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The Holiday Spirit

By Dave Breese

There are three main holidays which we will be celebrating in these coming days. Each one of them bears a particular message that we will find to be important to us and to the world in our time.

The first of these is Thanksgiving. In a world of indignation, resentment, hatred, ungratefulness, the word “thanksgiving” seems like an anomaly. Nevertheless, the attitude of mind which is best described by the word thanksgiving is advocated for us many times in the Word of God. The Apostle Paul told us that we are to be “giving thanks always for all things” (Eph. 5:20). He is therefore telling us that ours must be an attitude of gratefulness for everything in life that happens. As hard as this may be upon occasion, this is the key to joyous living.

Thanksgiving is always to be the attitude by which we pray. It is indeed not merely the key to successful prayer, but it’s a component of prayer itself. We are to thank God for the answer to our prayers even before those answers may come.

We Christians know this and, therefore, prayers before meals are practiced everywhere and they are basically a moment of thanksgiving for the very food that we eat. We know and confess, therefore, that our very sustenance comes from the Lord.

The pilgrims in colonial America knew this more than most. When they ordained a day of thanksgiving, they were thankful for their very lives. They knew that the good providence of God had delivered them from starvation and death. Therefore, their thanksgiving was often lifted with tears of joy as well as totally sincere gratefulness within the heart.

When we think of it, our situation is the same. The Bible asks the question, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (I Cor. 4:7). In fact, it is instructive to note the hundreds of times that the Bible uses the word “receive” or “received” concerning man and his relationship to God. One finally gains the impression that everything in all of life has come to us, not because of our works, but because of the grace of Jesus Christ.

This is certainly true about salvation; it comes to us all of grace. There are spiritual subverters in our time who demand works as well as faith as the basis of our salvation. Their efforts are mistaken, however, because too many times the Bible announces that salvation and everything else is by grace. God gives us grace for saving, grace for living, grace for assurance and grace for everything. This is why the heart of the true Christian is filled with thanksgiving, because he knows that he would be instantly undone except for the gracious provision of God. Sincere thanksgiving is therefore the proper, indeed the inevitable, attitude of the perceptive Christian. But for the grace of God, the whole world would long since have sunk into hell and eternal perdition.

Therefore, at this time of the annual celebration of Thanksgiving, we must come before God with grateful hearts for His mercy and His love. Any attitude other than sincere thanksgiving is entirely mistaken and totally foolish. Thankfulness to God should surely be one of the first marks of a Christian.

The second holiday which comes to us in this season is that of Christmas. With the singing of familiar Christmas carols, the sight of falling snow, the sound of the wind getting brisker, and the pleasant twinkle of lights everywhere, we will soon be reminded that the Christmas season is newly upon us. We also sense that the coming of this holiday is not merely a set of activities, but there is a certain “feeling” in the air. Many of the Christmas songs talk about how “it’s almost beginning to feel like Christmas,” recognizing a certain attitude that has come upon the minds of people. In one way or another, we have come to call this feeling “the holiday spirit.” A general sense of memory, joy, nostalgia, anticipation and similar things go together to make it that indefinable but very real thing, “the holiday spirit.” It is probable that every person in Christian civilization remembers, during the holidays, a score of past Christmases and a lot of people from the Wise Men to Ebenezer Scrooge. Yes, these are days in which a very real holiday spirit comes upon the nations of the West. We do well to think about that holiday spirit.This joyous day we call Christmas is more than toys and tinsel, of course. Rather, it is the day of remembrance of the most astonishing miracle in the history of the universe. That totally miraculous event was the birth of a baby, the Lord Jesus Christ. Born of a virgin, that baby was God Himself, taking on the form of human flesh and becoming like we are.

This was the miracle about which the angel spoke when he said concerning Mary, “She shall bring forth a son, and you shall call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). In the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, deity touched humanity and, from that moment on, no person can doubt the love of God. The love of God was forever presented to man in the coming, the life, the death, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We understand Christmas when we recognize “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (II Cor. 5:19). So, as we celebrate Christmas again this year, we rejoice anew in the promise that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The gift of God, which is everlasting life, is the most unimaginably precious gift that God ever gave to man.

The third holiday that we remember during this holiday season is New Year’s Day. In this, we celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. The New Year celebration speaks to us of new opportunities, new possibilities, new hopes, new, bright anticipations. It even speaks to us of the marvel of the prophetic Word, in which God says, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

There are many times in life when we look back at occasions of failure or foolishness and, as a consequence, are greatly discouraged. It is so easy for the person who (with Satan’s help) has made a mistake, for him to say to himself, “God doesn’t love me anymore and there are no more possibilities in life.” This is, of course, a lie that is propagated by the devil. The fact that any person is yet alive in the flesh in this world is prima facie evidence that he has not run out of bright opportunities and great possibilities. To Christians of all of the ages, God speaks in His address to the Church in Philadelphia and says, “Behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it” (Rev. 3:8). Whatever sin or shortcoming may have overtaken the Christian, there is forgiveness, cleansing and the opportunity to begin anew. The coming of the new year should remind us of this.

Speaking about bright possibilities, this is surely the time to anticipate them. The world of technology has given us new, great instruments to touch millions of people with the message of the Gospel of Christ. The very anxieties of the world expand the possibilities for global evangelism. This because we Christians alone have the message from on high for a time like this.

In addition, God, in His providence, has brought the brightest generation of young people into the Church that most of us have ever seen. They are familiar with modern technology and, when consecrated to Christ, can be laborers in a marvelous day of tremendous possibilities. What will the future hold? It will hold danger, opportunity, challenge and a hundred unpredictables that lend great excitement to the prospect of tomorrow. Therefore, it is wise for the Christian to face this new year with bright anticipation and a sense of serious appreciation of the times in the midst of which we live. This New Year’s Day will bear greater import toward the future than most that we have seen.

We would also be remiss if we did not remind ourselves that the coming year may bring to pass that great event, the Rapture of the Church. All that is taking place in today’s world reminds us of the marvelous promise that Christ is coming again for His own. How grand that we have the promise, “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (I Cor. 15:51,52). What a moment that will be! We shall receive our glorified bodies and be taken home to heaven, ever to be with the Lord. Yes, indeed, there is a generation that will not die, but will be caught up intact into that great meeting in the air. That generation could certainly be this generation! Why not?

We should, therefore, let “the holiday spirit” be filled with joyous participation in the opportunities of today and bright anticipation for tomorrow. Yes, before the year is out we all could be translated from earth to heaven. Because of this blessed hope, let us today and throughout this holiday season, be filled with joy.

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