Layers to a Story
Something I’ve been thinking about lately is the story behind the story. For example, the post I wrote about Ruth on Tuesday spoke about a story of barrenness that we don’t really think about for Ruth. It wasn’t due to physical inabilities, but the reality of life circumstances that caused her to become a widow and thus barren since she and her first husband didn’t have children together.
As I read through and reflected upon the story of Jesus’ birth, there’s another part of the story that I have been fascinated by this year. The movement of the Holy Spirit.
‘“Approach Me and listen to this.
From the beginning I have not spoken in secret;
from the time anything existed,
I was there.’
And now the LORD God
has sent me and His Spirit”
The commentary in my Bible says that this is Jesus/the Servant speaking through Isaiah.
The Israelites had been in 400 years of silence. No signs or wonders, no miracles or prophetic words. No evidence of the Spirit at all. Just a dry barren wasteland of quietness from the Lord.
I liken it to that point in a movie when your expecting something great to happen, but everything including the music quiets down and pauses. Suspense builds and silence reigns.
Then as the music crescendos and the action picks up, your heart begins to stir with excitement to see what’s going to happen next.
As the time was approaching for the birth of Jesus to take place, Holy Spirit returned as well. A stirring began in people. Zechariah and Elizabeth met with an angel and found out they would get pregnant after a physical possible age. Elizabeth and John the Baptist were filled with the Spirit during Mary’s visit while they were both pregnant.
Zechariah was filled with the Spirit at the birth of his son John.
Mary was met by the angel Gabriel. This is the same angel that met with the prophet Daniel hundreds of years beforehand. She was filled with the Spirit as well.
These are well known stories. But there are two people that Holy Spirit was stirring within the temple as well. Their names were Simeon and Anna.
“There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple complex.” – Luke 2:25-27a
“There was a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. …She did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” – Luke 2:36a,37-38
God not only prepared Jesus for this time, He prepared Holy Spirit as well. All three worked together to make this miraculous life of Jesus prevail. The Father spoke to the Son. The Son acted upon the Father’s commands. And the Holy Spirit kept the Trinity connected together.
Holy Spirit came before Jesus to work in the generation that would encounter the physical birth and life of Jesus Christ. The Bible only shares of a few people that were filled with the Spirit among Jesus’ birth, but I can guarantee that there were countless others, as the reference about Anna says that she spoke to “all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem”. Some were expecting it to happen.
The wise men also followed a star. They didn’t listen to Herod. They acted as the Spirit led them whether they realized it or not in order to fulfill God’s plans.
It is similar to the time we live in today too. Holy Spirit comes to stir unbelievers to search for truth. He plants a seed of curiosity and hope within them. Then, as they begin their search, they find Jesus. Once a baby, wrapped in cloth, and placed into a dirty feeding trough. But the difference of our age, is that they don’t only find a poor child. They will also find a King. One gloriously robed in unimaginable splendor, confidently seated on the ultimate throne.
The story is yet to be complete. Jesus’ death and resurrection opened up an enormous opportunity for Holy Spirit to reside inside us. We can experience what Jesus acted out in His life. We have Holy Spirit living in us. We have Jesus as our advocate and high priest. God the Father loves us with a complete and pure love because He looks through Christ’s atonement to us. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ was enough to make us holy to the Almighty God. The story will come to a perfect finale when all is finished and at rest after the Day of the Lord.
The Christmas story was the ending to complete depravity and sin. It was the finale of Satan’s full control over the earth. It was a release from the lack of power, authority, and guidance from the Lord.
The Christmas story also brought a new beginning. One that brought hope, joy, and life. It offered freedom from sin, eternal life easily obtained, and a deep, deep connection with the Lord Himself. Holy Spirit went from living among us to living in us, to those who have chosen to believe in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
This Christmas, let’s praise the Lord for the abundant gift we’ve been given. No physical or material present we could receive this year could be grander, more heart-warming, or significant than the life both now and after death because of Jesus’ sacrifice.
That’s what Christmas is all about. It’s a powerful story. It is a life-changing story.