What are you Hoping for this Christmas?

This Sunday we kicked off our Advent series where we’re looking at the Christmas story through the eyes of Mary and Joseph, as they realized the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people through Abraham and David. After 42 generations, this couple stood on the moment when God was finally acting to bring about all that He had promised to Israel. Their child, Jesus was the One. And look at how the promise of that hope went on to shape their lives, and ultimately human history.

We wondered together, what hope gives us the courage to face every day with confidence and boldness? What hope empowers us to embrace every challenge and obstacle in our path with the assurance that we will one day possess that which is promised? I ended my message by asking this question: “What are you hoping for this Christmas?”

As we took a few moments to reflect on that question, I had my own answer in mind. It’s a hope in one of God’s promises that has become so vivid and meaningful to me recently. It’s a hope that I embrace every day through personal prayer and conviction. It’s a hope that has been shaping my life and my ministry (and consequently how I lead here at Forest Brook) for the past couple of years now. It is a hope that when we pray, “Come Holy Spirit”, He will come!

The promise is that that God gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:13). And here’s what makes me so excited by that promise: the Apostle Paul tell us that the ministry of the Spirit is glorious. It’s even more glorious that that of the Law! He writes in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11:

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns people is glorious, how much more is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

When you read the story of the Israelites you have to be impressed with the display at Mt. Sinai, when the Law was given. There was smoke, lightning, thunder and the earth shook. But people remained pretty much unchanged after they received the law. Yet that was still glorious by Paul’s standards! That was still God at work among His people in the world.

But that was nothing compared to what God is doing now, through the ministry of the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit has the power to convict people of their sins (John 16:8), reveal the mind and thoughts of God (1 Corinthians 2:10), heal the sick (Acts 10:38); free people from demonic oppression (Luke 11:20) and even raise the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20). Is it any wonder we would want to seek it out more enthusiastically?

If anyone is tepid in the church today it not the Holy Spirit – it is you and me! In the most recent issue of Promise Keeper Canada’s magazine, Marc Brule writes: “Life in the first century church was not boring in any way! God was on the move, people’s lives were being transformed in masses. The Gospel was being preached and there was risk, danger, and thrill. It’s far too easy for us as western world Christians to settle into a mundane spiritual life. We read our Bibles. We pray. We go to church. And we just do life. Were we not make for more than this?” Yes! Yes we are! We are made for kingdom ministry – and that in the power of the Spirit (Acts 1:4-5)!

We know the Bible says these things about the Holy Spirit. But do we really believe them to be true? Do we believe so much that it shapes the way we pray and serve as followers of Jesus? What’s in our hearts makes a difference.  John Wimber wrote, “People with soft and teachable hearts openly receive and obey the words of the kingdom. The root problem for people not receiving the secrets of the kingdom is in the heart, in our motives and attitudes toward the things of God. A hard heart is closed to the supernatural and cannot see or hear the secrets of the kingdom.”

I believe God’s promise about the Holy Spirit. And because of that, I have confidence in pursuing the ministry of the Spirit for Forest Brook. That too, is biblical. Because of the glory of the Spirit’s working, the Apostle Paul concluded, “Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” (2 Corinthians 3:12). So we pray with boldness: “Holy Spirit, come”. And He has come, and will come with even more power into God’s church at Forest Brook.

Lord, show us your glory!