By Joseph Ametepe
When we think of Christmas, our thoughts quickly turn to characters like Virgin Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the angels, magi or wise men, King Herod and of course the "Baby Jesus," born in a feeding trough for animals. We think of Mary not only because she was chosen to conceive and bear the Savior of the world, but also because of her virtuous life and resolute trust in God to do the impossible in her life. Mary took God at His Word, even when it didn't not make sense. Mary surrendered her reputation to God's will for her life. She submitted to God's Word to her. Furthermore, she was a woman who treasured things in her heart and pondered on (Luke 2:19). We think of the shepherds because they had a bad reputation in Israel and were regarded as dishonest an untrustworthy. Yet we are amazed that God chose them to be the first in Israel to hear of the Savior's birth. Also their obedience to the angel's command to them, spreading of the good news to others and their praise of God, set an example to for us to follow. (Luke 2:15-20). Holy angels were also involved in the Christmas story. We know the name of one. He is Gabriel, meaning "God is great." He kept a busy schedule during the early days of the Christmas story, swiftly shuttling himself from the presence of God in heaven to earth to deliver God's message to Zechariah and Mary (Luke 1:8-20, 26-37). Other Christmas characters commonly known to us are the magi, that is, the wise men from the East and Herod the Great of Jerusalem. The wise men's willingness to make the long journey from the East to Jerusalem and subsequently to Bethlehem, their wealthy gifts, their worship of the Christ Child, and their obedience to God's word not to return the same way, are constantly presented to encourage us in our walk with God. Although Herod was a foreigner; (his father was an Edomite and his mother an Arabian princess), yet the Romans put him on the throne of Israel and called him "King of the Jews." He really had no right or title to the Jewish throne. King Herod's hypocrisy, insecurity, jealousy, rage, hatred and determination to kill the Christ Child remind us of the corruption and depravity of the human heart. Indeed, great are the lessons we learn from the lives of these Christmas characters. But there is one character from whom we can learn more of God's perspective of the Christmas story. Although this character is mentioned over and over again in the accounts of the Christmas story, yet He is often overlooked or forgotten in the presentation of the Christmas story in our day. Although this character is unseen, yet He played a unique and useful role in the birth of Jesus Christ. I am talking about the Person of the Holy Spirit, the forgotten character of Christmas, the great unseen character of the Christmas story. The purpose of this article is to draw our attention to the overlooked and forgotten character of the Christmas story - the Holy Spirit. The Scripture will teach us about the Spirit's preeminent role in the birth of Jesus, His presence in the lives of the human characters chosen by God to play a part in the Christmas story, and His personal revelation and guidance in the life one of the human characters. Also the Scripture will point us to the Spirit's work in leading some of the human characters to praise God, to prophesy, to prompt an individual to action, to pray and give thanks to God. Certainly, the Holy Spirit is the great unseen character of the Christmas story. Scripture makes that clear. We now turn to the Bible to see this truth for ourselves.
Preeminent role in the birth of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:18-20; Lk.1:29-37)
Perhaps the most important truth emphasized by both Matthew and Luke in their gospel accounts of the Lord Jesus Christ is the preeminent role played by the Holy Spirit in the birth of Christ. It would have been enough for one Gospel writer to mention the Spirit's involvement in the birth of Jesus. But for God to lay it on the heart of both Matthew and Luke means that this was very important to Him. God wanted us to pay particular attention to the prominent role played by the Holy Spirit in the incarnation of Jesus. However, the Holy Spirit remains the forgotten character of the Christmas story. He is barely given the attention He deserves. His unique contribution to the miracle story of Christmas is often not considered or stressed. Why is His preeminent role in the birth of Jesus not often presented? Why is the Spirit's work in the Christ Child's birth often overlooked? Personally, I think it is due to our lack of knowledge of the Person of the Holy Spirit and His manifold works. I do not know how you spent this year's Christmas. I do not know whether or not you saw in a fresh way the Holy Spirit's critical role in the birth of Jesus. If you didn't, my hope is that you will see that now and let that enrich your understanding of the Christmas story in days and years to come. If you are already familiar with the Bible's emphasis on the Spirit's prominent role in the Savior birth, may this article further deepen your understanding of this important teaching of Scripture.
Matthew, a Jew, writing his Gospel to Jews about a Jew named Jesus, emphasized the special role played by the Holy Spirit in the birth of Jesus.
"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit"Matthew 1:18-20 (NASB).
Please notice carefully that the Holy Spirit is mentioned twice in this passage. The inspired Gospel writer made it clear that Mary's Child was through the Holy Spirit. To calm the fears of Joseph, the angel told him that Mary's conception was not the work of man but the work of Spirit. Joseph had decided to divorce Mary quietly. He thought Mary had been unfaithful. According to the Law, Mary should face death. However, Joseph resolved not to let Mary face the full wrath of the Law. In other words, he decided not to live by the letter of the Law. He chose a merciful path. How kind he was! But God pointed him to a more righteous way. Joseph needed to follow God's path and plan. The explanation he was given to abandon his plan in order to follow God's plan was that Mary's conception was from the Person of the Holy Spirit, without the cooperation of a human father..
Luke's account of the birth of Christ also reveals that the Holy Spirit played a prominent role. In Matthew's account of the birth, an unnamed angel spoke to Joseph in a dream explaining the Spirit's role to him. However, in Luke's account, the angel Gabriel, whose name means "God is great," personally appeared to Mary to convey God's plan to her of bearing the Savior of mankind. Chronologically, this face-to-face encounter between Gabriel and Mary, took place before Joseph's. Mary had not yet conceived. She was a virgin living in Nazareth of Galilee. Mary was not only perplexed about Gabriel's visit to her, a lowly maid-servant of the Lord, but she was uncertain and confused about how a virgin like herself could conceive and bear a child. I believe Gabriel was carefully prepared to respond to the uncertainty in the heart of Mary. He had a ready answer from God to Mary when she brought up this concern and confusion.
"Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 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. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God" Luke 1:29-37 (NASB).
Please notice carefully that Gabriel's response to Mary's perplexity about conceiving and bearing the Savior pointed to the preeminent supernatural role of the Holy Spirit. Because of the supernatural role of the Holy Spirit, Mary was instructed that the Holy One to be born of her would be called the Son of God. In other words, if Jesus were born any other way, He could not have retained "His Godness," in the "God-Man" union of His incarnation, that is, the teaching that God the eternal Son became a human being in Jesus Christ. I thank God for emphasizing the prominent role of the Spirit in the birth of the Son of the Most High. Had the Spirit not played such a significant and supernatural role in Christ's birth, we would not have had a true Savior. We would still be in our sins. We would still be hopeless. We would still be helpless. We would still have no assurance of a better and brighter future with God. We should be forever grateful for the prominent role played by the Holy Spirit in the birth of our Lord.
Presence in the lives of chosen human characters (Luke 1:15, 39-55)
We have noted the Spirit's preeminent role in the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. However, the Bible also reveals that the Spirit's presence in the lives of the chosen human characters is an important element of the Christmas story. Without the presence of the Person of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the human vessels God had specifically and sovereignly chosen to act out His redemptive plan, the Christmas story would not have played out the way it did. His presence made sure that everything planned by God went as planned. Left to man's efforts, we would have made a big mess which we could never ever clean up.
It seems to me that one of the favorite subjects of the Dr. Luke, the writer of the Gospel of Luke, is the Holy Spirit. He was greatly used of God to preserve His teachings on the Holy Spirit. It was Dr. Luke who recorded the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost on which the Church was born. But before then, the inspired writer wrote about the Spirit's presence in the lives of the chosen human vessels of the Christmas story.
Since the birth of John the Baptist is closely connected with the birth of Jesus the Messiah, we are given a glimpse of what happened before these births occurred. First, Luke reported that John was filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother's womb. "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth" Luke 1:15 (NASB). Second, he wrote of the Spirit's filling and work in Elizabeth's life when Mary went to visit her in her six month of pregnancy.
"At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" Luke 1:35-45 (NASB).
The Spirit's presence in Elizabeth led her to say words she would normally not have said, which served as a confirmation of God's plan and purpose to Mary. Mary needed this confirmation and through the Spirit's presence and work in Elizabeth's life is was granted. Mary's faith was definitely strengthened and sustained. How compassionate God was to bless Mary with such an assurance in such a faith-stretching time in her life! Yes, Joseph obeyed God in taking Mary as his wife. But that didn't mean everyone in Israel believed that Mary's Child was legitimate. There were those who thought her Child was illegitimate. In fact, during His public ministry, rumors were being spread of Christ's illegitimate birth in an attempt to discredit Him (John 8:41). Knowing ahead of time that such rumors would be spread about Christ, God gave Mary a comforting assurance. And may I say that this would not have happened without the presence and work of the Spirit in Elizabeth's life.
Personal revelation (Luke 2:25-26)
Another way the Scriptures show us that the Holy Spirit is indeed the great unseen character of the Christmas story is His personal revelation and guidance given to one of the human vessels chosen to play a part in the Christmas story. The Bible teaches that "when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:4-5). Christ Himself said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17). The point of these Scriptures is that Christ could not be our true Savior if He had not fulfilled the Law perfectly. With God's help, Jesus' parents followed the Law carefully. He was circumcised on the eighth day according to the Law (Luke 2:21; cf. Leviticus 12:3). According to the Law, Mary, must be purified from her bleeding (Leviticus 12:4). This was to take place at the temple before the priest after 40 days of the birth of a son (Leviticus 12:6-8). In addition, the Law stipulates to the children of Israel, "you shall devote to the LORD the first offspring of every womb, ... the males belong to the LORD" (Exodus 13:12). In obedience to this Law, Jesus' parents brought Him to the temple to be dedicated to the Lord. It was on this occasion that the Holy Spirit, the great unseen character of the Christmas story featured prominently. Let's pick up the story from Luke 2:22-26.
"When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons." Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ" Luke 2:22-26 (NASB).
Simeon was a righteous and devout man. He was a godly man. He had been eagerly waiting and looking for the coming of the Messiah. He was often in the temple seeking God. On one of his visits to the temple, he was blessed with the sight of the Messiah. Please notice carefully that it was not the priest but the Person of the Holy Spirit that disclosed to Simeon that he would not die before seeing the Lord's Messiah, that is, the Anointed One or Christ. Simeon was supernaturally instructed that this Child was the promised Messiah or Anointed One. One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is revealing the things of God to God's people. This affirmed in 1 Corinthians 2:9-10a. "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit." Even before this truth was penned, it was being fulfilled in the life of Simeon. He personally experienced the revealing work of the Spirit. The Bible teaches that the secret of the Lord is with those who fear the Lord (Psalm 25:14). It also says: "Surely the Lord GOD does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). Simeon experienced this personally. The Holy Spirit revealed God's secrets to him. As a believer in Jesus Christ, do you long for the Holy Spirit to reveal more of Christ to you? The Holy Spirit revealed Christ to Simeon at the First Christmas. He is willing to reveal more of Christ to every single believer who waits with expectation at His feet. Each day that passes in the believer's life without a longing for more of Christ is indeed a day wasted. May this not happen in our lives! The Holy Spirit is waiting and willing to disclose more of Christ to our yearning heart, not only at Christmas, but everyday of our lives.
Prompting of the Holy Spirit (Luke 2:27-28a)
Another way in which the Holy Spirit featured prominently in the Christmas story was His work of prompting Simeon to be at the right place at the right time. The Spirit had revealed to Simeon he would not die until he saw the Messiah of God. But that was not all. He prompted Simeon to be at the temple at the time the Christ Child was brought to the temple for His dedication to the LORD. The temple was a busy place. There were so many activities taking place in the different courts of the temple. How could Simeon know to be at the right place at the right time? By chance? By coincidence? It was not by chance or coincidence. The Holy Spirit carefully guided Simeon to be at the right place at the right time. This is how He led Dr. Luke to record His work of prompting Simeon. "Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God" (Luke 2:27-28a). How wonderful are ways and works of the Holy Spirit! He directed the aged and godly Simeon to the right place at the right time to see the fulfillment of God's promise to him. Simeon was there just at the precise moment the Spirit wanted him there. If Simeon had relied on his on intellect or ability, what are his chances of being at the right place at the right time? Few, if any at all! Simeon was in tune with the Spirit. He was led by the Spirit. He lived by the Spirit. He walked by the Spirit. As a result, he did not miss the most glorious "God- moment" of his life.
Do you know that the Holy Spirit is willing today to prompt believers to be at the right place at the right time? Do you know that God has "God-moments" for believers today? Have you been prompted by the Spirit to say a word of encouragement and comfort at the right time for someone who needs it? Have you been moved by the Spirit to do an act of kindness or compassion? Have you been led by the Spirit to share Christ with someone who is searching for meaning in life, whose heart the Spirit has already prepared? Have you been directed by the Spirit to give a timely counsel to someone who desperately needs it? Everyday, not only during the Christmas the season, the Holy Spirit is willing to prompt us into action, to speak and act at the right moment and place. We miss the "God-moments" of our lives if we fail to learn how to hear the still small voice of the Spirit. We must learn to be in tune with the Spirit. We must learn to keep in step with Him.
Praise of God (Luke 1:46-55: 1:67-79; 2:20; 2:28-32)
True praise of God is the work of the Spirit of God. No true praise has ever been given to God except through the enabling power of the Spirit of God. It is only through the Holy Spirit that mortals like us can fittingly give God the praise He really deserves. A genuine praise offering to God is not generated by the flesh. Such praise will not get the attention of God, let alone be accepted by Him. This is why at the First Christmas, the Bible presents us with several moments of praise to God. In Luke's account of the First Christmas, Mary, Zechariah, Simeon and the shepherds were shown joyfully praising God. These examples clearly show that the celebration of our Lord's birth should be a special season of unceasing praise. But I must confess that this season is the time Christians least praise God. We are busy doing everything else but praising God. This is sad and shameful!
Mary's praise was the longest recorded praise of the Christmas story. She was a godly woman who understood the value of praise and allowed the Holy Spirit to lead her into joyous praise of God. Mary's praise has been called "The Magnificat." Would you please carefully listen to the praise of Mary!
"And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers" Luke 1:46-55 (NIV).
Although the Bible does not say here that the Holy Spirit led Mary to praise God, the context clearly shows Mary's praise was not the work of the flesh. Remember, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to inform her of the news of God's choice of her to bring forth the Messiah into the world, she was told that the Holy Spirit would come upon her (Luke 1:35). So the Holy Spirit was already at work in the life of Mary. He was therefore the One leading her into this glorious praise of God. This was a praise that exalted the Person of God, the purposes of God, the promises of God, and the powerful works of God. Believing friend, this is what praise is all about. It is wholly centered on God and Him alone. Such is the praise God desires from His believing people today. Do you give Him such praise? If not, learn from Mary's praise. Her praise was God-centered.
Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was also led by the Spirit in praise of God. Like Mary, his praise was focused on the Person of God, the promises of God and the purposes of God.
"His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace" Luke 1:67-79 (NIV).
Please notice very carefully in the case of Zechariah, the Bible specifically tells us that he was filled by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:67). In other words, the Spirit was the One who led Zechariah to lift up his heart in praise to God. Indeed, such a praise ascended to the throne of God as a soothing aroma, a pleasant fragrant! Praise generated by the Spirit is what God desires. This is the kind of praise that pleases Him.
The shepherds at the First Christmas also celebrated the birth of Christ with praise. The Bible did not record the words they used in praising God. Neither did it tell us how they praised God. But what it did reveal is that the shepherds had been greatly impacted by all they heard and saw at the First Christmas and their response was one of unceasing praise.
"The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told" Luke 2:20 (NIV).
Finally, the Bible shows that at First Christmas, Simeon was also celebrating God. Like Mary and Zechariah, his praise was also centered on the Person of God, the promises of God and the purposes of God.
"Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel" Luke 2:28-32 (NIV).
Would you say that your praise is God-centered? Is your praise focused on the Person of God, the purposes of God, the promises of God, and the powerful and perfect works of God? The First Christmas was a season of celebration of praise to God. What changes do you need to make in your life in order to follow in the footsteps of Mary, Zechariah, the shepherds and Simeon?
Prophecy (Luke 1:67-79; 2:34-35)
True prophecy is the work of the Spirit of God. Scripture repeatedly reveals this truth. A perfect illustration of this principle is found in the life of Ezekiel. He was a priest who was called to serve as a prophet. The Spirit was active in his life. At one point in his life, God commanded him to prophesy against the evil rulers of Judah. Before he could prophesy, we are told the Spirit fell upon him.
"Therefore, prophesy against them, son of man, prophesy! Then the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and He said to me, "Say, 'Thus says the LORD, "So you think, house of Israel, for I know your thoughts. You have multiplied your slain in this city, filling its streets with them"Ezekiel 11:4-6 (NASB).
Ezekiel could not prophesy until the Spirit of God fell upon him. Even after God's direct command to him to prophesy, he had to wait for the Spirit to empower him. This is meant to teach us that true prophetic utterance is the work of the Spirit of God.
Perhaps, the clearest illustration of this truth is found in 2 Peter 1:20-21.
"But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" 2 Peter 1:20-21 (NASB).
This was the case at the First Christmas. Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit prophesied (see Luke 1:67-79 above). Zechariah's prophecy was a prophecy of hope and salvation. It was a prophecy that rejoiced in the salvation and forgiveness of God. It was a prophecy that pointed to God's tender mercies toward the humble and repentant. It was a prophecy revealing God's commitment to guiding His people in the path of peace. In brief, it was a prophecy lost sinners needed to hear to bring them out of darkness into God's marvelous light. And it happened at the season of the First Christmas.
Also, Simeon, a man in tune with the Spirit, prompted by the Spirit, was led to make a prophetic declaration. You will recall that when Simeon first set his eyes on the Messiah, he burst into jubilant praise to God. After this outburst of praise to God for the Anointed One, while still in the Spirit, Simeon blessed the parents, then spoke prophetically to Mary.
"And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed- and a a sword will pierce even your own soul- to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed" Luke 2:34-35 (NASB).
The prophecy consisted of four parts. First, the Child, the Lord Jesus was destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel. This simply means that those who were proud, unrepentant, and unbelieving would fall. They would face God's hand of judgment. However, those who humbled themselves, turned away from their sins to God, and received the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Savior would rise and be blessed. Second, the Child was destined... for a sign that will be spoken against. This means that there was a special significance connected with the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. His very presence on earth to rebuke sin and unholiness would not be appreciated by many. He would be bitterly spoken against and hated for exposing man's evil deeds. This is further explained by John 3:19-20: "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." Third, the prophecy reveals that a sword would pierce through Mary's own soul. Her heart would be flooded with indescribable grief at the cross where Christ would sacrifice Himself willingly as the one and only perfect sacrifice for our sin debt. Fourth, the prophecy teaches that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. What people think about Jesus reveals their inwards motives and their hearts' true affection. Later, in His ministry, the Lord Jesus asked two basic questions to reveal the thoughts of many hearts. The first was, "Who do people say say that the Son of Man is?" Matthew 17:13 (NASB). The second is, "But who do you say that I am?" Matthew 17:15 (NASB). These two questions revealed the thoughts of many hearts in the first century. And throughout the centuries even until the twenty-first century, these questions continue to reveal the thoughts of many hearts regarding who Jesus is.
I am grateful for these prophetic utterances made at the First Christmas. Our knowledge of God's plan of salvation has been enriched by them. Though the Holy Spirit is the forgotten character of Christmas, His works cannot go unnoticed and unappreciated. He was working behind the scenes that First Christmas to bring forth the riches of God's truth to us. Are you thankful for the work of the Spirit at the First Christmas? Are you able to explain to your children, grandchildren what the Holy Spirit did at the First Christmas? Do you appreciate the Spirit's works at the First Christ?
Prayer and thanksgiving to God (Luke 2:36-38)
Finally, another way in which the Spirit prominently featured at the First Christmas was leading in prayer and thanksgiving to God. After Simeon's praise to God and prophetic utterances, the Bible points us to another aged and godly person, Anna, a woman whose name means "favor." The Bible devotes only three verses to her entire life. But how rich those verses are! They reveal her single-hearted devotion to God, her faithfulness in prayer, her steadfast commitment to the worship of the true and living God, her life of thanksgiving, and expectant spirit. What a prayer warrior she was! What a true worshiper she was! She was one who worshiped God in spirit and truth. Her life is a shining example of giving thanks in all circumstances. Life had dealt her a major blow. But Anna, in the power of the Spirit, persevered in thanksgiving to God. She would not blame God. She chose to bless God. Would please now prayerfully read and reflect on the Bible's description of her life!
"There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem" Luke 2:36-38 (NIV).
The Holy Spirit may be the forgotten character of the Christmas story. But that should no longer be the case because God has shown us in His Word that He was actively at work at the First Christmas. And He is at work today. He is here to lead us into single-hearted devotion to God. He is here to help us become people who are faithful in prayer, who overflow in thanksgiving to God in all circumstances, who are committed to worshiping God in spirit and truth, and who are expectantly looking forward for the return of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. These are but few of the lessons God's Word presents to us about the Holy Spirit, the forgotten character of the Christmas story.
For further study on the works of the Holy Spirit, please click on the following links: The Spirit's Role in Presenting the Gospel and The Person and Works of the Holy Spirit.