It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Tara and I come from Indiana, where we often were left merely dreaming of a white Christmas. More common was the muddy or occasionally green(!) Christmas. But with last weekend’s snowfall firmly in place, we seem to be set on the most traditional of courses this season. Why does the weather seem to affect our experience of this Christmas season?
Christmastime is a wonderful period for self-reflection, introspection, and consideration of the past year. It helps that the holiday comes at the end of our calendar year. Families meet and share stories, churches of all stripes engage in traditional worship services, and people exchange gifts and cards of love and appreciation. Our culture has adopted this holiday as its own, and many believers and non-believers alike find deep meaning and value in this season of the year.
From a Christian perspective, this season is important for the church for several reasons. First, of course, we remember the birth of our Savior over two thousand years ago. Without that singular event, the world – and our sense of hope and salvation – would be much different. However, another important influence on our church life arises out of this season, as well: the opportunity for us to express our unity.
Church people share greeting cards, bake cookies, host parties, and so forth – all in an effort to celebrate the season together. Again, these are practices that our culture has adopted, as well. But what is the real benefit of these experiences?
In John 17:20-26, Jesus prayed for all who would come to believe in him, including us. One of his prayers was that we may be one as he and the Father are one. What a mysterious unity we are to express! And when this unity is done properly, the world will know that the Father has sent the Son and that the Father loves the world incredibly greatly.
Perhaps the world has adopted Christmas as its own holiday to such an extent that our message of unity is drowned out by secular carols and gift-giving. What then are we to do about this situation? Should we demand that our culture return Christmas to us, its rightful owners?
Not at all. Instead, we should think creatively about how to extend the “Christmas Spirit” – which is really the Spirit of Christ – beyond the month of December. How will we authentically express our unity in front of the world in January? In March? In July? In October?
The warmth and peace of this season, ushered in for some by the first snowfall, must extend beyond even the snow’s melting in the spring. Look for ways throughout the coming months to reveal Christ to the world through how you interact with other believers, especially those in our own congregation.