What's the best way to spread Christmas cheer?

By Tom, Animate team coordinator

Entering December, we can be certain of one thing: that Christmas movie Elf will soon be back on our screens. This 2003 fantasy comedy stars Will Ferrell as a human raised in the North Pole among Santa's elves who returns to New York to find his family and his place in the world.

For some (of a younger vintage, no doubt), it is a film synonymous with the Christmas season – a latter-day Miracle on 34th Street, if you like. I, for one, have seen Elf countless times so am fully conversant with such catchphrases as 'Buddy the Elf, what's your favourite colour?', 'I just like to smile – smiling's my favourite' and 'the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear'. That last one is something of a personal favourite because for me, as a bandsman in the Salvation Army, music is an important part of any religious season.
But what truth is there in Buddy the Elf's statement that Christmas cheer can be spread by singing, or even playing music? Well, I know that for me, as for many others, music is central to the festive season – writing as a native Sandgrounder, I can tell you that the band playing in Southport town centre during December is a perennial highlight for lots of people.
From families with young children coming and requesting Jingle Bells or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, to older members of the community asking for favourite Christmas carols or hymns such as Once in Royal David's City, In the Bleak Midwinter or The Calypso Carol.
All of this undeniably spreads Christmas cheer, but there's a deeper meaning in what we do. On one level, we bandsmen and women play as an act of worship, offering up our gifts for the Lord; on another, people donate money in response, money which is used for the community, to provide food and gifts for families who would otherwise go without over Christmas.
Yet even this is still not the crux of 'spreading festive cheer'. Returning to the film Elf, a stranger – and a pretty eccentric one at that – travels from the North Pole to New York to find his place, to find his home. We Christians, who have experienced the love of Christ, can offer similar love, warmth and sense of belonging to those around us at Christmastime. That's the real reason I play in the band during December. Sometimes I grumble about the cold but when I take into account the bigger picture, it is the least I can do to spread the joy and love of Christmas.
So the question I would like to ask is what can we do this year to give back to God in our giving to others – how can we spread that joy? If you're not sure then I'll leave you with the final verse of what is fast becoming my favourite Christmas song: In the Bleak Midwinter.
'What can I give him, poor as I am?
'If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
'if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
'yet what can I give him: give my heart.'