The danger of experiencing Christmas year after year is it becomes “normal.” We begin to feel like the Christmas story is more like another Hallmark channel movie with a predictable happy ending. Nothing against Hallmark movies, my wife is a big fan, but the story of Jesus’ birth is closer to a nuclear explosion sent from heaven with the after shocks still being felt today.
One way that we see this is, even though it is hiding in plain sight, is to look at the gospel of Luke. We are helped past our familiarity with the story by looking at it through the lens of the wonderful foreshadowing that he is doing in setting up his second volume Acts. The lives of the people in the next book will experience a paradigm shattering experience of life in the Spirit and Luke is setting the stage right out of the gate here in his first book. Here are some of the lessons from the Christmas story
The bringing of the Spirit and the prophetic
In the Old Testament the operation of the gifts was with special people and for the moment but now things are changing. Zechariah is prophesying and Mary is singing with outbursts of praise. Mary, Elizabeth and even John the Baptist in his mother’s womb is filled with the Spirit. As Bob Dylan would sing The Times They Are A Changin. We better hold on cause it is just getting started.
There is an eruption of the miraculous
We have probably been to too many Christmas programs where little boys and girls get to play the part of angels. When the people in the Christmas story saw angels they freaked out a little. The shepherds in the field saw one angel and were terrified we can only imagine what they felt when they saw a multitude of them. But in the Bible story of Christmas the miraculous seems to be everywhere with angels and dreams and stars of direction in the sky. Are we ready to get in on the story of Christmas today?
The unexpected get to be involved
My home church pastor made a good point this week when he pointed out that outsiders get invited into the story of Christmas. If Mary was a teenage mom and Elizabeth was a senior citizen they would have made an unusual pair. Shepherds with no names get a personal invitation to the story. And the birth of Jesus story reminds us that even foreigners get involved with wise men from another land getting to be a part. Jesus even gets to experience life as an immigrant in the story of the Bible. No nice neat bows on the end here. Pentecostals have traditionally been for the down and out person and the outsider and it starts with Christmas.
Prayer is shown as the engine that keeps the story going
When Luke starts his story and Zechariah goes in to be with God, Luke makes the point that, “the whole multitude of the people were praying outside.” (1:10) This will be a lesson he goes back to again and again through his two books. When the people give themselves to prayer God shows up. Prayer is what drives us into the mission of God. The prayer of God’s people is sprinkled in right from the beginning.
The heart pounding fact about Christmas is it was a starting point for a way for us to interact with God. He will take ordinary, fragile and broken people and use them as they are filled with the Spirit. Will you be one of them?
(BTW-For a scholarly look at the connection of the Spirit in the book of Luke I recommend Roger Stronstad’s book The Charismatic Theology of St Luke)