There’s a place in one of Martin Luther’s nativity sermons where he asks something like, “Do know what a stable smells like? You know what that family would have smelled like after the birth when they went out into the city? And if they were standing next to you, how would you have felt about them and regarded them?” He is saying, I want you to see Christ in the neighbor you tend to despise—in the political party you despise, in the race you despise, in the class of people you despise.
Christmas is the end of thinking you are better than someone else, because Christmas is telling you that you could never get to heaven on your own. God had to come to you. It is telling you that people who are saved are not those who have arisen through their own ability to be what God wants them to be. Salvation comes to those who are willing to admit how weak they are.
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus (Wheaton, IL; Crossway Books; 2008) p. 41-42.
Adapted from “Mary,” sermon by Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, December 23, 2001. .
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In seeking to be filled and empowered by the Spirit we must pursue him indirectly—we must look to the wonder of Christ. If we look away from Jesus and seek the Spirit and his power directly, we will end up in the mire of our own subjective emo- tions. The Spirit does not reveal himself. The Spirit reveals Christ. The fullness of the Spirit is the fullness that he gives as we gaze on Christ. The power of the Spirit is the power we feel in the presence of Christ. The joy of the Spirit is the joy we feel from the promises of Christ. Many of us know what it is to crouch on the floor and cry out to the Holy Spirit for joy and power, and experience nothing; but the next day devote ourselves to earnest meditation on the glory of Jesus Christ and be filled with the Spirit.
Devote yourselves to seeing and feeling the grandeur of the love of God in Jesus Christ and you will be so in harmony with the Holy Spirit that his power will flow mightily in your life. Chris- tian spiritual experience is not a vague religious emotion. It is an emotion with objective content, and the content is Jesus Christ. The shy member of the Trinity does mighty work, but he never puts himself in the limelight. You might say he is the limelight that puts the attributes of God the Father and the person of Christ into sharp relief.
Therefore, when the time came for the eternal Son of God to be sent by his Father into the world, the work of the Holy Spirit was a quiet, unobtrusive work in the service of the Father and the Son. Through him the Father caused the Son to be conceived in Mary the virgin. So from the very beginning of Christ’s incarnation the Holy Spirit was quietly doing what needed to be done to put forward Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of man.
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus (Wheaton, IL; Crossway Books; 2008) p. 30-31.
Adapted from “Christ Conceived by the Holy Spirit,” sermon by John Piper, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, March 11, 1984. The complete text of this sermon is available at: http://www. desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1984/429_Christ_Conceived_by_the_Holy_ Spirit/.
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Jesus’s incarnation saves. The incarnation of the Son of God is an essential precondition for his saving work, as Paul shows in Philippians 2:5–9:
Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.
Salvation Accomplished by the Son (Wheaton, IL; Crossway Books; 2011) p. 24
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