We all know Christmas and Easter. One marks Christ’s birth, the other marks his resurrection. A lot of celebration and festivities accompany each of these feasts. That is a good thing. These are huge events. Through the Incarnation, i.e., Christmas, a savior who is God himself is born to us. God becomes fully human. Jesus, the son, remains fully divine but makes himself reliant upon the Holy Spirit to keep him in union with his Father. There is a great mystery in that. Why would God do this? Why would he establish this relationship between himself and the Spirit?
In Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the death of, well, death. Jesus takes the sin of the world to the Cross, he offers himself as an atoning sacrifice, and he dies. That is Good Friday. If the story ended there, it would be tragic. If God had died, and that was the end of the story, it would be a pretty terrible story. Thankfully, Easter happened. Jesus rose from the dead. That takes a tragic story and makes it amazing. To top it off, forty days later Jesus ascended to heaven. It is a fantastic tale and an awesome reality. The problem is a lot of people, both in the Church and out of it, act like it is the whole story. It is not.
The Story Continues at Pentecost
Yes, God came. He lived as a human. He died for our sin. He conquered death, rose to new life and went back to heaven on a cloud. Incredible! But, once he ascends to heaven, aren’t we basically in the same situation we were in before he came? I know Christ died for our sins. I know he rose so that we might have new life. But, if the story is over at the Ascension, we have no way to live in that new life.
Christmas and Easter are reality changing, but they are not enough. They are only part of the story. Big parts? Yes. Huge parts! But alone, the story is incomplete. God did not come to save us and then leave us. His plan was something much greater. Jesus says as much in John’s Gospel. In chapter sixteen, at the Last Supper, Jesus teaches the disciples that something new is going to happen. Another person is coming. This person is so crucial that Jesus tells the apostles that it is better for him to leave so this new person can come. Those are not my words. They are Jesus’ words. Here is the quote from John 16:7:
But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you…
Did you catch that? Try to wrap your head around it. Christmas is a big deal. Easter is a big deal. Jesus is saying that the coming of this next person is a big deal too. Big enough that Jesus tells the apostles he needs to go so that the Advocate can come. Right before Jesus’ ascension, Jesus talks again about this.
“And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” —Acts 1:4-5
Before he returns to heaven, in essence Jesus tells the apostles, “you are not done yet. Go wait for the Holy Spirit.” So, they went back to Jerusalem and waited. When the time came to celebrate the Pentecost, the Jewish feast celebrating the giving of the law, something unexpected happened:
“And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” —Acts 2:2-4
The Advocate had arrived. God, in the person of the Holy Spirit had come. Just like Christmas celebrates the coming of Christ, Pentecost marks the coming of the Spirit. In Christmas, we celebrate that God has come for us. In Pentecost, we rejoice that God has come to dwell within us. Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost are the three great feasts of the Church. Without the last of these, we would still be distant from the Lord. Through the coming of the Spirit we are made members of Christ’s family, and in the Spirit we are able to cry out, “Abba! Father.” Don’t miss it. Pentecost is important. We need to celebrate the great thing that God has done for us.
Photo by 广博 郝 on Unsplash.