Many folks recognize that the spirit of the Christmas season is special, even those who lament the commercialism that permeates the holidays. People are just naturally drawn to the emphasis on peace and brotherhood that gives relief from the usual fear-filled public messages.
As evidence of the spiritual-mindedness of the season, church attendance will often spike at Christmas-time. Sometimes, regular church-goers will chide these seasonal church folks for their occasional attention to things eternal. Perhaps it would be better to ponder why these holidays draw from us collectively a renewed, if temporary, interest in spiritual matters..
What makes Christmas so special to so many? For me the answer lies in the picture of God and the associated view of mankind which the season encourages. The story of Christmas projects a picture of God which stresses how much God loves and how blessed mankind is because of that love. This message is in marked contrast to the sermons on doctrinal purity, salvation requirements, and pending judgment that often prevail the rest of the year.
It is not hard to see that the Christmas picture of God has a much greater appeal than that of the God of eternal damnation. A positive message is always stronger than a negative one. If we could maintain the concept of God conveyed by the simple, miraculous story of Christmas without diluting it with a “yes-but” qualifier about God’s wrath and judgment, then maybe the world at large would embrace the Christmas message year round. Real transformation through the message of Christ eludes us because we habitually return to the idea of the fearful God of the special few, seeing it as somehow consistent with the God of the Christmas story. Thus we yearly catch a fleeting glimpse of what is real and then lapse back into the surreal come January.