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By KEITH ANDERSON
So how might you define the 'spirit' of Christmas? Some would say it's a spirit of kindness, of generosity, of cheer and goodwill. These might be collectively summarized by those who describe Christmas as the Season of Giving.
I fondly remember one of my 'favorite' Christmases that happened about 25 years ago. I was living in Israel at the time and had the opportunity to play trumpet for a brass quartet that in turn backed up a Christian, Arab Girl's College Choir. This choir had been invited to sing at Bethlehem on Christmas Eve (way cool!). So there were many rehearsals as we prepared for this event. On one cloudless night, which meant the temperatures were at least ten degrees colder than usual, I remember leaving a rehearsal with the strong sense that I had left something behind. I did my usual mental checklist: hat, gloves, trumpet, music, and so on. Nope, I had everything I could think of. A day or so later, it dawned on me just what I had been feeling that when that rehearsal was over, and all the in—between talks and sharing had ended, I knew that I had emotionally (or spiritually) left a part of myself behind. Both in music and through the sharing of stories, the four of us had connected on a deeper level than I think any of us could have planned for in advance. And while I sensed that a part of me had been left behind, I also knew that I had gained something more than what I had started with — for I had given a part of who I was to my fellow musicians, and they in turn had shared something of themselves with me.
The greatest gift of Christmas is Immanuel, a Hebrew name for Jesus that literally means "God with us." (Matthew 1:23) And the second greatest gift is similar, to give of one's time and attention, or to give the gift of companionship.
How simple this gift is — you don't even have to wrap it. Yet how significant and precious — even powerful — this gift can be! This gift, it seems so clearly to me, captures the fullness of the Christmas spirit. I pray that you received such a gift as this last week, and that you continue to share this precious gift with those in your life. Immanuel, may God's presence and the spirit of Christmas be with us all not just this one time of year, but let us recognize it and share it throughout the coming year.
Blessings to you in this wonderful season of Christmas!
Keith Anderson is pastor of Ketchikan’s First Lutheran Church