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The Christmas Spirit
Around Christmas time, there are a rash of Christmas special, but nothing replaces, for me, are the classics like “Miracle on 34th Street,” or “It’s A Wonderful Life.” But the one most people are familiar with is from the Novel by Charles Dickens entitled “A Christmas Carol.”
It centers around the character, “Ebenezer Scrooge,” an elderly miser who was visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve; the spirits of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet To Come.
It was this film that got me thinking about the true Christmas Spirit, or the true Spirit of Christmas.
At this time of year, we hear many people talking about getting into the Christmas spirit. But what exactly is the Christmas spirit? And then, can I even speak of the true spirit of Christmas without becoming politically incorrect in our present “woke” society?
But the Spirit of Christmas isn’t something that you catch in December after the thanksgiving holidays like you would catch the common cold or the flu. Just like catching the flu is no good, catching this worldly spirit of Christmas will most likely get a person into trouble or serious debt.
I heard it said how some people love to go Christmas shopping because of all the wonderful Christmas decorations. They love to catch the Christmas spirit. Now I don’t know about you, but if I go Christmas shopping it’s usually the spirit of debt I catch, and I’ve also found myself becoming less joyful and more irritated.
Or then you have those who attend these various office Christmas parties only to catch another spirit, and that one tends to inebriate.
The spirit of Christmas means different things to different people. It is often defined in terms of an attitude, a philosophy, or a warm and fuzzy feeling. For others Christmas and the spirit of Christmas is nothing more than another holiday, time off from work, family reunion time, or the buying and receiving of gifts, most of which we never use and end up being regifted or in some garage sale a couple of years later.
But the real Spirit of Christmas has a deep, spiritual meaning and can serve as a source of spiritual renewal, as well as a shot of faith in the arm.
There are a variety of attitudes and emotions on display during this time. These reflect, many say, the spirit of Christmas such as hope and joy, but are these the true Spirit of Christmas?
Now, while we really don’t want to catch the spirit of Christmas like I just got finished describing, what we do want to catch are the attributes of the Holy Spirit, Who, by the way, is the real Spirit of Christmas. But these attributes are known as the Fruit of the Holy Spirit.
The Apostle Paul lists these out for us in his letter to the Galatian church. He said, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)
I would also like to add one more to this list, if I could without becoming heretical, and that is the attribute of giving, because on this day we celebrate the greatest gift ever given, and that is God’s gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.
And while all these attributes are great, they aren’t the real Spirit of Christmas. The Real Spirit of Christmas is no One less than the Holy Spirit. This is what heaven declared.
“The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’” (Luke 1:35 NIV)
The use of the word “overshadow,” talks about the creative and maintaining power of God as found in the very beginning at Creation where it says that Holy Spirit hovered over the waters bringing about God’s design.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2 NKJV)
Further, the idea of casting a shadow over something also takes us back to the 40-year wilderness experience where God’s presence and power accompanied the Israelites in the form of a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night.
And so it was back when Jesus was born that the power of the Most High, the power of the Highest, the power of the Holy Spirit cast His glorious presence upon the womb of Mary, placing inside of her the seed of God, the Second Person of the Godhead, Jesus.
Therefore, I’d like to take a look at the what is sometimes referred to as the Mary Miracle, where we are told from the Scriptures just what was to happen. In other words, God spelled out long before the birth of His Son, the Messiah, which was fulfilled to the letter with the birth of Jesus there in Bethlehem.
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 NKJV)
Basically, the Lord was saying, “You aren’t going to miss it. A young woman, a virgin, will give birth to a Son, and His name, and hence who He is will be no one less that Immanuel, which means, ‘God with us.”
And of Him being born in Bethlehem, the prophet Micah declares, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2 NKJV)
Why say, “Bethlehem Ephrathah?” Bethlehem means “House of Bread,” and Ephrathah means “Fruitful.” And this is exactly what God intended as the birth of His Son, Jesus, would happen in the town and birthplace of King David, from whom the Messiah would come.
And so, it is the Holy Spirit, who did a wonderful work inside of Mary. And this leads me to the first aspect of the true spirit of Christmas.
The Work of the Holy Spirit Inside
The basis of today’s message is that just as the Holy Spirit overshadowed and formed inside of Mary the Son of God, Jesus, so the Holy Spirit wants to overshadow and form inside of us, God’s Holy Temple with Jesus upon the throne of our hearts, along with God’s plan and purposes for our lives.
That is the real Spirit of Christmas, and something that only God can give, and it something that is extended to everyone, and that is the miracle of God’s promise Son, Jesus Christ, inside all those who by faith believe in Him as their Savior and Lord.
It’s the kind of Christmas Mary experienced on a glorious night in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago.
When I bring this up, the question many have is, “How can I have a Christmas like Mary? She was special, she was as the angel said, ‘Highly favored.’”
Yes, Mary was divinely chosen to give birth to Jesus, to bring into this world the light of God’s Son, the light of the world. But in the same breath all of us have been divinely chosen to bring into this world the light of Jesus Christ, the light of life into this sin darkened world.
Jesus said this was our function.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV)
And so, each one of us has a lot more in common with Mary than we may think.
Just like Mary we have a very special place in God’s plan! We’ve been created and called by God to fulfill a divine destiny. This is seen in several places in God’s word. The first that I would like for us to consider is from the prophet Jeremiah, and this is one of my life verses, one that I encourage everyone to make their life verse as well.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV)
The other verse comes from the Apostle Paul when he said, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 210 NIV)
Now, while the angel Gabriel came to Mary, he probably hasn’t revealed himself to you telling you of God’s word and plan for your life. But the Holy Spirit has delivered God’s plans, purposes, and promises for your life through the Bible.
And the neat thing is that when we come to faith in Jesus Christ making Him our Savior and Lord, Jesus places the Holy Spirit inside us, and here’s the really neat part; we have the same power that overshadowed Mary, living inside of us. We have the same mighty power of the Holy Spirit working within us and on our behalf to bring God’s promises to pass, to make them flesh, so to speak.
And so, the real Spirit of Christmas is the Holy Spirit’s transformative power working within us the plans, purposes, and promises of God.
How can we get ready for the Holy Spirit’s work?
How can we expect such a visitation and work within our lives?
Consider Mary, although she was a sinner, she was considered by God to be highly favored. Mary believed and followed God’s word and remained a virgin. When the angel told her this news, she responded by saying she never even knew a man in any sense of that word.
For us, we are sinners saved by God’s grace, which means that our purity, while it may not be physical, we are spiritually pure when we ask the Lord to forgive our sins and then open our lives for the Holy Spirit’s transformative work.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV)
Therefore, we need to clear the way for the Holy Spirit to do this transformative work, and we do so through confession and repentance, which means to turn away from sin and start living the way God has designed.
What can we expect afterwards?
After Mary’s acceptance of the promise of Jesus’ birth, everything becomes chaotic, and her life becomes a mess. And so, Mary had to remind herself that there’s a miracle in her mess.
In this respect, Mary is just like the rest of us. God has a special and unique purpose for all of us. Unfortunately, the mess surrounding our lives often obscures the blessing.
Just like baby Jesus, most of our miracles don’t come full-grown, and so they must be carefully guarded and nurtured. Can you imagine the outcome if Mary had aborted the baby because of the stigma of conception prior to marriage?
Like Mary God has impregnated us with a dream, a vision, a purpose, and a promise, and it’s all growing inside of us. What we need to be careful of is not aborting God’s plans and purpose for our lives because they may be inconvenient.
Further, Mary had to raise her child safely to adulthood, and in many ways, this is like us as well. God has conceived this purpose inside of us, and once birthed, we need to carefully nurture it and raise it up into the fullness God intended.
But things as I have said will get messy, just like raising a child is messy. They spill their food and drinks; and they not only mess up their diapers, but they mess up their rooms as well. They play outside and bring their mess inside.
Michaela tells a story about Michael where one day he continued to smack his front pockets. That night when he took off his pants, and when Michaela went through his pockets before throwing them in the laundry, there were all these little roly-poly bugs. I guess they weren’t quite dead and continued to move around in his pockets.
But even though life may be a little messy, it isn’t out of God’s ability to clean it up.
This is seen in Luke’s account of the conception.
“For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37 NIV)
This verse, although quoted by many is seldom linked with the Christmas story, but it lies at its center. It was made to Mary as she was receiving the most incredible promise ever given to a human being concerning our physical limitations and God ability to supersede them.
Jesus miraculous entry to this earth via the virgin birth is not only a mystery, but it’s also one of the main articles of our faith. And while Jesus miraculous birth is not only a fact fulfilled in the past; it is also a spiritual possibility and reality for today!
You see, just as Jesus came into this world through Mary, Jesus can also come into this world through you and me. In other words, Jesus wants to be born again in our hearts, and become to us both Savior and Lord.
Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20 NKJV)
And it only happens through the real Spirit of Christmas, the Holy Spirit. Like Mary, the Holy Spirit shall come upon you and bring about the miracle of new life.
And so today I’d like to wish you all a Mary Christmas
Where this Christmas you’ll experience the Mary miracle for your life, that you’ll hear in a fresh way what God has planned and purposed for your life, and that He’ll place within you, through the Holy Spirit, His word of promise for your future.
My prayer is that we will allow God to conceive within us His special and unique promise and that we’ll nurture it, and then the Holy Spirit will bring about its birth in God’s timing, and not in our own.
And so, like Mary, we’ll need to say, “Yes Lord, I believe, I am Your servant, may it be according to Your word of promise.”
Wouldn’t it be great if all of us would have that kind of Christmas this year?
Wouldn’t you love for God’s power to overshadow you and meet your greatest need, solve your most insolvable problem, and bring forth a victory in some area of your life that in your own strength you’ve been utterly helpless to achieve?
It can happen. Why, because while with men such is impossible, with God all things are possible.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study