Christmas is the beginning of the gospel story. Pentecost is its end. The Spirit encloses the whole process, since He is both the agent of the incarnation and the Pentecostal gift of Jesus to His Bride.
Salvation isn’t finished at Christmas, when God dwells with us in the man Jesus. It’s not even finished at the cross or in the resurrection. Christ’s work is only done when the Spirit is poured out and God dwells in the disciples of Jesus, in the body of Christ.
The good news of Christmas is this: God the Son has become incarnate so that through His death and exaltation He could secure the gift of the Spirit for His people. The good news is that we can say with Paul: “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
Christ lives in us by the Spirit. The Spirit who is the agent of the incarnation also “accompanies” and “guides” Jesus throughout His ministry. Jesus is born of the Spirit, and lives in step with the Spirit.
By “accompanying” the man Jesus throughout His ministry, the Spirit becomes “Christomorphic.” He takes on a “Christic” shape. He comes at Pentecost as the Spirit of Jesus, and the presence of the Spirit is therefore the presence of Jesus. The Spirit “in us” is Jesus “in us.” As Paul says, Jesus has become “life-giving Spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45) so that we can say that “the Lord [Jesus] is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17).
Through the Spirit of Christ, we’re conformed to Christ. Christ in us through His Spirit ensures that Christ will be evident in us.
Paul spells out what this means in Galatians 4:19-20. He addresses the Galatians as “my children,” though he had previously insisted they’re “sons of Abraham.” If we think Paul is addressing the Galatians as a “father,” we’re mistaken. He describes himself as a mother, in labor to give birth to the Galatians.
This image highlights the anguish of Paul’s ministry among the Galatians (Genesis 3; Isaiah 13:8; 21:3). His struggle and pain don’t end when the church is up and running, but continue until the Galatians reach full maturity.
Paul’s labor continues because he wants to see Christ formed among the Galatians. The goal of all his struggle, all his perplexity, all his hard words is to see Christ reflected in the life and character of the members of the church.
The Greek phrase “in you” can mean “in each individual one of you,” but the preposition can also have the connotation of “among.” Paul wants to give birth to a community whose life together reflects the life of Christ. He wants to give birth to the body of Christ (cf. Galatians 3:16).
For Paul, the gospel of Christmas is: Christ was born in Bethlehem, so that He might be born by the Spirit among the Gentiles.
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