Filled with the Christmas Spirit
Filled with the Christmas Spirit
We have had a hard year. You may be and may feel fairly empty.
One of my favorite Christmas movies of all time is the movie “A Christmas Carol”. And I like the different versions of it. And while it’s comical to see the stingy old Scrooge complain of putting a few more lumps of coal on the fire and to suggest prison is where the homeless can eat, it is the profound change of heart that Scrooge has that is wonderful to see. And the movie ends with the narrator speaking of the change of heart and mind Scrooge experiences. Scrooge goes from a grumpy miser to a kind and giving and joyful man. Tiny Tim concludes it by shouting out, “And God bless us everyone.”
That line sums up what you have seen in the movie. It’s a reminder that seeing what God has provided for us and having a generous heart is in fact a blessing. And we should all desire to experience that.
But can we experience that without the ghost of past, present and future coming to see us. How can we find that joy and blessing.
Christmas is about the birth of the Savior of the world. God sends his son into the world to save us from all of the problems in the world. Every problem is taken care of in Jesus, and that provides joy, hope, and generosity.
Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world, and it gives us hope in everything.
We are looking at a passage today that shows how news of a savior can fill us. We don’t need visits from ghosts or anything else. When we are empty we can look to Jesus. Several things we associate with Christmas are joy, singing, hope.
In Luke the focus is on Mary and what the angel has spoken to her. This week we see that she journeys to her older barren cousin whom the angels announced is with child. She goes to confirm the word spoken by the angel, and she receives confirmation that leads her to great rejoicing.
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” 46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” 56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home. (Luke 1:39-56 ESV)
I want to look at a few things Jesus provides for us that gives us hope in everything.
First is …
People are blessed through Jesus.
-V43 blessed are you and blessed the fruit of your womb. This child is blessed and is a blessing to all those around. Mary is blessed through him. Elizabeth’s child leaps at the sound
-v45 blessed is the one who believes what the Lord has spoken to her…
-V50 Blessed are those who fear him. God speaks and follows through on what he says. You are blessed in Jesus.
-V54-55 What was spoken to Abraham has been fulfilled. “All nations will be blessed through you.”
Thousands of years before Jesus, God made a promise to a man named Abraham. Abraham was old and had no children, but God made a promise to him, that he would bless Abraham and through Abraham he would bless all the peoples of the world (Gen 12:1-3). Jesus is of the line of Abraham. What God promised to Abraham is being fulfilled in Christ.
Don’t doubt. Don’t think he forgets or says things flippantly.
What we give ourselves to and wear ourselves out to acquire, is given to us in Jesus. We frantically chase after worldly things, buying things we can’t afford, and anxiously toil hoping we can make it up. We need to relax from those things and rest in what God has done for us. You pressure your kids into being the best at everything they do, school, sports. There is no leisure. It’s competing for everything hoping they can make it just like you. Have you taught them to rest in Christ? Have you learned to rest in Christ? Silent night- all is calm. One brief moment in one song an anxious world stands quiet.
Just stop and think about what God has done for you in Jesus. Eph 1 “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms.”
who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, in Christ; (Eph 1:3 CSB)
Everything of eternal significance is done for you through Christ. Temporary things may come and go.
Sometimes kids get upset at their parents for not doing something – you are upset I didn’t let you have dessert, but I have provided for food, a house to sleep in, a bed, television, internet, phone… and you say I don’t love you because you didn’t get to go to the party with your friends. So many people say, God doesn’t love me because I didn’t get that thing I really wanted. Let what he has done anchor you when he hasn’t done what you want.
Have you noticed how people wear themselves out at Christmas to make sure everything is perfect? Every kid has exactly what they wanted. Cake is perfectly decorated. And then you walk in to check things out and you get yelled at, “Don’t mess anything up.” Your like, “Well, I love you, too. But I guess I don’t want to be where I’m not welcome”. We try so hard to control what we can, but so much is out of our control
In Christ we are filled with blessing. Be still and enjoy it. You would be full of joy if you won the lottery this Christmas. At least for a little bit. Most lottery winners don’t find fulfillment in the win. But in Christ we are blessed with everything spiritual. Take time to consider that. It’s not about just being grateful for what you have in this world, it’s about recognizing the eternal treasure you have in Christ. You are blessed through him.
The Savior also brings …
Song is an essential part of our faith. It is an essential part of being human. Praise is the response to something wonderful, awesome, great. It is only appropriate that there be songs of joy sung to God. Some religions don’t have songs of joy, they may chant but there is not exuberant confidence of victory. Joyful singing is a hallmark of the Christian faith. How many people walk around with no hope, no joy, no truth that points them beyond their circumstance, no real relationship with God where he speaks to and calls them. We sing each Sunday because we have something to shout about.
People delivered from Egypt they sang. First poem came when Adam met Eve. The announcement of a Savior the heavens rejoice and so does Mary and those around her.
The baby John praises. Elizabeth praises. Mary Praises.
When you have good news, you want to share it. If you have climbed Mt Everest you want to tell people. If you aced the ACT you want to work that into conversation. If your team won you find ways to talk about it.
The arrival of a Savior is worth singing about. Mary is a young peasant girl. Of little status. Of little wealth. And yet she finds reason to rejoice. The apostle Paul was the most learned man of his time and he sang songs and hymns with his friends. David was a king who defeated giants and he sang before the Lord. Never too old, too young, too tough to sing.
JB Phillips. Your God is too Small. Writing in 1968 he mentions how people’s understanding of the universe is growing at a staggering rate, but their conception of God is still the understanding of a child. They strenuously try to deny the outside realities in order to maintain their childish view of God. It remains true today. People don’t worship because their God is too small. Doesn’t do anything great.
Here Mary’s conception of God is being blown wide open, and her awareness of new realities and new work cause her to rejoice in the old truths of Scripture. We don’t move away from what God has spoken in the past, but we do go deeper in our understanding of who he is. Mary magnifies God. Megalunq. Mega: great. This is to make great boast of something. To worship. When you sing you celebrate the thing you are singing about. You yell at a touchdown. It’s great and requires great celebration. But what is wrong with us when we shout for touchdowns and homeruns and test scores but we barely lift our eyes to celebrate Christ. Give a shout! Give a praise to God! Don’t wait for it to just happen – resolve to sing, resolve to shout, resolve to give him glory!
Mary knows her Bible. Her mind was full of Scripture. Let us strive every year we live to become more deeply acquainted with Scripture. She doesn’t quote self help strategies “God helps those who help themselves”. She doesn’t quote proverbs. She quotes passages about God’s deliverance of his people.
When we sing together at church it is a time to feed your soul. Don’t be too proud to sing. Too worried of what others think. Don’t wait for it to just come. Give yourself a workout. It is good to sing to the Lord (Psalm). It is right, it is fitting.
Was only fitting that Mary would hear the news of the Savior and burst into song. The infant John the Baptist leapt. Sing. Holding out your hands is a sign of surrender.
Worship is a discipline that is cultivated. Mary worked on this song. You don’t just happen into it. Sometimes you just say, “God you deserve my praise, my affection, my shouts more than anything else.” I want to give that to you.
“Happiness communicated doubles itself. Grief grows greater by concealing it: Joy by expression.” JC Ryle.
The news of a savior can fill you.
Do you like being around proud people? Probably not. They are always concerned about themselves. Always aware of what they have done, how much better their work is than others. All those Christmas characters had issues with pride. Grinch, been hurt and angry at others. Been hurt way more than anyone else. Scrooge, so concerned with meeting his own needs that he doesn’t even think of others. Dad doesn’t think about how his actions are perceived by kids. Pride leads to destruction. We should take it seriously.
There is a great reversal happening with Jesus. This child exalts
[51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
Those who are just fine on their own do not benefit from this Savior; those who see their need for him find salvation. The rich go away empty. The hungry are filled.
To receive the work of Christ one has to humble ones self and say they cannot make it on their own. To confess him as Lord means you are looking to him to follow and obey. You are not relying on your own wisdom. You are not living just for you. You are saying I want to follow Jesus and am going to look to him in everything.
Grownups call this child their Lord. Think about that. This child is the source of blessing for his parents, for his aunts and uncles. It’s amazing to think about. Those who accept him find salvation. Those who ignore, reject, or minimize him will remove themselves from his blessing.
If he is your Lord there is an allegiance to him. We have to humble ourselves. Singing takes humility. To rejoice in Christ means we have to be willing to embarrass ourselves a little.
We have to get out of the way. Lift him up. It takes humility to say he is my Lord. This is a baby. I’m officially a great uncle now. My niece had a baby. She was the flower girl at our wedding. It’s wonderful to see. But this baby isn’t going to provide for me, certainly not for a couple decades. I could not imagine looking at this baby and saying there is my Lord. And that’s what people are doing. They are bowing down.
And this reminds us the greatest change a person will ever experience is not recognizing Christmas isn’t just about presents, or recognizing we should be more generous or take off time from work, or be with family more. The greatest change a person can ever experience is knowing Jesus Christ, not just as a baby in a manager, but as their Lord and Savior. This is when the good news of Christmas becomes personal.
Decluttering a room. Many good things but nothing is prominent. Go in some rooms and the decorations are overwhelming. Go in others and there is one decoration that stands out. That is what it means to follow Jesus. He is not just one of many. He is the one. We take a seat. We push others to the side. We look to him and him alone.
When you have too much stuff in a room you can’t tell what is important. Do your kids know what is important at Christmas? Have you cluttered the season so much that no one knows the difference between Jesus, Santa, reindeer, grinches? We put pagan distractions on par with the Savior of the world.
There is freedom in that. Freedom in letting go of other controlling influences. Hoarders fear getting rid of things. So often we run ourselves ragged because we can’t say no to others things. We are scared. There is a freedom in knowing Jesus is the one thing you need, the one thing required to know God’s blessing.
None of those stories will set you in alignment with the God of the universe.
Some of the great Christmas movies show people being set free from complaining, sadness, depression, confusion, purposelessness, and they find joy, blessing, gratefulness, hope, purpose. The greatest source of all of these is found in Jesus. He gives us peace with God and that brings rejoicing, singing, and all the things that make life wonderful. There are shadows of this hope in movies and songs, but the clearest, purest, most powerful form of it is in the Savior.