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The Other Christmas

“The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).

As the fiftieth day after Easter comes around again this year, there will be no countdown of shopping days, no frenzy of gift purchases, and no endless repetition of holiday music in local malls. That’s because the world does not bother to take notice of Pentecost, which believers observe as the special day of outpouring of the Holy Spirit. On the first Pentecost the Spirit began a world-wide Gospel outreach program through Jesus’ disciples which continues to this day.

While Christmas is the day when Christians celebrate the Father’s gift of Christ to the world, Pentecost is the day to celebrate the Spirit’s gift of Christ to each of us personally. For Christ does not truly become our own until the Spirit gives the gift of faith in our hearts, which then rest on Christ for salvation. For this reason it is no overstatement to consider the Day of Pentecost “the other Christmas.” The parallels between these two special events are striking:

Both were foretold by Old Testament prophecy. — The hopes and dreams of Old Testament believers were kept alive, not only by God’s many promises of a coming Savior but also by promises of the special gift of the Holy Spirit:

“For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring” (Is. 44:3).

“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28).

Both were accompanied by miracles. — On the first Christmas (Luke chapter two) the arrival of God the Son prompted the angels to sing of God’s glory over the fields of Bethlehem, while a miraculous star notified the wise men in the East of the birth of the King. On the first Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), the arrival of God the Spirit came with the sound of a rushing wind and tongues like fire that sat on Jesus’ disciples, who then began to proclaim the Gospel in many languages by the power of the Spirit. On that inaugural day of Christ’s New Testament Church, 3,000 souls became believers through the Holy Spirit’s work.

Both provided a vital link in God’s salvation plan. — Our hope of entering eternal life depends on the truth of God’s Word about the virgin birth, the sinless life, the suffering and death, and glorious resurrection of God’s own Son for us. For that reason we rightly observe Christ’s birthday with wonder over God’s love for us in His Son. But the Scriptures also show us that Christ’s redemptive work would never save anyone without the work of the Spirit, for “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). It is the same Spirit who worked miracles on the first Pentecost who works the miracle of faith in our hearts. Through the Word of God which He inspired the prophets, apostles, and evangelists to write, our little “god” of self-righteousness is torn down, and the Lord Jesus is put in its place. Because we now have both the gift of God’s Son as well as the gift of faith to believe in Him there is nothing to stand between us and an open door to heaven.

It’s too bad that the world’s infatuation with the almighty dollar obscures for men the true meaning of Christmas each year. Thankfully, Pentecost is still unspoiled. It is a high and holy day for believers, without the worldly distractions. It is a special day of joy and thanksgiving as we remember both the Gift and the Giver. For Christ is the most valuable gift of all, and the Holy Spirit is the One who gives Him to us, through the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.

That makes ‘the other Christmas’ a great day to celebrate!

  Thou holy Light, Guide Divine,
  Oh, cause the Word of Life to shine!
  Teach us to know our God aright
  And call Him Father with delight.
  From ev'ry error keep us free;
  Let none but Christ our Master be
  That we in living faith abide,
  In Him our Lord, with all our might confide.
  Hallelujah! Hallelujah! (TLH, 224:2)

–Pastor Bruce Naumann