It’s Christmas Eve night – and getting late. It’s snowing lightly outside and traffic is sparse. Little ones are awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus and countless homes throughout the world have set out cookies and milk to give Santa energy to continue his journey around the world. So while he is working, the rest of the world will wait in anticipation of what will arrive in the morning – tons of presents and wonderful celebrations. While this story may represent the pagan celebration of Christmas, there is a much more important celebration going on as well.
Because this is the night that we consider and celebrate the birth of Jesus. And while we remember the plan of God to send His only begotten Son into the physical world, as a child, to live among us for a season of His eternal life, we rarely think of the work of the Holy Spirit in the story of Christmas. Oh, we have all seen (and even participated in) Christmas pageants and plays about the birth of Jesus. We remember Joseph and Mary as they went to Bethlehem and found there was no room at the inn. We heard about the shepherds in their fields, guarding their flocks by night, the announcement of the angels that a Savior had been born and that He would be found lying in a manger.
But did God the Father arrange all this? Certainly, the baby Jesus didn’t do it! So that leaves us with the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. And if we read the Scriptures carefully, we can find evidences all over the place that tell us that the Holy Spirit was hard at work during the entire Christmas story.
For example, we know that Mary became pregnant through the agency of the Holy Spirit. And when Mary visited Elizabeth, the mother of the soon to be born John the Baptist, we are told that the Holy Spirit was involved. In fact, the Holy Spirit rendered John’s father mute until John was born! And angels, at the direction of the Holy Spirit, announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in the fields. And let’s not forget that Joseph had several dreams about Mary and the upcoming birth of her child, all through the direction and orchestration of the Holy Spirit. And also, when Jesus was dedicated at the temple, Simeon and Anna were part of the story, both at the leading of the Holy Spirit!
So, while we read the familiar Christmas story, we can encounter the Holy Spirit at every turn. Sure, God the Father set the wheels in motion for this cosmic event – undoubtedly the most important event in all of human history – God dwelling among us as the child Jesus. And for believers, the story gets even better. Because we know that when we accept Jesus as the Lord and Savior of our lives, the Holy Spirit actually indwells us and lives with us forever.
Just like it should be, the interactions among the members of the Godhead, the Trinity, are almost inseparable. But there are relatively few events in the Bible where we read about all three – God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit – being present at the same time. This seems to be reserved for really special occasions and, of course, the birth of Jesus qualifies.
So, as the grandchildren are getting ready for bed, and the night winds down to give way to the morning, our own children are probably remembering Christmas Eves of old, and I find myself once again reflecting on the magnitude of the event that we are about to celebrate. I get quiet each Christmas Eve. There is stillness and eager anticipation in the air! Sometimes, I remember the pageants at Trinity Methodist Church that I used to be in. Or the celebrations with our parents, long ago, who are all now long gone. And I still hold my breath at the thought of the baby Jesus in a manger.
Also, I always remember that it was on a Christmas Eve, back in 1972, that Janet and I decided to get married – yes, we got engaged that night. Who knew that we would eventually have three children of our own, as well as four grandchildren and several son-in-laws? Time flies so fast! To think that we have gone from being the littlest children in the family to the patriarch and matriarch of our own family boggles my mind.
Then I also remember that Jesus and the Holy Spirit have been with us every step of the way, just as they were with the shepherds several thousand years ago at the birth of the Christ child. Our verse for tonight tells of the event that rocked our world – the birth of Christ. Luke tells us, in Luke 2:8-11, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
My encouragement tonight is that Jesus came into the world to save it and He wants to have a personal relationship with each of us. In fact, the Holy Spirit wants to live in us forever. My prayer is that you will quietly remember, in the stillness of this night, the important role of the Holy Spirit in all of the events that transpired more than two thousand years ago. Because the Holy Spirit is still active today and is every bit as important as Jesus and God the Father! Merry Christmas! … and have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…