Getting Stuff or the Spirit?

Because its almost Christmas, we are all of course, looking forward to getting some good gifts. Some of us say that we don’t want anything or need anything, but every year there is something we get that we love and we’re happy to have gotten it. Some of us make lists to ensure that we get exactly what we want. We do this to be helpful to the giver, so they don’t have to try to pick out the right size or spend hours at the mall stressing about what to get. We also do it so we will be happy, because we know what stuff we really want.

Sometimes we want God to be like that. We’ll make a list of what we want and then we’ll ask God for it, expecting to get it. And we like verses like Matt 7:11 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Most people would recognize that God is only really giving out the “good things” according to God the same way a parent gives out good things to their children, yet underneath it all we have this desire to get what we want our of God. It might not be tangible stuff, but it might be “make me happier”, “make my life easier”, and secretly “make me successful and rich.” These are good things, so why doesn’t God give them.

Enter Luke 11:13 – “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Luke makes it explicit what the “good thing” ought to be in Matthew. The “good thing” that we ought to ask for is the Holy Spirit. Throughout Luke up until this point certain “special” people have received or been filled with the Holy Spirit: Mary, Simeon, John, Jesus. Now Jesus tells his followers that anyone can receive the Spirit by asking. In Luke’s version, God is truly the parent. He’s saying: if your parents know what’s best for you when you ask for something, how much more will God know what to give you when you ask (the Holy Spirit). That’s a major paraphrase, but the point is that its not about getting stuff, or even getting happier, or something like that, its about receiving the Holy Spirit (the presence of God that makes our relationship with God a real thing in our lives right now).

At Christmas, we talk about getting gifts and we might even talk about receiving Christ, but what about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is very present in the Christmas story, but we sometimes celebrate Christmas without ever acknowledging the Holy Spirit (while at the same time talking about the elusive “spirit of Christmas”)

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