Links Daily Devotional

The Spirit of Christmas?

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry… (James 1:19, NIV)

You’ve just read one of my favorite Christmas verses. I know, you thought it would be Luke’s parenthetical line about Quirinius being governor of Syria at the time of Augustus’ decree. My apologies.

We are the agents of glory-giving to God, and we do so by being the carriers of his peace.Of course, James’ words were not cast in a Christmas context, if for no other reason than that the apostles had no inkling that the nativity of Jesus would be added to liturgical calendars some three to four hundred years after the fact. And the early church fathers who did establish the Christ Mass could likewise never have foreseen that Christmas as we know it would come to include everything from strings of electric lights to a phenomenon known as Black Friday. But if they had…

And here’s where you might begin to see with me—like a caddie and a player agreeing on the line of a confusing little putt—how James’ words to “take note” of three particular behaviors makes perfect sense in our present season.

What if, while standing in a long holiday line, we took the time to listen to the struggles of the people around us?

What if, while tempted to complain by the time we reached the front of that line, we held our tongue and recognized that the seasonal employee behind that register has far more concerns this time of year than we do?

And what if, rather than fuming all the while with anger over incidental frustrations, we left that store with the kind of steadfast joy that opens the door for another and greets them with a sincere “Merry Christmas” wish?

Yes, that James sure knew what he was talking about, not only when he identified those three behavioral characteristics, but also when he pushed them to this conclusion: “…for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:20).

Here you might recall the more duly famous Christmas line from the Scriptures, in the song of the angel host: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). Christ, we know, came to bring such peace, even on an earth that wars against him. And as with all things in his character, he has left them for outworking in us by his Holy Spirit. We are the agents of glory-giving to God, and we do so by being the carriers of his peace. That might actually be the truest “spirit of Christmas.”

Jeff Hopper
December 8, 2015
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