I’ve been reading J.I. Packer’s Knowing God this past week and its been difficult not to post on here everyday something from the book. Until now I’ve refrained. I can clearly see how this book that has been out since 1973 is already considered a classic and has over a million copies in print. Though having over a million copies in print doesn’t make a book worth reading, Knowing God‘s reputation and recommendation speak heavily to its influence in modern Evangelicalism. I picked up my copy at a thrift store, and the first 5 chapters are worth the price I paid of $2 and certainly worth full retail or a bargain on Amazon. Check it out.
Packer’s chapter God Incarnate is of course about the incarnation of Christ. It is an injustice and I dare say impossible to properly talk about the incarnation of Christ without talking about what is commonly known as the Christmas story. The Christmas story is about the incarnation after all. Packer shares the idea of being in the ‘Christmas spirit’ year around:
We talk glibly of the “Christmas spirit,” rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous meaning. It ought to mean the reproducing of human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas. And the Christ mas spirit ought to be the mark of every Christian year around.
It is our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians–I will be more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians–go through this world in the spirit of the priest and the Levite in our Lord’s parable, seeing human needs all around them, but (after a pious wish, and perhaps a prayer, that God might meet those needs) averting their eyes and passing by on the other side. That is not the Christmas spirit. Nor is it the spirit of those Christians–alas, they are many–whose ambition in life seems limited to building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the submiddle-class of sections of of the community, Christian and non-Christian, to get on by themselves.
The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor–spending and being spent to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others–and not just their own friends–in whatever way there seems need.
There are not as many who show this spirit as there should be. If God in mercy revives us, one of the things he will do will be to work more of this spirit in our hearts and lives. If we desire spiritual quickening for ourselves individually, one step we should take to cultivate this spirit. “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Cor 8:9) ” Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5) “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart. (Psalm 119:32)
A good word indeed I believe from Dr. Packer. I pray that in my own heart as I read this I’d be less idolatrous and clingy to the the things of this word and be more of a servant to my neighbor and a better worshiper of my Lord.