What Is Christmas Spirit?

Many believe that life, people, and the world feel different during the Christmas season. Some think that the idea that the world is in a collectively cheerful mood is a self-deceptive fantasy. Yet others believe that Christmas encourages more expression of goodness from people than other times of the year. For example, some are more thankful, generous, and loving, which results in a special seasonal atmosphere.

When people say the phrase “Christmas spirit” in a secular context, they aren’t referring to an immaterial being but to a person or act that aligns with the character and attitude of the season. Yet, in Christianity, the phrase can refer to the Holy Spirit, who enabled Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus.

What are the different meanings of the Christmas spirit? What does it mean in a non-religious sense? What does it mean according to a Christian worldview? What role did the Spirit play in Jesus’ birth? What are the different ways the Bible uses the word “spirit”? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Also see 151 Christmas Hymns and Carols to learn more.

Christmas Spirit
What does “spirit” mean in the Christian worldview? See below

What are the meanings of the Spirit of Christmas?

The term “Christmas spirit” confuses some people because its ordinary non-religious meaning refers to the atmosphere and attitudes of the holiday season. However, Christmas is undeniably a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. In fact, the word “Christmas” combines the words “Christ” and “Mass,” a traditional ceremony in the Roman Catholic Church that recalls Jesus’ crucifixion.

What does “spirit” mean in the non-religious sense? One definition of “spirit” is a being or creature that is not physical or material in nature (e.g., an angel). Another definition, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a state of mind dominated by a particular emotion.” [1] Synonyms for this meaning of “spirit” include mood, feeling, emotion, sentiment, tone, and personality.

For example, the famous pilot Charles Lindbergh named his plane “The Spirit of St. Louis,” after his hometown in Missouri. In this use of the word, “spirit” doesn’t refer to a non-material being. Instead, it conveys that the plane and its mission reflect the sentiment of the city of St. Louis. Both Christians and non-religious people use the word “spirit” in this manner.

What does “spirit” mean in the Christian worldview? In the context of the Bible and church, “spirit” sometimes refers to non-material beings, like angels or demons, because both are spiritual creatures. Sometimes the Bible uses “spirit” to talk about the non-material part of a person. Many people think “soul” is synonymous with spirit, though the Bible often uses different words to describe them. (See the chart below for more.)

Christian author Stuart Briscoe writes, “The spirit of Christmas needs to be superseded by the Spirit of Christ. The spirit of Christmas is annual; the Spirit of Christ is eternal. The spirit of Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural. The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ is a divine person. That makes all the difference in the world.” [2]

Also see How Old Was Mary When She Had Jesus? to learn more.

Christmas food
What did the angel Gabriel say to Mary about the Holy Spirit? See below

What role did the Holy Spirit play in Jesus’ birth?

The New Testament Gospels teach that God became a man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. In the first chapter of his Gospel, John writes that “the Word was God” (1:1) before explaining that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14, ESV). The Word became flesh refers to God becoming a human being.

God chose to be born to humble, faithful servants. Luke reports that Joseph and Mary, who were of little means but much faith, were betrothed to be married when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God,” said the angel. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31).

Mary responded with an understandable question: “And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?'” (Luke 1:34). Gabriel’s answer described the role of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ birth. “And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be borne will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

Mary’s reply demonstrated why God chose her in the first place: “And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38).

Also see What Does the Holy Spirit Look Like? to learn more.

Christmas lights
Can “spirit” refer to a person in the Bible? See below

What are the different ways the Bible uses “spirit”?

The term “spirit” can also refer to the Holy Spirit in the Bible. Sometimes writers use the phrase “Holy Spirit,” but other times, they say “spirit.” Many English translations capitalize the word when it’s clear that the context is referring to the Holy Spirit.

“Holy Spirit,” i.e. the third member of the TrinityLuke 4:1, “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.”
“Spirit,” i.e. the Holy SpiritMatthew 4:1, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
“spirit,” i.e. an angelHebrews 4:12, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”
“spirit,” i.e. a demonMark 1:26, “And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.”
“spirit,” i.e. the immaterial part of a personHebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Also see How To Walk In the Spirit to learn more.

[1] Source
[2] Meet Him at the Manger, Christianity Today magazine. V. 41.

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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