We are only a few days away from Christmas. Then, seven days later, we celebrate the new year, the year 2022 Anno Domini. Then we get back to our routine, the jobs, the schedules, the familiar patterns. That’s the sequence we expect, one at a time. But what if those are not separate, independent events? What if the meaning of Christmas shapes your expectation for the new year to come? What God did in Bethlehem two thousand twenty-two years ago was pretty big, and worthy of commemoration. The word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Creator of the Universe took on human form and became vulnerable and mortal. That, by itself, is amazing. What if the meaning of Christmas is more than the remembrance of something that happened long ago? What if the meaning of Christmas shapes what you think could be possible for you, and for your family, and for the world in the upcoming year? We worship a triune God, God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What if the meaning of Christmas isn’t only about the second person of the trinity, the birth of Jesus? What if the meaning of Christmas is also about the third person of the Trinity, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and God’s power on your behalf, our behalf, as we move into the new year?
Let’s look at what the Holy Spirit may mean for you as we move into the new year. We are all, if we are Christians, incomplete Christians. Nothing surprising about that. Nothing wrong with that. Perfection is unattainable in this lifetime. When we recite our mission statement, that we want to help men and women become mature, healthy followers of Jesus, the implication is that we all have some growing to do. Again, nothing wrong with that. That’s the human condition. If you consider yourself a Christian, consider in what particular way you are in incomplete Christian. We are all incomplete, but we are each complete in our own special way. It’s like the line from Tolstoy: all happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. If we are Christians, we are all incomplete in our own way. Some of us are inconsistent. We go through stretches where we are kind and generous and selfless and other stretches where we are mean and self-centered. Some of us are compartmentalized Christians. We are one way one place and another way someplace else, like maybe we are good to our family but a terror at work. Some of us are incomplete Christians in the sense that we are devout in our worship but relatively unconcerned with our neighbor, and others are just the opposite. Some of us incomplete Christians in that we have the feelings but not the knowledge. That was apparently the issue with Apollos, the man mentioned at the beginning of our Bible lesson. He was a great evangelist and a motivational speaker, but there were some facts about the faith that he just didn’t know, and some of the more mature believers had to take him aside and teach him. There are a number of ways we can be incomplete Christians, and I mention it because there is one particular way that many of us are incomplete Christians, and our story about John the Baptist and his disciples illustrate it. Some of us don’t really believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are more Bi-tarians than Trinitarians. We believe in the Father and the Son but we are not sure what to do about the Holy Spirit. We believe that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and we believe that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whosever believes will not perish but have eternal life, but we are not so confident that the power of the Holy Spirit is going to make a big difference for us in the year 2022. We read through the Book of Acts, and either we are not so sure it actually happened like that, or if it did, it wouldn’t happen in our time. We trust God. We thank God for what he has done for us in Jesus Christ. We don’t necessarily think that the new year depends on what God is going to do. We think our life is what we make it, and that’s partially true, but that’s not the whole story. We think that the future of the nation and of the world depends on our leaders and the movements of culture and society, and that is partially true, but that is not the whole story. The Bible tells us that the future will be determined by the power of God. We like to talk about the love of God, the grace of God, the compassion of God, and that’s all good, but we don’t want to overlook the power of God. That explains why the Pentecostal Church is the fastest growing part of the church all around the world today. They see things happen that they could not explain any other way, they see things happen that they could not accomplish on their own, and they know that God is at work. They believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is why we are waiting for Jesus. We have been saying these past four weeks that we are waiting for Jesus, and we have been saying that John the Baptist told us that he is coming, but we have not said why we are waiting. We are waiting because we have problems that are bigger than we are, but we have a God who is bigger than our problems. We are waiting because we need a power greater than our own. We are waiting because we want to do big things in our life, and big thing in our world, but that can only happen through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. I think there may be something you want to be hoping for in your own life, or in your family, or in your place of work, or in your community, or even in the nation or the world, that you are afraid to hope for because you count up the resources you have and you fall short. It’s okay if you fall short. You have more resources than you know. You have access to more power than you know. You have the Holy Spirit. That’s why we are waiting on Jesus. We are not just waiting on the baby Jesus. We are waiting on the Holy Spirit.
In our sermon this Sunday we will look at the story of how the disciples of John the Baptism learned that there is a greater baptism, baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.