To get into the spirit of a certain occasion is something we are often exhorted to do. Sometimes it is very easy to get into the spirit. There was really no need for any exhortation for the country to embrace the spirit of occasion in the weeks and days of the Rugby World Cup. Intense media coverage and comment, educated and at times uneducated analysis through conversation at morning tea, lunchtime, afternoon tea, after work, make that during work as well, during dinner and after dinner meant that it was virtually impossible not to get caught up in the spirit of the occasion. It kind of reaches saturation point.

In a similar vein, it is not very difficult to get caught up in the spirit of Christmas. We are bombarded with images of fairy lights, Christmas trees, brightly coloured wrapping paper, accompanied by exhortations to spend, spend, spend. As the deadline (read Christmas Eve) approaches, shopping malls are not for the faint-hearted. Scarce parking spaces and jostling crowds cause stress levels, already bordering on the danger level, to climb even higher.

There is the story of the woman standing with a crowd of fellow shoppers waiting for a lift in a department store, doing her best to juggle four shopping bags along with two very irritable and grumpy kids. Without thinking and in a moment of extreme frustration she exclaimed to no one in particular, “The person who started all this should be crucified.” When the significance of what she had said dawned on her, she felt kind of foolish.

But is this really the true and intended spirit of Christmas? Not really, and in fact, not remotely. The intended spirit of Christmas has been hijacked by our consumeristic and secular society and the vast majority of us have become disciples to the god of indulgence.

The true spirit of Christmas is about giving, yes, but more about the giving of ourselves. Jesus Christ came into the world so that we might view our role in the world through a lens of unselfish giving for the benefit of others. It is about being prepared to make some sort of sacrifice in order that those less fortunate than ourselves might benefit. I think that in the end that really is the meaning of life. It’s not what we do for ourselves but what we do for others that gives us a sense of purpose and reward. Or to put it more simply, warm fuzzies!

So if we really want to embrace the spirit of Christmas, we need to embrace the spirit of giving in the true sense of the word. We need to understand the role we have been challenged by God through the person of Jesus to play. It is the role of provider and supporter to those in need, whoever they might be.

Speaking of playing our role, let me finish by telling a story of a boy who was playing the role of the innkeeper in a school Nativity play. He was a sturdily built child with spiky ginger hair and two front teeth missing. Before Joseph could even enquire as to whether there might be room at the inn, the little bruiser, arms folded across his chest and chin jutting out like a miniature Mussolini, announced, “There’s no room!”

“But we have travelled far and – ‘ began Joseph.  “There’s no room,’ repeated the innkeeper even louder.

“But – ‘ started Joseph. “Did you not hear me?” the innkeeper bellowed. “I said there was no room. You can go round the back in the barn.”

 “A barn?’ repeated Mary. “We can’t go in a barn.”

 “There’s nowhere else,” said the innkeeper. “Take it or leave it.”

 Now this boy didn’t actually stick to the script but he did show that he understood his role. The question for us all is, ‘Do we understand our role, and are we prepared to play it?’ My Christmas wish is that we are.

 Reverend Warner Wilder