Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Christmas Gifts: Awakening the Spirit in Our Lives

Christmas Gifts: Awakening the Spirit in Our Lives

As we gather on this Christmas Eve, I am filled with gratitude for the warmth and grace that each of you brings to our church family. Christmas is a time of memories and joy, and the celebration of the love that we share with family, friends and each other. Today, I want to remind you that the spirit of Christmas echoes through our congregation.

In our church, we are blessed with the wisdom and experience that come with age. Many of you have seen decades pass, and your lives have been filled with stories of love, faith, and endurance. You possess the evidence of God’s faithfulness and demonstrate a spirit of kindness, empathy and mercy. That is a tribute to the presence of the Holy Spirit, which is Emmanuel, Christ with us.

Jesus came into this world as a humble baby, born in a stable, surrounded by simplicity and love. He came as our Savior, but he also came to give us the gift of the Holy Spirit. One day, he would give us the gifts of the spirit to give to others. Because of the gifts of Jesus Christ, we live by the values we hold dear, especially at Christmas: love for our neighbors, peace in our hearts, and the joy of giving.

The gifts of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. They are not new to you. They guide your lives and give hope to our community.

This season, let us commit anew to living out these values in our daily lives. In a world that seems hurried and competitive, you are a living example of the profound impact of a gentle and loving spirit. Your actions, no matter how small, can bring comfort, hope, and joy to those who need it most. The true gift of Christmas is not found in the material things we exchange but, in the love that we share, the kindness we extend, and the compassion we show to one another.

Even as we, as Christians, share the love and joy of Christ with the world, we can sometimes struggle to live out joy, peace, patience and kindness in our own lives and with our families, coworkers or friends. The circumstances of our life can put us in a struggle for our personal needs and for our health. Life can feel uncertain and precarious. We can struggle, and joy and peace can feel far off. These feelings can seem even worse during the holidays. This Christmas, let us remember that because of God’s gift of Jesus and his mercy, and the gifts of the Spirit we receive from Christ, we can have a life of hope, peace and joy beyond our circumstances.

Instead of getting down and discouraged, we can open the gifts the Baby Jesus will ultimately give us: 

Love instead of Bitterness!

Joy instead of Worry!

Peace instead of Conflict!

Kindness instead of Indifference!

Goodness instead of Selfishness!

Faithfulness instead of Giving Up!

Gentleness instead of Harshness!

Self-Control instead of Despair!

Born a Jewish baby, Jesus would have to be taken by Mary and Joseph to the temple to be dedicated. In the temple was a man named Simeon. He was wise, and unlike the priests, he understood the arrival of the Messiah. He knew the Messiah would usher in the peaceful transformation of humanity. He recognized Jesus to be the Messiah.

Let’s read his story:

Luke 2:25-35

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Today I have a story that helps us see Jesus’s dedication from Simeon’s perspective and better understand what a profound event this was. Before Mary Joseph and Jesus arrive at the Temple, let’s picture Simeon standing on a quiet hillside, his eyes gazing out over the countryside and the bustling city of Jerusalem in the distance. He had spent many years observing the world around him, and today was no different. As he looked around, he couldn’t help but contemplate the difficult circumstances that seemed to permeate all of life.

First and foremost, there was the occupation by the Romans of his beloved Jerusalem. Every day he lived under the oppression of the powerful Roman rulers and military. As part of the Jewish priesthood, he had to navigate the toxic politics of the day. In the heart of the city, people engaged in relentless work to provide a simple meal and pay their taxes while others fought over wealth and position. Even in the forest, animals scuffled over territory and mates, driven by the primal instinct to survive and dominate.

Simeon pondered the injustice in his world and the ceaseless struggle for subsistence. He wavered between the righteous anger he was feeling and resignation to a miserable fate. Yet, he was too much a student of the Hebrew scriptures to forsake God’s faithfulness to his people. Simeon recalled his readings of the Jewish writings that described God’s ability to bring tranquility amid the chaos. He remembered the Exodus story of God saving his people from slavery and bring them to the promised land. In his heart, Simeon held onto a different hope, one that transcended the bleak landscape of life’s circumstances. He remembered the promise of a Messiah who would bring peace and salvation to the world.

As he stood there, he felt a deep sense of calm. He knew that when the Messiah came, God’s Spirit would come to dwell among humanity. Simeon didn’t understand fully what that would look like. But he did know it would bring peace and joy to humanity and meaning instead of fatalism to their lives. Simeon looked forward to the day when the world would be changed by the presence of the Messiah, bringing a new way of life to all of creation.

With a heart full of anticipation and hope, Simeon descended from the hillside and made his way back to the temple in Jerusalem. His steps were purposeful, his spirit lifted by the belief that the promised Messiah was drawing nearer.

As he entered the temple, the scent of incense and the solemnity of the surroundings enveloped him. Simeon sought out a quiet corner, away from the bustling crowds, to pray and reflect on the significance of this day.

He bowed his head and offered a heartfelt prayer to the God of Israel, thanking Him for the faithfulness of generations past and the fulfillment of His promises. Simeon’s voice was filled with reverence as he spoke of the Messiah who would bring salvation not only to Israel but to all peoples.

And then, Simeon felt an inner prompting, and he knew that the time had come. The Son of God had come; a divine child who was to be dedicated to the Lord. Simeon’s eyes scanned the temple courtyard, searching for the family who would bring forth the child. And there, amidst the crowd, he saw them – a humble couple, Mary and Joseph, cradling the infant Jesus in their arms.

With a heart filled with joy and reverence, Simeon approached them. His hands trembled slightly as he took the precious child into his arms. In that moment, as he held the Messiah, Simeon felt the weight of centuries of waiting and the promise of redemption.

Tears of gratitude welled up in Simeon’s eyes as he spoke a prayer of dedication over the child. He knew that this baby, so small and vulnerable, carried the hopes and dreams of generations. Simeon’s voice resonated through the temple as he proclaimed:

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Mary and Joseph listened with awe and wonder; their hearts deeply moved by Simeon’s words. They knew that this child was chosen by God for a divine purpose.

Simeon blessed the family and then turned his gaze back to the heavens, whispering words of thanksgiving to the Almighty. He had seen God’s promise fulfilled with his own eyes, and his heart was filled with a profound sense of peace.

On this Christmas Eve 2023, what can we take from this story? Simeon knew there was more to life than a mundane existence just trying to survive, enduring the weight of oppression and struggling with uncertainty. He embraced the promise of Scripture. He knew that the Messiah fulfilled the hope of God’s people. He knew that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. HE HELD GOD IN HIS ARMS!

We too have the promise of Scripture. We are followers of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. We hold the Spirit of Christ in our hearts! Every day of our lives, we receive the gifts of the Spirit, and we regift them to the people we love in our lives and in our community. (This is the one time that regifting is encouraged!)

This Christmas, we celebrate the gift of Jesus and the spiritual gifts that Jesus brought to us. Let’s list them again: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, which is also interpreted as long-suffering or perseverance. Would you like to experience more of these gifts? I invite you to receive the gift of Jesus. I invite you to follow Jesus with your whole heart this coming year. Guided by these gifts, we at Place of Grace Fellowship approach life differently. We approach life knowing that our God is the God of abundance. The Spirit gives us gifts and as we give to others, our lives will overflow with these gifts. There is a never-ending supply of God’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and perseverance. Amen!

Let us pray:

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father,

On this Christmas Eve, we gather in the warmth of God’s love and grace. We thank you for the timeless story of Simeon, who, during life’s challenges, found hope in the promise of your Messiah.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, may the gifts of love, joy, peace, and all the gifts of the Spirit fill our hearts and homes.

In a world marked by dominance and self-centeredness, grant us the character of Jesus to choose the path of compassion and humility. May we be peacemakers in times of conflict and may your love shine through us.

With the birth of your son, we recognize your presence in our lives, guiding us through both the challenges and the joys. Renew us with your Spirit. Transform us to live as faithful followers of Christ.

May the spirit of Christmas fill our hearts with wonder and gratitude. We thank you for the gift of your Son, who brought light to the world.

As we celebrate this Christmas, may the gifts of the Spirit shine brightly within us, illuminating our lives and those around us with your love.

In the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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