Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What is the true spirit of Christmas?

What is the true spirit of Christmas? The festivities? The feasting? The traditions? In observing my kids I’ve come to the conclusion that it is simply about anticipating the amazing.

I am often left disappointed with the season.  I anticipate amazing things but end up with exhaustion and debt. A conversation with a young lady at our art club helped me remember what’s missing from Christmas:

I noticed her in the far corner of the room.  I asked why she was sitting alone.  She indicated to her cell phone  plugged into the wall.  "I was dying" She said flatly.  I couldn't help but sense there was a double meaning to this phrase, but before I could inquire more she asked, “Can I have this?"

She held up a postcard we used in our discussion at our weekly art program.  Using comic book superheroes as examples we brought up the concept that, "with great power comes great responsibility".  In other words, if we have the power to change the world, do we have a responsibility to do so.  We then went through a list of real world philosophers and teachers that taught a similar message. This is a way that we can start to instill deeper conversations with kids.  After all what is more popular than comic book culture these days.  If you think that comic books are just for kids, think again.  They often deal with deep and difficult issues of life.  Yet we incorporate it into the real world by showing the connections with other teachings.  In this case it was the quote and stylized portrait of Jesus that she held in her hands now.

The quote was a paraphrase of Jesus words in Luke 12:48 "Great gifts mean great responsibilities.  Greater gifts.  Greater responsibilities. 
These four quotes were used in our discussion that day

"Why do you want it?" I didn't care if she took it, I just saw this as an opportunity to probe a bit deeper into her thought process. This is a kid that has often left the room when the conversation edged on vulnerability. 

"I just like how it looks." she responded.

My coworker had designed the card and I acknowledged that it did indeed look cool, but I also took the opportunity to ask "What do you think about Jesus?"as I tapped the card in her hand. 

"Well that's the thing," She paused in introspection and continued, "I know he had some sort of magical birth and he died on a cross, but I don't know anything else about him."  We discussed the bible, but she was really turned off by that idea.  She obviously as some baggage with religion in her life.  I shared with her a few of the stories about Jesus from the scriptures.  Not verbatim.  Just in my own words.  When I finished the story about the woman caught in adultery and how Jesus responded to this woman, this young lady looked back down at the card.
"I can't help but feel like he was pretty cool guy.”  I let those words soak in for a second before I replied.

"He still is." I said.  Her eyes snapped up and bore into me. 

"Are you implying that he is still alive?" She asked coolly.  She then made some rather amusing comments about zombies and ghosts.  Some people may have thought this was a distraction, but I could see she was really trying to sort out what I said.  In a world where almost every movie figure dies and is resurrected, people are not often wowed at the concept of people coming back from the dead.  She needed some time to come to grips of the reality of the implication, not just the story.

Please realize that this is a kid that has grown up and lives in a community where there are over 70 churches listed in the yellow pages and she had never once heard the story of Jesus' life nor of the resurrection. A few days later my co-worker and I took her for lunch and shared God's story with her
from the beginning.  At the end of our meal.  I asked, "Now you know the basics of the story.  What do you think?"

She replied "I think I would very, very much like to meet Jesus."

The disappointments that I have about Christmas can be summed up in those words.  Jesus’ birth was a symbol that God was finally going to put an end to the injustice of the world.  The people of that time didn't really understand that, and if I am honest, I don't really understand it either.  In many ways, the world still seems pretty screwed up.  The Christmas story seems as much like fokelore as Rudolf the red nosed reindeer. Yet the shepherds ran to meet a strangers baby in the middle of the night.  An entourage of foreign astrologers traveled for at least two years just to meet this child.  There was anticipation of the amazing.  These people likely died before Jesus really became anyone special.  But to them, just meeting him was amazement enough.   I need that kind of hope in my own life more than I need another gadget.

This drawing was done by the young lady in the story.


If you're like me, the challenge to find a joyful spirit isn't about saying Merry Christmas vs Happy Holidays.  It isn't about putting up a manger scene in my front yard as opposed to an inflatable Santa.
This Christmas, like this young lady,  the challenge is to take some time to get to know Jesus a little better.  Not just the story of his birth, but the story of his life. If we legitimately look, I bet we find something amazing just from meeting him.


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