The Holy Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future

We Christians are notorious for downplaying the Holy Spirit. Many churches confine Him in a box of tradition or just ignore Him. Some Christians treat the Third Person of the Trinity as if he magically materialized in the book of Acts, like a genie out of a bottle, and then vanished after the early church was established.

The Holy Spirit played an integral role in the birth of Jesus Christ. The Gospels tell us that Mary became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:18, 20; Luke 1:35).

The significance of the Spirit in Jesus miraculous conception isn’t just that Jesus was born of a Virgin, as true as that may be. As theologian Steve Studebaker explains, the Spirit enables the incarnation as the “Spirit creates, sanctifies, and unites the divine Son with the humanity of Jesus Christ.”

The role of the Spirit in Jesus’ conception is also significant because it also points to the fact that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah.

Anointed by the Spirit

When we read that Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are reminded that the Holy Spirit played a dominant role throughout Jesus’ ministry. And this is, in part, what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah.

To be clear, being the incarnate Word of God does not make Jesus the Messiah—the Spirit does.

The Greek word Christ and Hebrew word Messiah both mean “the anointed one.” And in the Old Testament, the Israelites expected that the Messiah would be anointed with the Spirit.

When Jesus started his ministry, he was filled with the Spirit at his baptism. Afterward, he affirms Isaiah’s prophecy that “the Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor” (Luke 4:18).

As the Messiah (the anointed one), Jesus ministered “filled with the Holy Spirit’s power” (Luke 4:14). And long before his public ministry, we are reminded of this fact in Jesus conception.

Jesus Identity and Our Identity

The biblical stories of Jesus birth aren’t there just to tell us about how Jesus happened to come into the world. They are there to remind us of Jesus identity. As the angels told the shepherds, Jesus was not just any baby; he is “the Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

“The Spirit is central to both who Christ is and what he did.” The Spirit enabled the incarnation of the Son of God, and the Spirit-empowered Messiah came to bring redemption to the Israelites, and even for the whole world.

Likewise, the Spirit is central to both Christian identity and action. The Spirit gives believers new life, making them children of God. And the Spirit anoints Christians to continue in the Spirit-empowered ministry of Jesus.

May we be found faithful as we move forward into 2018.


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By Andrew K. Gabriel, Ph.D.

Dr. Gabriel is a theology professor and the author of four books. You can follow him at and get your FREE copy of "Spirit Baptism in the Old and New Testaments (Not Just Acts)."

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