The Significance of the Holy Spirit at Christmas

And What it says about Jesus' and Our Identity

The Holy Spirit played an integral role in the birth of Jesus Christ. The Gospels tell us that Mary became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:18, 20; Luke 1:35).

The significance of the Spirit in Jesus miraculous conception isn’t just that Jesus was born from a Virgin, as true as that may be. As theologian Steve Studebaker explains, the Spirit enables the incarnation as the “Spirit creates, sanctifies, and unites the divine Son with the humanity of Jesus Christ.”[1]

The role of the Spirit in Jesus’ conception is also significant because it also points to the fact that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah.

Anointed by the Spirit

When we read that Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are reminded that the Holy Spirit played a dominant role throughout Jesus’ ministry. And this is, in part, what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah.

To be clear, being the incarnate Word of God does not make Jesus the Messiah—the Spirit does.

The Greek word Christ and Hebrew word Messiah both mean “the anointed one.” And in the Old Testament, the Israelites expected that the Messiah would be anointed with the Spirit.

When Jesus started his ministry, he was filled with the Spirit at his baptism. Afterward, he affirms Isaiah’s prophecy that “the Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor” (Luke 4:18).

As the Messiah (the anointed one), Jesus ministered “filled with the Holy Spirit’s power” (Luke 4:14). And long before his public ministry, we are reminded of this fact in Jesus conception.

Jesus Identity and Our Identity

The biblical stories of Jesus’ birth aren’t there just to tell us about how Jesus happened to come into the world. They are there to remind us of Jesus identity. As the angels told the shepherds, Jesus was not just any baby; he is “the Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

“The Spirit is central to both who Christ is and what he did.”[2] The Spirit enabled the incarnation of the Son of God, and the Spirit-empowered Messiah came to bring redemption to the Israelites, and even for the whole world.

Likewise, the Spirit is central to both Christian identity and action. The Spirit gives believers new life, making them children of God. And the Spirit anoints Christians to continue in the Spirit-empowered ministry of Jesus.

May we be found faithful as we move forward into 2018.

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Andrew K. Gabriel, Ph.D., is the author of Touched by God: Experiencing the Holy Spirit (forthcoming) as well as three academic books, including The Lord is the Spirit. He is a theology professor at Horizon College and Seminary and serves on the Theological Study Commission for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. You can follow him on Facebook or on Twitter.

[1] Studebaker, “Integrating Pneumatology and Christology,” Pneuma vol. 28.1 (2006): 15.

[2] Studebaker, 18-19.

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One thought on “The Significance of the Holy Spirit at Christmas

  1. In understanding the central role of the Spirit in Jesus life and ministry helps us to better understand the the central place the Spirit is to have in our lives. When Jesus said, “As the Father sent me so now I am sending you” I believe this is what He was referring to.

    Having said that the Spirit is central in the christian life we can not lose the christocentric nature of the Christian faith. The Spirit is the agent who promotes Jesus. Some how in our discovering of all the Spirit would do in and through us we must appreciate fully the Lordship of Jesus. There is no jealousy among the persons of the Godhead, there is only the will and purpose of the One true God in three persons. That will is the promotion Jesus to the glory of the Father by the Spirit. The place of Jesus is greater than His death on the cross and His resurrection. He is head of the church. The King who reigns forever on the throne. The high priest of the church. It is logical that the Holy Spirit is worthy of worship. It seems reasonable that we can pray to the Spirit. But if we stay within the scriptures it is never seen. It is not in scripture because it is the will of God and the purpose of the Spirit to glorify Christ.

    Our challenge is to help people come alive to the reality of resurrection life that we ourselves are only beginning to understand and appreciate. Lord help us to glorify Christ in the fullness of the Spirit.