The Spirit of Christmas Future

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Romans 8:18-25 (Renewal)

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called The Spirit of Christmas, and together we’ve been looking at the role of the Holy Spirit at Christmas. So far we have looked at the Spirit of Christmas Past, that is, the role of the Holy Spirit in the years leading up to Christmas. Then we looked at the Spirit of Christmas Present, both the role of the Holy Spirit at the first Christmas and the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives today. Now today we come to the last message our series – the Spirit of Christmas future. What will be the role of the Holy Spirit in the future when Christ returns? (Read Romans 8:18-25 and pray.)

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Most of us have either read Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol or seen some version of it on TV. In it three ghosts of Christmas visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve giving him much needed insight into his miserable life. The scariest one for me growing up, and apparently for Scrooge as well, was always the Spirit of Christmas Future. He is a mysterious, foreboding creature, draped and hooded, quiet and dark, never even speaking to Scrooge but only pointing with his outstretched arm.

Well, today’s message is also called “The Spirit of Christmas Future.” But unlike Dickens, this is not a scary message. Rather it is a message of hope and the renewal of all things in the future.

We read about God’s amazing promise for the future in Isaiah 65: “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth … Be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create … I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.” (Isaiah 65:17-19)

God began to fulfill this promise when he sent his Son, Jesus, into our world on Christmas Day. That is why the angels filled the sky and praised God saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14) Christmas was the first coming of Christ, and what God started at Christmas, he will fulfill at the second coming of Christ. Christmas began the process of renewal that will culminate with the new heavens and earth.

And how will God bring about the new heavens and earth? Once again, it is through the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of Christmas Future that will bring about God’s re-creation of heaven and earth. But before we can understand the Holy Spirit’s role in re-creating the heavens and earth, first we must look back – back to the original creation and the Holy Spirit’s role there and at Christmas

I. The Holy Spirit was active at creation and the incarnation.

The Scriptures tell us that the Holy Spirit was active at both creation and the incarnation.

   A. The Holy Spirit hovered over the waters (Genesis 1:1-3)

For example,we read in Genesis 1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2)

When you go back to the very beginning of Genesis, the beginning of the Bible, the beginning of creation, you find the Holy Spirit is right there, hovering over the waters. It’s a picture of the Holy Spirit waiting in anticipation for the command of God to go forth that the Spirit of God might share in the act of creating. And indeed in the very next verse, God commands: “‘Let there be light!’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3) The Holy Spirit was active at creation.

   B. The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary (Luke 1:35)

The Holy Spirit was also active at the incarnation. The angel said to Mary in Luke 1:35: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) Just as the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters at the creation of the world, so the Holy Spirit hovered over Mary at the conception of Jesus.

The incarnation was a type of creation. Jesus was not created at Christmas; he already existed eternally as the Son of God. But the Holy Spirit worked an act of creation within Mary whereby the Son of God took on flesh and was miraculously conceived in Mary’s womb without the help of a man. The Holy Spirit was active at creation and the incarnation.

   C. The Holy Spirit gives life to all (Genesis 2:7; Psalm 104:24,30; Ezekiel 37:1-14)

And this is because it is the Holy Spirit who gives life to all. Once again, we see this in the original creation. In Genesis 2 we read: “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7) The word for “breath” in the Hebrew is the same as the word for “Spirit.” God created Adam and breathed life into him through the Holy Spirit.

We read in Psalm 104: “The earth is full of your creatures … When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” (Psalm 104:24,30) Once again it the Holy Spirit who gives life to all God’s creatures.

We see this illustrated for us again in the book of Ezekiel where God gave the prophet Ezekiel a strange vision of a valley that was full of dry bones. And in the vision as Ezekiel prophesied first “the bones came together” and then “tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.” (Ezekiel 37:8) Then God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath, and when Ezekiel did, “breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.” (Ezekiel 37:10)

It was the breath that gave them life, and we know that the breath here is a symbol for the Holy Spirit because Ezekiel goes on to prophecy: “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel … I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.” (Ezekiel 37:12-14)

And so throughout Scripture it is clear that is the Spirit who gives life. The Holy Spirit was active at creation and the incarnation.

II. The Holy Spirit is active in the new creation ( 2 Corinthians 5:17)

The Holy Spirit is also active in the new creation. The Bible says: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) When you come to Christ, you become a new creation. You become a brand new person with a new hope and a new future. And God does that for you through the Holy Spirit.

   A. The Holy Spirit gives us new birth (John 3:5-6)

It is the Holy Spirit who gives us new birth. When Jesus spoke about being born again he said: “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:5-6) You are born again by the Spirit of God.

   B. The Holy Spirit brings us renewal of life (Titus 3:5)

The Holy Spirit also brings us renewal of life. We read in Titus 3:5: “God saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5) Once again it is the Holy Spirit who gives life to all things, and so we should not be surprised that it is the Holy Spirit who gives us new birth and renewal of life.

   C. The Holy Spirit indwells the church (Ephesians 2:22)

We saw last week how the Holy Spirit comes and indwells the believer, but the Holy Spirit also comes and indwells the church. We read about the church in Ephesians 2:22: “In Christ you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22) The church is also God’s new creation brought about by the Spirit of God and in which God dwells by his Spirit.

We have seen that Jesus was called Immanuel, which means “God with us,” because Jesus was God with us in the flesh. But God is also with us through the indwelling of the believer by the Holy Spirit, and God is with us through the indwelling of the church by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is active in the new creation.

III. The Holy Spirit will be active in re-creation.

But there is a third and future part to all this. 1) The Holy Spirit was active at creation and the incarnation. 2) The Holy Spirit is active in the new creation. And 3) The Holy Spirit will also be active in re-creation – the re-creation of the whole word when Jesus returns and we come to live in the new heavens and earth. This is the glorious future that was prophesied in the Old Testament and confirmed by the angels on Christmas Day. Let me trace it out for you in five steps.

   A. The present creation is in bondage to decay
      – Romans 8:20-21

First of all, the present creation is in bondage to decay. We read in Romans 8: “The creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:20-21)

When Adam and Eve sinned, it affected all of God’s creation. If you’ve ever wondered why there is so much sickness and suffering in the world, it is all because of sin. God created all things good, but sin changed everything. And the results were devastating. The ground was cursed because of Adam and produced thorns and thistles. Women were cursed with pain in childbearing. Death and decay entered the world. All sorrow, sickness and suffering is a result of sin in the world. That’s the first thing to understand. The present creation is in bondage to decay.

   B. The Spirit in us is a sign of the renewal to come
      – Romans 8:22-23

Secondly, the Spirit in us is a sign of the renewal to come. Continuing in Romans 8 we read: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23) The whole creation is groaning as in pains of childbirth as it awaits the renewal to come. We are part of creation, and so we share in that groaning. But as Christians we have a sign of hope. We have the Holy Spirit in us, a divine deposit guaranteeing the redemption of our bodies when we will no long be subject to sorrow and sickness and suffering. The whole creation has been groaning, and the whole creation will be renewed. The Spirit in us is a sign of the renewal to come.

   C. The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will raise you
      – Romans 8:11

Thirdly, the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will raise you. Paul writes in Romans 8:11: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:11) The renewal of all things includes the resurrection of our bodies. And how will God bring about this future resurrection? Once again, through the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who gives life and renews all things, and God will give life to your mortal bodies through the Holy Spirit who lives in you.

   D. God will reconcile all things to himself through Christ
      – Colossians 1:19-20

Fourthly, God will reconcile all things to himself through Christ. We read in Colossians 1: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20)

Jesus came into the world at Christmas not only to save our souls, and not only to save our bodies, but to redeem all of creation. This is the new heavens and earth that we read about from Isaiah at the beginning of the message. (see Isaiah 65:17-25) All of creation will be renewed and given new life through the Holy Spirit.

And this is only possible because Jesus came into our world at Christmas, took on flesh and died for us, making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Without Christmas there would be no cross; and without the cross there would be no new creation. God will reconcile all things to himself through Christ.

   E. God will live with us in the new heaven and earth
      – Revelation 21:1-4 (the ultimate fulfillment of Immanuel!)

And then finally, God will live with us in the new heaven and earth. We read this beautiful promise in Revelation 21: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth … And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them … There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

This is what God has been aiming at ever since the creation of the world. This is why Jesus was born into our world at Christmas. This is why Jesus died for us on the cross. In the new heaven and earth there will no more suffering, sorrow or sickness because there will be no more sin. And with sin removed from the picture, God will finally take his rightful dwelling place in his creation. “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.” This is the ultimate fulfillment of Immanuel – “God with us” – God will live with us in the new heaven and earth. As the angels proclaimed at the very first Christmas: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

And so the message of Christmas is not only that a child is born but that this whole world will be reborn. God was with us in the flesh through the birth of Jesus at Christmas. God is with us now through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And when Jesus returns, God will be with us in the new heavens and earth forever.

CONCLUSION: Most of the carols we sing at Christmas have to do with Jesus’ birth, Jesus’ first coming. And that makes sense, that’s why we call them Christmas carols. But there is one carol we sing that is actually more about Jesus’ second coming than his first. It is the carol “Joy to the World.” When you look closely at the lyrics, you will see that it speaks of the liberation of God’s creation and the renewal of all things when Jesus returns.

Now we can certainly sing it as a Christmas carol, because it was Jesus’ first coming at Christmas that paved the way for the future to come. But we can also sing it in anticipation of Christ’s second coming and the renewal of all things through the Holy Spirit. Joy to the world! Why? Because Jesus has come, and Jesus will come again, and the Holy Spirit will make all things new! He is the Spirit of Christmas past, present and future. And what a wonderful future awaits us as the children of God!

© Ray Fowler

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