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Lesson 167 of 225
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A Continual Christmas


Communion: Jesus’ Birth in Us

Matthew 1:20

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

Let’s look together at the lesson we read yesterday. I’d like to show you one of the verses in particular there — the angel’s words in Matthew 1 Verse 20: “But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’” And all of us are equally filled with awe at the thought. We don’t know all the details of birth, those of us who aren’t medics, but we have some idea of it, and we certainly know we didn’t come from a cabbage. And we can begin to think about the miracle of a birth beginning inside Mary’s body — a birth that did not come from the seed of a man but came from the Holy Spirit himself.

You can begin to just think about the miracle that that was. But I think that we are missing the greater miracle that it signifies. Yes, it was the first time it seemed that God’s son was born inside a human being. But we, of course, have all through our own life and thinking believed that that was the only time that that has ever occurred. It seems to me we’re missing the whole purpose of our own lives. Because as far as I can see, the whole meaning as you look at all the gospel, and even at a prayer like Paul’s in Galatians 4:19: “My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!” — is the idea of travail and of Christ being formed in us.

Of course, that’s the meaning of the conception that took place in Mary. Of course, that’s why each of us is here. Of course, that’s why each of us was created in Christ Jesus — because at that same moment he himself was inside us. And that’s the whole purpose of our lives, that the Holy Spirit conceives Christ in each of us and then forms him fully in each of us. That’s why we’re here, and that’s what our years are to be spent doing — allowing Christ himself not just to be conceived in us but to be fully formed in us.

I think all the powers are still against it. I think there are all kinds of forces that work to prevent that taking place in us — not least ourselves — who are still caught up with the idea of man’s ability to produce a child, of man’s ability to produce the child of God, of man’s ability to form Christ in us. That is still strong in every one of us.

We listen to these words and we think, “Yes, yes. You mean we’ve to become more like Christ. Yes, you mean we are to use our wills and become more like Christ.”

Obviously, there is a working out. We know that famous verse that Oswald Chambers talks about, “Did you work out your own salvation with fear and trembling?” Obviously, there is a laboring just as there is a birth. There is a laboring and a toiling. There is something that we each have to do. But it doesn’t matter how much a mother would labor. It doesn’t matter how much Mary would have labored. There would have been no birth if there had been no conception through the Holy Spirit.

So we are utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit begetting Christ in each of us and then, by all means, working out that which is within us — for it is Christ that worketh in you both to do and to will of his good pleasure. But the conception has to take place by the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can make Christ real in each of us in this time-space world. It’s vital for us to see that

it is not Christ in Marty Poehler and then Christ in Trish Overby, and Christ in Ernest O’Neill, and Christ in Joe Selzler. It is Christ Selzler. It is Christ Overby, or it is Marty Christ, or Trish Christ.

That is what God is after — his own son alive in all kinds of different persons. Because we are people ourselves, we call ourselves members of his body to stress how we are part of him. But we’re more than just an arm — because we have a mind, we have a will, and we have a spirit. So we are beings ourselves — but we are Christ beings. I hate to use the phrase, but it gives the right kind of idea — Christ in the guise of Marty Poehler, Christ in the guise of Greg Leitschuh, Christ in the guise of Marty Overby. That’s what is God’s will — that we ourselves would drop away — that it would be like A.B. Simpson’s poem, you remember: none of self and all of thee.

In a sense the self is the Marty Poehler or the Joanne Leitschuh on her own. In a way, it’s the Martha Nelson on her own independent of God. In a way, that’s always what the self is. And of course, God’s desire is that the self would be hid with Christ in him, and Christ would stand up in all his beauty and harmony in each one of us. And of course, the only way it can take place is if we ourselves see clearly that it is by conception by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit actually conceiving Christ in each of us.

And then it is that Holy Spirit who will show us, lead us, and draw us along the right path, so that Christ himself will grow, and develop, and be nurtured in us. That’s why as I give you the bread I use those words: “and feed on him in your heart by faith with thanksgiving.” When we eat his body, he is feeding us with himself, and as we feed on him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving, he grows in us. What I can see clearly is that the harmony grows in our lives as he himself actually comes into existence, and begins to use our hands and our arms freely without ourselves grabbing those arms and using them.

As he is allowed to use them freely, so he brings a harmony within us. There’s a peace and a rest that comes through our spirits, minds, emotions, and wills, and into our very bodies — so that our bodies begin to experience the wholeness of Christ — and then outside of us, that wholeness and harmony begins to touch the world around — even our cars, our computers, and most of all the other people that we live with and the people we work with. And the harmony and the reconciling life of Jesus begin to touch the world.

So it is actually a continual Christmas that God has planned for each of us. A continual experience that Mary had, and a continual experience of Christ coming, growing, and filling. Probably God’s will is that the very moment of death would see Jesus breaking out through us — as he was transfigured on the mountain — so that into the heaven that is God’s home would walk Christ with Trish Overby’s face, with Marty Poehler’s face, and he would walk in and fill the heaven with his own presence.

But it seems that that’s what our life is about. It is about a miracle inside us that has been conceived by the Holy Spirit, and then that is nourished and nurtured by him. And that’s why our life is to be far from us trying to bring about the birth, or trying to strengthen the child. It is all about us day after day, moment-by-moment looking to the Holy Spirit and allowing him to bring forth Jesus in us in a fuller way.

That’s why, I think people like St. Francis of Assisi were able to look at their bodies as something apart from themselves, and call it their old donkey and give it a good kick from time-to-time.

Because he saw clearly that Christ himself was growing inside us, and wanted to shrug off anything that was attached to the self that used to protect itself. And every time you look at Christ that way, and every time you turn your eyes to him, really the hardship is no hardship. The cold is not cold. The hunger is not hunger. The perseverance is not perseverance — because there seems to be a brightening, lightening energy within you that is rising up. Of course it is him in all his strength, beauty, and glory. So it is a remarkable life that God has called us to. Let us pray.

We do not presume to come to this, thy table, most merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so by faith to receive thy son, our Savior Jesus Christ, that the bread which we break may be unto us the communion of his body, and the cup of blessing which we bless may be the communion of his blood, and that we may ever more dwell in him, and he in us.

The Lord Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and broke it and said, “This is my body which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.” In like manner he took the cup after super saying, “This is the cup of the new covenant in my blood. This do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat the bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes.

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