Christmas junkie that I am, I feel that we can keep its wonder before us if we worry less about feelings and more about implanting the truths of Christmas in our minds.  This is my column on the topic in the South Carolina Baptist Courier.  The online version isn’t up yet for this week’s edition, but here’s a link to the site:

Having the mind of Christmas

I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about the ‘Spirit of Christmas.’ Even after Christmas, I have wondered, year after year, if I worshipped well, donated well or reflected properly. Sadly, much of my behavior was devoted to the frantic search for a feeling, and the desperate attempt to maintain that feeling beyond the month or so that we really focus on the Nativity of Jesus.

Of course, the feelings of Christmas can be magnificent. They carry us to the heights of heaven as we contemplate the beauty and wonder of the birth of Messiah. On the other hand, as my work in the emergency room reveals, feelings can drag us to the pits. Feelings leave men and women wondering why God, or loved ones, have abandoned them. Feelings cause teens to overdose or cut their beautiful wrists to drive those feelings away. Feelings can lead to the tragic anesthesia of suicide. And all of these hurts and tragedies are in ample supply at Christmas.

I’m not surprised. If we consider the implications of Christmas from the standpoint of spiritual warfare, we are commemorating the great heavenly invasion to take earth back from it’s cruel dictator, Satan. He’s still unhappy about that. And so, at Christmas, even before and after, he attacks us more viciously than ever.

The enemy loves feelings; they are vulnerable and mutable. And we may love them too much ourselves. We live our lives trying to ‘feel’ our way through every situation, especially the spiritual ones. Maybe we do this because ‘feeling’ good is so magnificent that we’re continually willing to risk ‘feeling’ badly.

So we Christians feel sinful, though forgiven; we feel inadequate, though scripture says we ‘have been made perfect forever.’ We feel sad and sorrowful for things past, and fearful for things to come, though we bear the assurance that eternity will leave all of that looking like an old newspaper, wadded up in the corner; yesterday’s news.

I wonder, then, if we should think less of the spirit of Christmas (in which we abuse and misuse the term spirit anyway), and should contemplate more deeply the ‘mind’ of Christmas. That way we wouldn’t be trapped by saying, ‘I just don’t have the Christmas spirit,’ like it was a creature we could some years capture, and other years not. We could then begin to teach ourselves to have ‘the mind’ of Christmas, year after year, month after month, during Advent, Epiphany and beyond.

The mind of Christmas would inform us that at a place and time in history, God came to be with us in the form of Jesus, the Christ . It would remind us that the little child of Bethlehem was a spiritual nuclear bomb in swaddling clothes; a stunning, crushing blow against all of the misery of human history. In the mind of Christmas, we would know that he wasn’t just a quaint, darling representation of ‘niceness.’ His niceness, his gentility were true, but his truth, his strength, his power were too much for superficially ‘nice’ or conveniently ‘spiritual’ people to grasp, then or now.

The mind of Christmas would say that we were fallen then, as we are fallen now; and that Jesus understood our state, came to comfort us, came to find and redeem us. That he came to take all our verifiable pain and sorrow, all our fallen nature, all our death and hopelessness, and drag it kicking and screaming to the grave, where it would remain, and he would rise. The mind of Christmas would tell us that we, as believers, rise with Him daily, even as we die with Him daily.

The mind of Christmas would linger only briefly on lovely things past, knowing full well that the Christmases of eternity will be beyond our most cherished feelings and will not end at midnight on 26 December, in the year infinity.

I think I’m speaking to myself most of all; honestly, I’m an emotion junkie. But I believe that in studying and contemplating the verities of our faith, we would be so much more comforted than we are by frantically doing things to find an elusive emotion we call a ‘spirit’; since in so doing, we subject ourselves to rules and laws of our own manufacture, by which we hope to earn that spirit, that feeling. And yet, we know as believers that we cannot earn Christ. We can only embrace the gift that He is to us.

The true Spirit of Christmas is the one that inspired St. Paul to say to us all: ‘Be transformed by the renewing of your minds.’ So let’s go and put on the ‘Mind of Christmas.’ And carry it forth, undiminished, unfettered by false feelings, to a world caught in a quagmire of dark and confusing emotions; but desperately in need of the truth.

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