Christmas spirit – How do I foster it?

Christmas spiritYou want to experience the Christmas spirit but you feel uneasy. You will be with the relatives and in-laws, whom perhaps you don’t often see, and you want it to go well without too much family drama. But you know you will be spending a lot of time with perhaps a person or two you can find irritating or with whom you don’t particularly get on. If seems that there is always someone who never likes the present you buy, the food you cook or the family game you suggest.

There may be disagreement over what to watch on television. Embarrassing questions may be asked and unresolved issues touched on. If some one has a dig, it is so easy to take the bait and get upset with people on top of each other. You may even sometimes wonder whether you can survive Christmas with the relatives.

Yet the Christmas spirit is supposed to be about generosity and warmth, for family togetherness, children and fun. How can we foster that Christmas spirit in the face of our unease? Here are some suggestions.

  • If the strain is beginning to tell, why not take some time out for yourself. Think of some reason to leave the company for a while if someone is really getting under your skin — going for a short walk “to clear the head after too much to drink”, going into the kitchen “to do the washing up”, going upstairs “to check on the children.”
  • You might be able to suggest a change of scene for at least some of the family group e.g. going out to a football match or the pub for those who might enjoy this. It could distract people from what had been going on.
  •  You might try taking a step back from the emotional atmosphere around you.  Adopt passive observation rather than active participation. Observe what is going on as if you are watching a television drama. In this way you can achieve a degree of emotional distance from the person who is irritating you and feel less involved in any arguments.
  •  In these days of ready expression of personal feeling we tend to say ‘Let it all hang out.‘ The idea of suppressing our feelings is not what we are supposed to do. The old Victorian saying ‘Least said, soonest mended,‘ has gone out of common use. But perhaps its time has come again. When feeling provoked, why not try counting to ten  before rising to the bait? Instead of immediately saying what is on your mind, you could ask yourself whether a social occasion such as a special family occasion is really the time and place to have a row about something that is under the surface and not going to be resolved easily. Ask yourself whether speaking your mind would really help clear the air rather than make something bigger than it need be and add ammunition for future tension. Then you can choose between saying nothing or asserting your viewpoint (quietly and with respect for the other person’s perspective).
  •  Don’t allow someone sulking or getting overexcited to spoil your own good time. Even when they are boring or annoying you, try to appreciate the presence of people with whom you have ties of family identity and common interest. It is easier to overlook someone’s negative side when you can see their good points; easier to have fun when you are in good humour. In other words why not enjoy what you can in making the most of the situation you find yourself in?

I believe if you think ahead about possible choices and then at the time choose the wisest one for any given situation, it should be possible to rise above family difficulties and foster a Christmas spirit.

From a deeper perspective, this means letting the ordinary attachments of what has been called the ‘little self’ to die. The ‘little self’s’ ordinary attachment is to receiving attention, praise, or pleasure at the expense of the needs of the social context. I would suggest that only when the ‘little self’ dies can the ‘higher self’ become fully alive. Only when you let your selfish cravings die will the Christmas spirit or Christ’s spirit become incarnate within you.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Christmas Eve Service


An Address by the Rev. James P. Cooper

The Heavenly Doctrines give us an extremely important principle of teaching: that we should not make a philosophical or doctrinal point with immediately illustrating it.

Since the knowledge of and understanding of the nature of God is the most important doctrine of any church, it makes sense for us to illustrate that doctrine.

We also know from the Heavenly Doctrines that the only way that the human mind can learn is by taking information in from the natural world by means of the senses. Even when we read very deep and intellectual books, the ideas contained in the books are still entering our minds through the sense of sight.

Since everything we know comes to us through our senses, it stands to reason that the more senses that we involve, the better we will know something. A teacher understands this when she presents information to the pupil in many different ways, when she combines reading with writing and the spoken word.

Today, people in the business world have come to understand this, and it is becoming more and more common that business reports are accompanied with graphs and other illustrations to help communicate the essential point.

From our lesson, we learned several important things: that the mind needs recreation; that there are many kinds of recreations provided by the governors of the societies when they see that their people need it; and that a prime means of relaxation and entertainment is to see a play.

It’s wonderful to see these spiritual principles at work in our world today. The school year has come to an end, many businesses have slowed down or closed, and people are generally in a festive and happy mood. It is also wonderful to think that the cause for all this happiness is the celebration of the Lord’s birth into the world on Christmas day. As the pressure of our normal schedule recedes, we may find that we have more time to consider and reflect upon the real meaning of Christmas.

Tonight, it is our purpose to draw all of these things together. We begin with worship to turn our hearts and our thoughts to the Lord whose birth on earth we are celebrating. We will then see carefully presented and beautiful scenes from the Christmas story that will bring pleasure, entertain, and stir memories of happy Christmases in the past. And at the same time our senses will be stirred by these sights and sounds in a special way that will help learn new aspects of the Christmas story, help us to have new insights into its power and meaning in our own lives.

We must remember that the whole process is in the Lord’s hands, and under His Divine Providence, and that His government of each human being is according to that person’s reception of Him. If we are in a foul, negative state of mind, the tableaux will not have much of a positive effect on us, but if we try to enter in with a sphere of innocence and awe, with memories of Christmases past, if we seek to worship Him, then the Lord will surely enter into our hearts with power and peace.

So let us put aside the worries of the day. Let us put aside, for a little while, all our earthly cares. Let us let our minds and hearts soar free, unencumbered by the weight of cares. Then, as we listen to very familiar story and look at the scenes, the Lord will be able to enter our lives by secret ways known to Him alone. AMEN.

The angel then called the men of his company together, and on the way gave them the following instruction concerning heaven: “In heaven, as in the world, there are foods and drinks; there are feasts and banquets; and with the leading men there are tables spread with sumptuous delicacies and choice and delicious foods wherewith the (mind and spirit) is exhilarated and recreated. There are also sports, public shows, and entertainments of music and song; and all these in the highest perfection” (CL6:5).

Hearing this, the men who had been invited from the city told them the following: i. “There are here days of festivity appointed by the prince, that the mind may be relaxed from the weariness which desire of emulation brings upon some. On these days, in the public places are concerts of music and songs, and outside the city games and shows. At such times, stages are erected in the public places…. Moreover, outside the city there are also theatrical performances by players, representing the varieties of honorableness and virtue characteristic of the moral life; and among them, for the sake of relationship, are also actors.” Here one of the ten asked, “why for the sake of relationship?” They answered: “No one of the virtues with its display of honorableness and decorum can be presented in a living way except by things related thereto from the greatest of them to the least. The actors present the least of these up to the point of there being none. But it is established by law that nothing of the opposite, which is called dishonorable or unseemly, shall be exhibited except figuratively and, as it were, remotely. The reason why it is so decreed is because nothing honorable or good in any virtue ever passes over by successive progression to what is dishonorable and evil, but only to the least of that virtue until it disappears; and when it disappears, the opposite begins. Therefore, heaven, where all things are honorable and good, has nothing in common with hell where all things are dishonorable and evil” (CL17).

Copyright © 1982 – 2008 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modifiedSeptember 27, 2009