The Spirit of Christmas

From Rev. Jeremy Simons, Cathedral Chaplain
December 4, 2018

As much as we may love Christmas, it is only natural that feelings of anxiety also play their part in the season. This is true of most important events in our lives. The more meaningful these events are to us, the greater leverage the fears have. It is only natural to have the feeling that the events we put on or attend, the food we prepare, the gifts we buy, the time we spend, can’t be ordinary or wasted, but must be special.
There is nothing wrong with being anxious. It is a normal part of life. Christmas songs even playfully evoke it: “You’d better not shout, you’d better not cry, you’d better not pout, I’m telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town!” In other words, we better get ready. No one wants to get coal in their stocking.
We are told that this kind of preparation even happens in the next life:

“When angels are about to arrive… a spirit is sent on ahead to prepare the way. He then produces a feeling of fear in people, and warns them to receive the angels in a kindly manner… preparing the mind and trying to forestall anything disrespectful.” Arcana Caelestia 8028

A feeling of fear is produced ahead of the arrival of the angels. John the Baptist did this in preparing the way for the Lord, when he called them to repentance. Yet when angels actually do come, their message is the opposite, as we know from so many examples in the Christmas story:

The angel said “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
The angel said to the shepherds “Do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy.”

The truth is that fear is inherent in all love:

“Every love carries with it a fear.” Conjugial Love 371
“Love devoid of holy fear is insipid, like food that has no salt in it and so no flavor, whereas love accompanied by fear is like food which is salted but does not taste of salt. The fear that goes with love is a fear lest harm is done to the Lord in any way, or to the neighbor in any way, and so to good and truth in any way.” Arcana Caelestia 3718

So anxiety about the season is not unusual or out of place. At the same time we might say that the goal of the Christmas spirit is to take these fears away. May the happy things that go on at this time of year, and the hopeful Christmas messages that we read and hear, soothe our hearts and fill us with the spirit of the season.

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