me for mentioning it — is love, Christian love, compassion. If you feel this, you have a motive for existence, a guide in action, a reason for courage, an imperative necessity for intellectual honesty.2 If we would keep Christmas going, we must practice the skills of being loving, caring persons throughout the year.
Fourth, be filled with the peace of God. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
Peace means so many different things to different people. To the Soviet leader, peace apparently means when everyone is in submission to their power. To the American politician, peace means the absence of armed conflict. To the common man, peace means that there is no anger, no hostility, no competition with anyone else. To the follower of Jesus Christ, peace means to be well, to be whole, to be spiritually and physically healthy. To the follower of Jesus Christ our Savior, peace means having our lives organized around the reality of God’s love and being obedient to God’s ways.
The message of Christmas is about peace, a peace that comes from God himself. It is peace in our hearts; it is peace in our surroundings; it is peace with God himself. When that peace comes we are no longer in conflict with God. Therfeore, we are no longer at enmity with anyone.
The angels sang of that wondrous gift, “Peace on earth, good will to men.” That is indeed the gift of Christmas. If we would keep Christmas going, we should focus on that peace, accept that gift of peace, and live that life of peace-filled wholeness.
Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote that many people die with their music still in them. How tragic it would be if we allowed the spirit of Christmas to fade away without the music of this holy season being expressed. We do have an opportunity to keep Christmas going. Surely we can. Hopefully we will.
Mr. Sam Rayburn, the U.S. Congressman from Bonham, Texas had an illustrious career representing his district, the people of Texas, and serving his nation. Near the end of his life, he discovered how ill he really was. He surprised the press, his fellow members of Congress, and the nation by announcing that he was going home to Bonham.
Everyone knew that as Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn could have remained in Washington and received the best medical attention and the most modern care. Bonham hardly had a first-rate hospital and certainly none of those facilities for tests and treatments which could have made Mr. Rayburn’s life easier and less painful. When asked why he wanted to go home to Bonham, he replied, “Bonham, Texas is a place where people know it when you are sick and care when you die.”3
When the spirit of Christmas keeps going, we have helped to create that time and place where people really care what happens to one another, and always know when any person has a need.
Let’s do keep Christmas going!
1The Methodist Hymnal, Nashville: The Methodist Publishing House, 1964, page 375
2Quoted in Pulpit Resource, Volume 10, No. 4
3Alfred Steinberg, Sam Rayburn: A Biography, New York: Hawthorn, 1975, page 344.

Share This On: