The Spirit of Christmas
Written by Cameron Beidler
A look at Luke chapter 1
Who else loves the Advent and Christmas seasons? I sure do. Though there are stressful times, we can all sense something different about the holiday season. Even with all the hustle and bustle of the consumeristic monster that is American Christmas, there is still something joyful, hopeful, and, at times, peaceful. This can be a confusing phenomenon when we are surrounded by a culture filled with chaos, darkness, and much unrest.
This morning, I did my Scripture reading in a small coffee shop (317 Coffee). As I read Luke’s account of the events of Christmas, I was struck by the peace in the passage – peace even in the midst of mystery and chaos. Why is there a sense of peace when peoples’ lives are being uprooted and changed drastically? There is a theme that fills the first chapter of Luke that I would like to bring to our attention – the Holy Spirit – the true Spirit of Christmas.
Luke sets out in his Gospel to give an “orderly account” of the events that had taken place leading up to the death of Jesus on the cross and His subsequent resurrection. Luke has journeyed with Jesus and learned so much from Him. I wonder how Luke knew what happened before Jesus was born and grown and called him to be a disciple. My guess is Jesus was told of these things from His parents, Joseph and Mary, and then Jesus brought the knowledge of these things to His disciples. No matter how Luke knows what happened, it is clear that he is confident enough to include them in the “orderly account.”
In this first chapter of Luke, he points to the Holy Spirit four times (in verses 15, 35, 41, and 67). The first mention is by the angel Gabriel who comes to Zechariah in the temple. Gabriel says that Zechariah and Elizabeth (who is barren) will have a son and he shall be named John; he will be filled with the Holy Spirit and “he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” Prior to Pentecost this is an amazing statement and reality. The Holy Spirit is not said to come upon John, but actually fill him. This reality gives him the ability to prepare the way for the Lord and speak truth that is currently unknown to the world.
The second mention of the Spirit is also from Gabriel who appears to Mary, the virgin girl. Once again Gabriel tells of a baby that is to come to a womb that is not ready to receive a child. The Holy Spirit is going to miraculously conceive in Mary’s womb. This baby is the Son of God, the Christ, God Himself. Being Triune, Jesus (the Son) cannot be separated from the Father and the Spirit. This means that two people in Luke’s first chapter are now filled with the Spirit – John and Jesus.
The third mention of the Spirit shows Elizabeth being filled with the Spirit – now the third person in this chapter being filled with the Spirit. When Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, John leaps for joy in her womb. At that point Elizabeth, along with John, is also filled with the Spirit. This filling enables her to proclaim the truth of salvation that will come through Jesus. She exclaims, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Without the Spirit there is no proclaiming the name of Jesus; however, wherever the Spirit is present and active the name of Jesus is proclaimed. This leads directly to the final time the Spirit is mentioned in Luke 1.
Zechariah is filled with the Spirit – the fourth person to have this experience. With the filling Zechariah says, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David…and you, child [John], will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of their sins.”
The Holy Spirit – the true Spirit of Christmas – has been present from the very first Christmas, the coming of our Savior, and is still present today. The Spirit excited and inspired Jesus, Elizabeth, Zechariah, and John to proclaim the name of Jesus and give Him all the glory. In today’s culture we see the Spirit of Christmas prompting people to give more of their time and resources, treat people better, and even search for a greater meaning of life. The Spirit gave a sense of peace in the midst of chaos and today gives us little moments of rest in the chaos that is family parties, work parties, and lines at shopping malls (or Amazon shipping delays).
Be encouraged. Find rest. Seek Christ. Love your neighbor. Love God. Make the gift of Christ the sweetest gift received this season.