The Holy Spirit plays a key and prominent role in the Christmas story, as detailed most fully in the Gospel According to Luke. Yet the outbreak of the Spirit’s activity that surrounds the birth of Jesus Christ receives relatively little attention in contemporary preaching/teaching about Advent and Christmas.
The sudden stirring of the Holy Spirit recorded in Luke 1 and 2 is in sharp contrast to Spirit’s apparent absence during the 400 years of the intertestamental period.
As noted by scholar Roger Stronstad in The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke (Baker Academic, 2012), during those long years, Judaism had become identified with devotion to the Law, rather than prophetic proclamation, and the prophet had been replaced by the scribe.
One rabbinic teaching stated that when the last of the prophets died, “the holy spirit ceased out of Israel.”
But early in Luke’s gospel, the Holy Spirit “returns” in what Stronstad describes as “an outburst of charismatic activity.”
[T]he angel [Gabriel] announces [that the baby who is to be called John] “will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother’s womb.” Moreover, Gabriel informs Mary that she will conceive Jesus in this miraculous manner, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you , and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”
Furthermore, not only will John be filled with the Holy Spirit, but subsequent events find both his mother, Elizabeth, and his father, Zacharias, “filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Finally, in a remarkable clustering of terms, the aged Simeon has
the Holy Spirit…upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the Temple….
Interpreted against the background of Judaism [that expected the revival of the activity of the Spirit when Messiah came]…the outburst of prophetic inspiration which Luke reports in the infancy narrative heralds nothing less than the dawning of the messianic age.
The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke goes on to track the record of the Holy Spirit’s activity throughout Luke and Acts, illustrating how that activity shares a fundamental continuity with the Spirit’s actions in the Old Testament. But a radical new dimension has been added, as the Spirit acts to empower the church (“the charismatic community”) for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.
Roger Stronstad is the Biblical Theology Director at Summit Pacific College in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and co-editor (with French L. Arrington) of the Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary (Zondervan, 2003).
For several years, he served as editor of the now-defunct Canadian C.S. Lewis Journal.
Stronstad is ordained in the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada and serves on the editorial board of The Journal of Biblical and Pneumatological Research.
The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke was originally published in 1984 (Hendrickson Publishers) and was released earlier this year in a second edition. It is available in paperback and in a Kindle edition.
Roger Stronstad’s 1999 book The Prophethood of All Believers: A Study in Luke’s Charismatic Theology was re-published in 2010 by CPT Press.
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