It’s said that this is the most wonderful time of the year. It certainly is one of the most wonderful times of the year, but I have to say that Spring, with its abundant and jubilant explosion of life is pretty wonderful too; where the Passover and the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus come alive. There is, however–if you’ll permit me to use the word–something magical about Christmas time. It’s not about the lights, the presents, and the holiday trappings, although those things are expressions of the magic, it’s the Christmas Spirit that lifts the yoke of darkness this time of year and gives such bright life and fondness to the symbols of the season.
My family and I have been watching some of the Christmas classics, old and new. My usual complaint against most of these Christmas movies is that they have more to do with winter than Christmas, and seldom do they ever mention the actual meaning of the holiday. There were two, however, that this year got my attention and turned my thoughts to the Majesty of the season. In The Polar Express, St. Nicolas gives a silver bell from his sleigh as the first gift of Christmas and says, “It is a wonderful symbol of Christmas spirit, as am I.” Again, in the 1995 remake of A Miracle on 34th Street the prosecuting attorney calls St. Nicholas a symbol of charity, benevolence, and kindness. These two statements got me thinking about the spirit of Christmas, and therefore God’s Spirit.
We know that God is one, and that there is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4, Mark 12:29, 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, Ephesians 4:4-6, Exodus 20:1-3, and more). We also know that this one God eternally exists in the Person of the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Spirit (Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19). These are not three separate gods, but rather three manifestations and expressions of the One God, Yahweh. This is a great mystery, and the best I can do is to say that “God” is a noun that describes what He is. Yahweh is His name and is who He is. Yahweh is the Father–the Person of God, the Son (Jesus) is the Word of God–the full and visible expression of God’s Person and will, and the Spirit is God–God’s will, active in and through all creation. God’s Word expresses God’s will, and by His Spirit, his will is carried out. Father, Son, and Spirit are all God as much as your consciousness/personality, body, and spirit are all you.
The Greek word we translate as “spirit” is pneuma. It means spirit, and it also means “breath” and “wind.” As my Greek professor, Maury Robertson has beautifully stated, “Ancient people looked at the world and noticed that nothing moved unless the wind (pneuma) blew on it. When the wind blew everything came to life. Trees stood up and danced. Grass rolled in waves like an ocean. Some things moved even when the wind did not blow. These were called ‘living beings.’ They had inner pneuma which they inhaled and exhaled. When this ceased, the creature died. No pneuma, no life.” God breathed life into Adam, and all of Adam’s descendents have been an expression and manifestation of that life. Life is God’s will, and it comes at the moving of God’s Spirit.
In the Old Testament, people like Samson, the prophet Elijah, and king David had the Spirit of God “come upon them.” It was in these moments and seasons that they were empowered to fulfill the will of God. In the New Testament age, by faith in Jesus Christ, God causes his Spirit to live in us. “His love is a hurricane and I am a tree bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy” (from How He Loves by John Mark McMillan). The Spirit moves in us, and we move with him, according to his will.
In God we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). It is God that causes his people to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:12-13). God’s Spirit dwells in us, moving our lives and making us His own. We are not God, any more than the man in the cheap red felt suit and nylon beard at the mall is St. Nicholas. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, was the embodiment of the love, the charity, kindness, compassion, and the benevolence of his Lord Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Christ lived in him and moved in and through his life. Those who carry the Christmas spirit and the spirit of St. Nicholas actually carry the Spirit of God revealed in Christ and given through faith in Him. It is important here to note that there is a great distinction between someone who musters generosity and charity for a season, and one whose life is marked by such a spirit. Nicholas’ life was baptized by God’s Spirit.
A child who believes in Santa sees the jolly old soul in the red suit and beard as the embodiment of the Christmas spirit. When that child ceases to believe in Santa Clause, the Spirit of Christmas doesn’t die, they simply come to realize that spirit is carried on and manifest by parents, friends, and relatives … and sometimes total strangers. The spirit does not change, it’s God’s Spirit of love, mercy, grace, compassion, generosity, and forgiveness. Even in those who do not acknowledge God, we can see reflections and hints of God’s Spirit (they too, after all, are created in His image). In the Bible, even King Nebuchadnezzar was called God’s servant and was subject to the will of God and the movement of God’s Spirit. All that is good and true comes from God, no matter where it shows up.
To those called to faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Spirit is in you. His Spirit moves you. He is patient and gentle with you as you learn to move with Him. Living in Christ, by his Spirit, is not a religious obligation, but a dance. Learn to follow, and come alive. Merry Christmas!