Thursday, December 17, 2015

Third Advent Midweek Sermon: "The Holy Spirit and the Holy Child"

+ Advent Midweek 3 – December 16th, 2015 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
The Creed and Christ’s Incarnation: The Holy Spirit and the Holy Child
Isaiah 11:1-10; Titus 3:3-7; Luke 1:26-38

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christmas and spirit. Two words that fill our imagination with everything from the three spirits in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, to the endless quest for capturing the “Christmas spirit” with eggnog, that fresh pine tree smell, or Clark Griswold’s exterior illumination skills.

But what of Christ’s incarnation and the Holy Spirit? We confess Christ’s incarnation and the Holy Spirit every week in the Creed.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.

In Advent, the Holy Spirit comes to give us true faith and lasting joy in the Christ Child born of Mary, born to save you.

Now, there are plenty of spirits out there: liquid spirits, heavenly spirits, and evil spirits. So, not any old spirit will do. We must be specific. I believe in the Holy Spirit. The Lord and giver of life.

The Creeds teach us to confess the person and work of the Holy Spirit aright, especially in Advent. The Lord and giver of life conceives God in human flesh in Mary’s womb – light and life to all he brings. The Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, overshadows Mary that the Son of God might proceed from a woman to make us sons of God. The Holy Spirit, who is worshiped and glorified with the Father and the Son, also fills Mary – and you, the baptized - with joy and faith in her Son, that we might worship and glorify Jesus our Savior. The Holy Spirit, who spoke by the prophets, now comes to Mary to fulfill the prophets’ words:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,  and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

Mary is from the root of Jesse. Jesus is the shoot, the fruit of Jesse’s tree, born to save Israel and all nations. And the Holy Spirit gives growth, life, and faith…for you just as he did for Mary.

For in Advent, the Holy Spirit comes to give us true faith and lasting joy in the Christ Child born of Mary, born to save you. Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit that we might be born again through Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection.

As Gabriel announced to Mary:
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

If the Father is the Giver and the Son is the Gift, then the Holy Spirit is he who bears the gift and gives us joy in Christ. And yet, one of the great errors of our day is to associate the Holy Spirit and his work with our feelings and emotions. What many take for the Holy Spirit may just as easily be the result of too much holiday cheer or under-cooked Christmas party appetizers. Whatever the case, holiday cheer is not found by staring at our navels.

It’s not that emotions are bad – quite the opposite. But our emotions and feelings don’t give birth to faith in Christ. Rather, faith in Christ bears the fruit of God-pleasing emotions and joy. Whenever we place our emotions and feelings at the center of our quest for holiness and the Holy Spirit, we replace Christ as Lord and look to ourselves for wisdom, understanding, and faith. And what poor gods we have made ourselves to worship: fickle and impulsive, always up, down, this way and that. Repent, for all the times our emotions and feelings have ruled and guided our reading of Scripture instead of Scripture ruling and guiding our emotions and feelings. Repent of replacing the joy of the Holy Spirit with our own idols of happiness. And even this – our repentance and joy - are gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, do not be afraid. Rejoice! The Lord has found favor with you, not because of your love, but through His. For the same Holy Spirit who creates faith in us, as he did in Mary, also conceives in Mary’s womb the object of our faith.

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 

With these words Christ comes not only into her heart, but also into her womb, as she hears, grasps, and believes it. No one can say otherwise, than that the power comes through the Word.[1]
See how Mary’s faith rested, not on her emotions, but on God’s Word.

So it is for us. We cling to Jesus’ Word in the Scriptures, in our Baptism, in the forgiveness of sins, and his Holy body and blood – all gifts given to us by his Word.

Finding faith and assurance in our emotions is about as healthy as eating nothing but red and green wiggly Jell-O for your Christmas feast. But the Holy Spirit gives our faith a better foundation than our emotions which flip flop between the Grinch and Buddy the Elf.

In Advent, the Holy Spirit comes to give us true faith and lasting joy in the Christ Child born of Mary, born to save you.

St. Ambrose likens the HS to an ever-flowing river, whose water streams from the hands of Christ and leads back to Jesus, our fountain of life. Or, as one of our young catechumens said, “The Holy Spirit is like Batman only better; He leads us to God in human flesh, not a man in a mask.”

The Holy Spirit points us to Christ, keeps us in Christ, and leads us to Christ like the magi. Gives us joy like the angels. Plants faith in us in God’s word like Mary. So, ponder these gifts and treasure them.

For without the Holy Spirit we have no wisdom, understanding, or faith.
Without the Holy Spirit, we’re left to wrestle with the spirits of this world who seek to, steal, kill, and destroy. Without the Holy Spirit, we would’ve remained foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

And so…the same Holy Spirit who created faith in Mary creates faith in each of us as well, by God’s Word. The same Holy Spirit who overshadowed Mary pours out God’s loving kindness into our hearts in Holy Baptism. The same Holy Spirit by whom Jesus was conceived in human flesh within Mary’s womb, conceives faith in us that we see Jesus’ flesh and blood for us within the bread and wine of his Supper. By the Holy Spirit, Mary heard and believed, and so do we.
After all, the Christ child is born not only for Mary, but for you, for all. Unto us a child is born. Unto us a Son is given. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him. And through Jesus and from Jesus, the Holy Spirit rests upon you as well.

The Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies us in the one true faith. And like Mary, we respond in faith, Let it be to me according to your Word.

This Advent, the Holy Spirit comes to give us true faith and lasting joy in the Christ Child born of Mary, born to save you.

A blessed Advent to each of you…

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 36: Word and Sacrament II. (Vol. 36, p. 341).

No comments:

Post a Comment