The Spirit of Christmas The Holy Spirit in the conception of Christ
But as (Joseph) considered these things, behold and angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.Matthew 1:20 ESV
Twice in Matthew's narrative of the virgin conception of Jesus he uses the phrase "from the Holy Spirit" (1:18, 20). Have you ever thought about the role of the Spirit in the conception of Christ? I'll admit I hadn't until the Gospel of Matthew made me. And now I'm making you.
Rest assured I'm not going to delve into the mystery of it all, that is, I'm not going to attempt to describe for the first time in history the supernatural/biological process by which the Spirit worked in Mary's womb. (I am still waiting to be taken up into the 7th heaven for that revelation). For now I simply want to point out the obvious but often overlooked truths, namely: that the Holy Spirit made the pre-existent second person of the Trinity into a human being. Put differently, and following the language of 1:18 ("Now the genesis of Jesus Christ," cf. 1:1), the Spirit genesis-ed Jesus.
The Spirit genesis-ed Jesus in that He took the pre-existent Sun and formed His inward parts, knitting Him together in His mother's womb, making Him "fearfully and wonderfully" human (Ps. 139:13, 14). You see, just as the Spirit "was hovering over the face of the waters" at creation (Gen. 1:2), so in the incarnation He "overshadowed" Mary's womb (Luke 1:35), making God's Son into one of us — with bones and brains and blood, with lungs and lips and lymph nodes, with head and heart and hands.
Haw awesome! And how ironic — that the Spirit’s work is fleshly.
One of the problems in the church today is that the work of the Holy Spirit is over-spiritualised. Does that sound strange? I suppose it should. But here's what I mean: where the Holy Spirit is present in the world we see the humanity of Jesus believed and celebrated. Conversely, where false or demonic spirits are at work, we find a Jesus without flesh. He becomes a super-spiritualised Divine Being or a cosmic Christ. As John summarised in his First Epistle: "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God" (1 John 4:2). That is the apostolic, acid test of orthodoxy — the Spirit of God testifies about the Son of God who has "come in the flesh."
So, with that in mind, let me ask you an important question: Is your church Spirit-filled? Well, there is one sure way to know. It is this: if Jesus — in all His heavenly divinity and in all His earthly humanity — is the focus. Frederick Dale Bruner calls this "the Christocentricity of the Spirit". He explains:
It is my impression from a study of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament that the true humanity of Jesus Christ is one of the two major 'lectures' of the Holy Spirit". (The other lecture is, in Paul's words, the Spirit's reaching us to say that "Jesus is Lord" i.e., divine, 1 Cor 12:3). To put this in another way, the Holy Spirit does two major works: first, the Spirit brings Christ down to earth and makes Him human; second, the Spirit lifts Christ up and shows Jesus' divinity. In other words, the Holy Spirit is a good theologian and gives two main courses: The True Humanity of Jesus Christ the first semester and The True Divinity of Jesus Christ the second ... It is the work of the Holy Spirit, in either course, to bring Jesus Christ into human lives.
The Holy Spirit has been called the shy and humble member of the Trinity because it is His divine task to help us exalt the Son. Amen to that — And Hallelujah to Him!
The role of the Holy Spirit in the conception of Christ — what a wonderful truth to think about on Christmas.