In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For [behold!] as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
The closer we get to Christmas, the more prose must give way to poems. It’s why singing figures so prominently at this time of year. Think about it. When in life are more people singing more of the very same songs more of the time than ever in the entire year? Christian or not, just about everybody loves Christmas music. Why? It’s because like no other time, the music of Christmas unites us. During Advent, the season preceding Christmas, we all listen to the very same songs—every single year, without fail—together. In fact, radio stations start playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving, and for some of them, it’s all they play around the clock. Shopping malls are like a symphony from the common songs in the concourses to the cacophony of medleys coming from the individual stores. From “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Away in a Manger” to “White Christmas,” there really is no sacred/secular divide at Christmas. No matter how commercialized and materialistic the season becomes, Christmas still belongs to Jesus.
Everyone loves to get into the Christmas spirit. And what exactly is “the Christmas spirit”? Can we be honest? The Christmas spirit is the Holy Spirit. From the day of Pentecost forward, the Holy Spirit courses across the face of the earth, moving with the awakening energy of heaven on earth, ever ready to invade and embrace anyone and everyone with the miracle of Jesus Messiah. In this one-of-its-kind season, the Spirit’s prevenient, preparatory work is remarkably present and public. At Christmas, the whole world is showing up at our party, singing our songs, and more open-hearted to the possibilities of God breaking in on their brokenness than in the rest of the calendar year combined. For Christians, the Christmas spirit must increasingly mean being filled with the Holy Spirit in ways making us radically hospitable, boldly open, extraordinarily generous, and deeply attuned to the ways Jesus wants to work within, among, and through us. No matter how crazy the holiday party gets, Jesus owns Christmas. In fact, Jesus is Christmas.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
Look what happened in this story. Mary shows up carrying Jesus in her womb. The child in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy at the awareness of the prenatal presence of Jesus, and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit! This is a profound awakening story.
What if it could be like that for us? We, like pregnant Mary, carry Jesus. (Really, it’s more like Jesus carries us.) As we move about in the open and joyful air of the holiday season, instead of lamenting that Christmas is everywhere and Jesus is nowhere, what if we focused on the fact that we carry Jesus? And what if we carried the faith—that as we carry Jesus—something deep in others leaps for joy at the awareness of his presence? The Holy Spirit stands present and ever ready to kindle awareness of and attunement to Jesus in every person on earth. What if the Spirit is waiting on us to show up with Jesus—to our party—even at someone else’s house? How’s that for getting into the Christmas spirit?
Our Father in heaven, nearer than my breath, thank you for these days of Advent and this new year in Christ. Lord Jesus, Christmas belongs to you and yet you want it to belong to the whole world. Make me a true bearer of your presence, the real Christmas spirit, as I move about these festive days. Come, Holy Spirit, and attune me to the longings unaware that the people all around me are carrying within them. Be so alive in me that others leap for joy at your presence within me. In the name of Jesus Messiah—the one who came, is here, and is coming again—for his glory and our good, amen.
Are you ready to take Jesus with you into the Christmas celebration? How can it be different this time around? How will you be different? How will Jesus be different in and through you?
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