2016 Christmas Worship Guide

Where resides the Christmas spirit?
By Pastor Ben Manley, First Baptist Church

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[December 12, 2016]  A recent research team has shown that the “Spirit of Christmas lives in our hearts and our cerebellum.”

A functional MRI study was conducted in October 2015. The Functional Imaging Unit and Department of Clinical Physiology, Nuclear Medicine and PET in Denmark performed this study locating a “Christmas spirit” network in the brain that is activated by images with Christmas themes.

The Christmas spirit has been a widespread phenomenon for centuries, commonly described as feelings of joy and nostalgia mixed with associations to merriment, gifts, delightful smells, and copious amounts of good food.

It is yet to be determined, however, where in the human body this “Christmas spirit” resides and which biological mechanisms are involved.

This research was an attempt to localize the Christmas spirit in the human brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Christians have for centuries recognized emotional changes that happen during the yuletide season, “Peace on earth and good will to men." This season is full of joy, including family get-together’s, parties, visits and gifts.

This study indicates that our neural-makeup may have a larger role in the Christmas spirit than believed before.

The objective of this experiment was to detect and localize the Christmas spirit in the human brain.

Designed as a single blinded, cross-cultural group study, with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); ten healthy participants were randomly chosen from the Copenhagen area who routinely celebrate Christmas and 10 healthy people living in the same area who have no Christmas traditions. An even number of males and females were chosen who all were in their early twenties.

The neural networks showed a series of cerebral regions are more active in people who celebrate Christmas with positive associations, as compared with people with no Christmas traditions and neutral associations.

Neural activity was monitored as the subjects viewed a series of images with Christmas themes interweaved with neutral images having similar characteristics but containing nothing that symbolizes Christmas. After scanning, participants answered a questionnaire about their Christmas traditions and the associations they have with Christmas. Brain activation maps from scanning were analyzed for Christmas related activation in the “Christmas” and “non-Christmas” groups individually.

Subsequently, differences between the two groups were calculated to determine Christmas specific brain activation.

Conclusion, there is a “Christmas spirit network” in the human brain comprising several cortical areas. This network had a significantly higher activation in people who celebrate Christmas with positive associations as opposed to a people who have no Christmas traditions and neutral associations. Further research is necessary to understand this and other potential holiday circuits in the brain.

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Suffice it to say that the joy that comes from the birth of Jesus affects our body, spirit and soul, but the brain with its wonderful mysterious power may be more central to enjoying Christmas than we have ever known.

The Christmas spirit has eluded science thus far; though well known as a pleasant feeling, its cerebral location and mechanisms are still a mystery. This research is a beginning of understanding how God has created His Spirit to master the emotions.

Throughout the world, it is estimated that millions of people are prone to displaying Christmas spirit deficiencies. This is known as the “bah humbug” syndrome, Seasonal Deficient Disorder, or simply Christmas Blues. This research will help further treatment and cure for those suffering with these conditions.

Accurate localization of the Christmas spirit is a paramount first step in being able to help this group of patients. Location of the Christmas spirit could also contribute to a more general understanding of the brain’s role in festive cultural traditions, making a medical contribution to cross cultural festivities and goodwill to all.

To find the complete answer, perhaps science could investigate the source of “The real Spirit.” But then again, “The carnal mind cannot understand the things of the Spirit.” I find it comforting to understand a little bit more about how God created man and the mechanics He designed for us to function.


Read all the articles in our new
2016 Christmas Worship Guide

What would you expect in a Messiah Savior? 4
Finding the good stuff at Christmas 6
Where resides the Christmas spirit 8
A wordLESS Christmas 11
Christmas - God's reminder of miracles and hope! 13
God's Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven 16
"And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was stirred up saying, "Who is he?" 19
Jesus, the gift of God Incarnate 21
Our 'Worship Guide' 23
Ugly Christmas Sweater 24
A Father's love for his children; a Father's love for you through His Son 26
"Expectations!" 28
Church Worship Schedules 30

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