Daily Devotion for December 12, 2020

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
   because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
   to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
   and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
   and the day of vengeance of our God;
   to comfort all who mourn;
(Isaiah 61:1-2)

We refer to the weeks preceding the birth of the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, as Advent. Advent is not a word found in the New Testament, but its Greek origin (έλευση) simply means arrival – we await the arrival of the Messiah.

But there is another fascinating arrival in the Gospel of Luke – the arrival, or advent, of the Holy Spirit. Luke, more than all three other Gospel writers combined, refers to the Holy Spirit as a key player in the Advent narrative, and beyond. The Holy Spirit is present with Zechariah (1:15, 67), with Mary (1:35), with Elizabeth (1:41), with Simeon (2:25-26). All that is miraculous and wonderful in these first two chapters of Luke occur through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The Advent of the Holy Spirit prepares the way for the Advent of Jesus the Christ.

And throughout the Gospel of Luke, and Luke’s companion volume, the Acts of the Apostles, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is essential to the ministry of Christ and Christ’s followers. The Holy Spirit is responsible for the "birth of the church" in Acts 2, as well as the birth of Jesus in Luke 1 and 2. Luke and Paul share a common understanding of the Holy Spirit – this is the same Spirit at work in the world and in the church throughout all ages, places, and times.

As we prepare this year for the arrival of the Christ child, are we also prepared for the Advent of the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit changes everything! Zechariah and Elizabeth were visited with a miracle that changed their lives. Their son was a prophet of the Messiah, preparing the way. Mary was visited by the Holy Spirit and conceived the Prince of Peace. Simeon lived a long life to see the realization of Israel’s hopes and dreams. Throughout our faith history, when the Holy Spirit shows up, lives are never the same again.

We often pray, “come Holy Spirit,” but we may get more than we bargain for. Simple words bring earth-shaking change. By the divine power and will of God, we become the incarnate body of Christ, guided, gifted, and graced by the Holy Spirit. When God’s Spirit is born in us – when we are filled, strengthened, and transformed – we become new people, perhaps the very people God most needs us to be. We are no longer individuals seeking to be faithful, but we are knit into a tapestry of gifted and beloved believers, bound together in this divine Spirit, in community. This is a gift of Christmas, made real and available to all who proclaim Christ as Lord – we are made one in Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry and witness to all the world.

Gracious and Loving God send your Spirit and grant us the wisdom and courage to receive it gladly, joyfully, and faithfully. Transform us through your Holy Spirit and make us one in Christ to your honor and glory, that the world might be transformed through us. We ask this humbly, in the name of the One who is to come. Amen.

May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.