But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Christmas is all about lists. For the last many weekends I’ve announced lists of events our church is doing throughout Advent, ending with a killer list of eight big Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services in four different locations in three cities. Bam! Lists at Christmas can be a life saver. I don’t know how we’d do Christmas without lists. I suspect, however, that these same lists might be the bane of Christmas. The lists we make up and check off to save our holiday (holy day) might be ruining it instead.
We wake up every morning during this season wondering what we have to do today. What’s next on my list? My kids each made long, specific, pricey lists of every item, in order of earth-shattering importance, they want for Christmas. Shannon has a shopping list she is working from today: Cyber Monday. She’s prepared to go to battle. Forget the new “Star Wars: Battlefront” or other violent online gaming platforms; today it’s “Store Wars: Battlefront.” The virtual body count will be higher than ever. Her screen-lit squinting eyes and stoney (but still very pretty) face will tell the tale. The blurry, machine gun tapping of her fingers on the keyboard will be driven by the power of… The List.
Paul listed qualities associated with the Holy Spirit in Galatians. Christians often hear these as items on yet another list, but they are not meant to be received this way. They are not fruits (plural) of the Spirit; they are words describing one thing: the Fruit (singular) of the Holy Spirit. One Spirit. One Fruit. Lots of amazing features to this one fruit, and Paul’s point is that none of them are unlawful. The bigger point is that we ought to live in and by the power of God, the Holy Spirit, and not by any religious list of laws we try to keep to earn favor with God.
The Lord can replenish Advent and Christmas for me, if I see it as one thing. It is not about the anxiety-producing amount of items and events on my many lists. It is about one thing: the birth of Jesus Christ into this world and into my heart. Lists are fine, but I can misplace or ignore them and still have Christmas. Really, I can. The one thing I need to make sure I don’t misplace or ignore is not a thing after all, but Jesus Christ Himself. Amen.