Dearly Beloved, Grace and Peace to you. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He himself was not the light, but he came to bear witness to the light. —John 1.6, 8 John the baptizer appeared, the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight a path for God.” …. He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me.... I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." —Mark 1. 2, 7, 8
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; God has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed. —Isaiah 61.1
Do not quench the Spirit. —1 Thessalonians 5.19
Here in Advent we have a little Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit! We open our hearts to the God who is not only the infinite creator beyond us or the savior beside us, but also the spirit who dwells within us. We await the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, we await the coming of Christ as the culmination of human history, and we also await the birth of Christ in our own hearts.
Christ was born to serve the poor and to re-weave the torn fabric of our world in which we separate ourselves from those who suffer, and thereby separate ourselves from God. Christmas is not a sentimental tale about a cute baby; it's about the healing of the world. When Christ is born in us, Christ's spirit comes to life in us in a new way, and we become devoted to that same work of the mending of the world. Our lives are re-shaped for the purpose of bearing witness to the light.
To be baptized by the Holy Spirit is to be changed. The Spirit takes over our lives, like it did Mary's, for the sake of the healing of the world. The Holy Spirit seeks the inclusion of those who have been excluded, the forgiveness of those who have been judged, the raising up of the downtrodden. (This also means the bringing down of those who have too much power or wealth. You'll hear it loud and clear next week in the Magnificat, in Luke 1.46-55). The coming of the Holy Spirit is not about feeling good; it's about the transformation of human society.
Don't imagine that on Christmas day you'll open presents, eat a big feast, then sleep it off and get up the next day and return to life as usual. It certainly wasn't like that for Mary and Joseph. In “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” we sing, “Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us tonight.” Do you really want that? Then expect to be changed. Don't quench the Spirit, but be open to the life-giving, life-changing presence of the One who is coming to life in a new way within you.
Deep Blessings, Pastor Steve
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