“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me!” rejoiced the prophet. “Do not quench the Spirit!” commands the Apostle. Christ came in the Holy Spirit, to give us the Holy Spirit. The day of His birth approaches quickly—Christmas is a mere eight days away! So in Church we pray, Come, Lord Jesus! And meanwhile, the world says: “You better get the Christmas spirit! And quick!” [Spanish]
Now, can we analyze the similarities, and differences, between the Holy Spirit we read about in the Bible and the “Christmas spirit?” The “spirit of Christmas” we read about in books by authors like Charles Dickens, or hear about on the Charlie Brown Christmas Special or on Amazon.com?
First we can say that the Holy Spirit—Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and by Whom the Word was made flesh; the Spirit Who fills us with wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude, and holy fear: He is a divine Person of the Blessed Trinity; He is God.
Meanwhile, “Christmas spirit…” That’s a little more vague. The phrase can mean different things to different people. But everyone more or less agrees: the spirit of Christmas involves kindness and generosity towards family members, friends, associates—towards everyone. It means rejoicing in human goodness and sharing time together, sharing food, and a warm house.
Now, the original event, the thing involving the Holy Spirit: it really did happen. That is, Jesus Christ really was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judea, and shepherds saw angels and rejoiced. That original event is so magnificently lovely, so wonderful, so promising and hopeful for everyone, that we have kept a great feast to commemorate it all these many centuries.
And no matter how much any huckster tries to turn Christmas into just another reason to pull out the credit- or debit-card, the “spirit of Christmas” cannot wither completely into something desiccated and purely secular. Christmas can never become utterly shallow and materialistic.
For about forty years or so now, some Christians have increasingly lamented the secularization of Christmas. But holy Mother Church continues to keep the day as a commemoration of the original most-sacred event. And we will keep doing it that way until the cows come home. The Church will celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25 until well after every credit-card company currently in operation has choked to death on all their chip readers and swipe fees.
When families get together and give each other sweet little gifts, we rejoice. After all, it’s the three wise men who started that tradition, not UPS or Sears and Roebuck. Of course it’s better to go to church first, before the Yule-tide cheer at home. Going to Mass makes Christmas much, much better and more fun. But why fight with anyone about anything on Christmas? Fighting goes against the spirit of Christmas, according to people like Charles Dickens and Charlie Brown. Far be it from us to contradict that, we who worship the babe of Bethlehem as the Prince of Peace.
After all, in the end, there’s no real contest between Jesus and Santa. There’s no contest at all. Jesus wins. Jesus is the divine Child, with the power to govern the sun, the sky, and the stars—right there in His little hands. Jesus makes Christmas Christmas—He makes it holy, joyful, and blessedly quiet. Santa, as we know, started his long career as a bishop in Jesus’ Church. And Santa became popular because he is one of Jesus’ saints.
So there’s no point in picking fights with anyone about the secularization of Christmas. Better just to focus on good will towards men. But we do have a battle to fight—with ourselves. Can we Christian souls stop the frantic motion of our day-to-day lives, and pray and meditate, and maintain perspective? Can we find the interior peace we need to come to the manger and quietly rejoice?
We have come to the right place, if we want the Holy Spirit to help us. On tv, they love to talk about how “magical” Christmas should be. “Magical”—because it snows, or because the kids believe in Santa Clause, or because you spend your money on the right thing.
But there’s really no magic in the spirit of Christmas. The Holy Spirit doesn’t do magic tricks. Yes, there are magi. But believing in Christ and rejoicing in His loving goodness, and finding the sweet peace of Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds and the animals—it’s not “magic.” The enchantment of Christmas is the work of the same Holy Spirit that made the whole thing happen in the first place–the same Holy Spirit that accomplished the Incarnation in the Virgin’s womb. “Magical” is a penny-ante sideshow, compared to God becoming man for the sake of our salvation.
Let’s just stay focused on the babe in the manger, and the glad tidings that He brings, and rejoice in Him, and let Him give us a merry Christmas.