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Description: Christmas is Jesus being born in our hearts and maturing as we live our lives. He brings truth, peace and harmony so we can live as we were created.
Communion: Jesus’ Birth in Us
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
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
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
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.