When it comes to Christmas, I'm not sure to whom I sense the greater kinship: Ebenezer Scrooge or Charlie Brown.
Neither one embodies the "Christmas spirit" but, as the needles fall off the trees, the merchants count their losses, and the sweaters follow their migratory route to the return counters, we wonder what the "Christmas spirit" really is.
Red Green put it this Scrooge-like way: "Christmas is when you spend money you don't have to buy people you don't like gifts they don't need." Tim Allen of "Home Improvement," explaining to his son why he couldn't spend Christmas with his friends, said, "Christmas is for spending time with your family, not with people you like."
A Jewish acquaintance unwittingly expressed what many feel at Christmas as she described her childhood: "I was SO grateful I was exempt from the agony of Christmas shopping and having to buy this for this one and that for that one and will it be enough and is it too much and 'well, they gave me something . . .' and all that. I feel sorry for my Gentile friends who have to do all that. It seems terrible."
I am being dark and facetious to make a point. Christmas is huge. It is celebrated worldwide, and overshadows some celebrations (like Kwanzaa) and unduly amplifies others (like Hanukkah). It is the only birthday party where the guests receive gifts, and often ignore the Guest of Honor. We fuss over whether stores should be forced to promote Christmas, and worry that Christmas is being assaulted. You're thinking, "What's this Christian doing railing against his big holiday? What is he, a Scrooge?"
Yes, I AM a Scroogeand a Charlie Brown, and that's not so bad.
Not everyone is a Christian (who believes Jesus Christ is who he said he is). Not everyone has money for gifts or Norman Rockwell families or Currier and Ives lives. Christmas acts as a magnifying glassit increases the size of our joys, but also enlarges our sorrows. Charlie says, "Nobody sent me a Christmas card today. I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?"
There are positive sides to Ebenezer and Charlie. They learned lessons that we all might need to learn in order to make Christmas more than a once-a-year, Christian-only humbug holiday.
Charlie learned that the true meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with jazzy music and trees and Lights in the Parkway. Ironically, it has to do with the person and work of Jesus Christ. He learned this from a little boy and a scrawny tree.
He pitied the sad little tree and loved it to life. This is nothing less than the true meaning of Christmas: God pitied us in our sin and loved us to life by sending Jesus to die for us. "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17). He didn't come to be a cute decorationhe came to save mankind from judgment and show us how to live.
Scrooge was an excellent student of the lesson taught him by the spirits. Selfishness and greed are self-destructive attitudes that starve the soul while poisoning others. When he said, "I'm not the man I was!" he echoed the lesson taught by the Spirit of Scripture: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The New Scrooge summed up the genuine attitude of Christmas: "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, Present, and the Future." For those who know Christ, Christmas doesn't come once a year. The good will, joy, hope, charity, and love that bloom brightly like Christmas cactuses are meant to be perennials, lasting all year. Christ came in the past to change our present and purchase our future in heaven. So, although it's after December 25, it's still Christmas for the believer. Live the Spirit of Christmas all year!