Is the Spirit of Christmas a jolly laugh? Is it unwavering belief in Santa's magic?
Maybe it's more like the "spirits" in A Christmas Carol, spirits that cause us to reflect on and remember regrets, then change into better people?
Or maybe it's a Spirit of good feelings toward all?
With the help of Biblical scholars wiser than I, let's look to the Incarnation for an answer to this elusive question.
A Modern Demonstration of Incarnation
ITMI's Molly left her family and home in Arizona, bound for India. Her mission? To care for and love women and girls rejected by society in India.
Ironically, her decision to offer Jesus to suffering women in India meant she'd have to change her own definition of being a woman. Because being a woman in India is a very different thing than being a woman in America.
Women in India are dehumanized, especially in the lower castes. Their opinions are less valued. Their silent compliance is expected in many situations, and a widow - especially one from a lower caste - is considered to virtually have no value to society or to her family.
To be among those she was called to love, Molly willingly gave up many rights American women enjoy, submitting herself to the Indian cultural norms for women.
This is such a wonderful modern demonstration of the Good News that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us," which we spend this time of the year celebrating.
That He, "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (Phil 2:6)
Of course Molly's demonstration only reflects the greatness of Jesus' incarnation in a small way. It's her gift to her beloved Savior. Meant to glorify Him by obediently following His footsteps, pointing to Him as the Great One.
The True Spirit of Christmas is One of Sacrifice
J.I. Packer argues that having the true Spirit of Christmas is sacrificially enriching others. He says,
"The Christmas Spirit is the Spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor - spending and being spent - to enrich their fellow men, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others - and not just their own friends - in whatever way there seems need."
Jesus made himself poor for our sake. He was born into hay. In the middle of a stinky, beastly barn. To parents who held absolutely no position or power in their world.
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." (2 Cor. 8:9)
Modern-day Bethlehem behind the "field where Shepherd lay keeping their sheep."
Your Demonstration of the True Spirit of Christmas
And so, my friends, because of the list below and the many other needs met around the world through your sacrifice, I can say without hesitation that you, ITMI supporters, can rest in knowing you have demonstrated the true Spirit of Christmas!
- The New Life Center remained open this year, although for awhile, things looked as though the transitional home for men in Poland might shut its doors.
- Over 1 million copies of various forms of Piotr Zaremba's Bible Translation have been handed out.
- Muhindo Kawede and the International School of Missions gave Portable Bible Schools that commissioned 20 missionaries and saw 87 saved.
- Paul and Molly's Girls' home remained functional with and the girls' needs met.
- Tim and Ashley Keller replaced an old field vehicle with a newer, road worthy one and delivered Bibles and discipleship materials to hard-to-reach places.
- Jahim Buli was able to fund and build a place for his burgeoning church to gather in the middle of a collapsing South Sudanese economy.
- Gospel Joy Workshops and Evangelism expanded to new cities, heralded the good news to thousands and rejoiced as at least 100 new believers began relationships with Jesus, while many more attended follow up events to learn more about Jesus and His pursuit of a personal relationship with them.
- Kalisz Baptist Church was renovated in Poland, preparing to open its doors to underprivileged youth in the city.
- A ministry facility made of 3 large shipping containers was constructed in Stone Hill, South Africa, allowing Charl van Wyk and his church to remain active in the underprivileged squatter's camp year-round.
- Steve Evers, Jon Dekkers and Steve Lee visited ITMI partners in Southern Africa, delivering, encouraging, bolstering ministries and collecting stories of God's work. (stay tuned for more on this trip next week in the January 2016 edition of ITMI Monthly!)
- Excellence Christian Academy in Zambia provided another year of quality, Christian education for many students whose families can't afford school fees, and rejoiced as 12 new believers came to faith as a result of school-wide outreach efforts.
- Charl van Wyk and a team of missionaries distributed 210 Bibles to believers who didn't have them in Cameroon and encouraged and trained local pastors. The Bibles were funded by Charl's Bibles and Bikes Fund.
Thank you for your exhibition of the True Spirit of Christmas all year-round!
May the True Christmas Spirit continue to captivate year hearts and minds this week, for the rest of the year and into the next.
May your days be merry and bright - not with the light of Christmas lights, storefront windows or even the smiles of loved ones - but with the glow of being in tune with the One who said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)