We are all aware of Christmas and Easter -- one marks Christ’s birth, the other marks his resurrection. At Christmas, Jesus who is God made fully human, remains fully divine but makes himself reliant upon the Holy Spirit to keep him in union with God.
At Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Jesus takes the sin of the world to the cross, he offers himself as an atoning sacrifice, and he dies. 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 act like it is the whole story. It is not.
The story continues at Pentecost. Yes, God came and lived as a human. Jesus died for our sins. He conquered death, rose to new life and ascended to heaven. Incredible! But, once he ascends to heaven, aren’t we basically in the same situation we were in before he came? 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. God did not come to save us and then leave us. God’s plan was something much greater. Jesus says as much in John’s Gospel.
At the Last Supper, Jesus teaches the disciples that something new is going to happen. Another is coming. This being is so crucial that Jesus tells the apostles that it is better for him to leave so this new being can come (John 16:7)
That’s a lot to take in. Christmas is a big deal. Easter is a big deal and Jesus is saying that the coming of this next being 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 in Acts 1: 4-5.
Before he returns to heaven, 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 Holy Spirit 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 live 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.
Sunday, June 9, is Pentecost Sunday. Don’t miss it. Pentecost is important. We need to celebrate this great thing that God has done for us.
“On Faith" is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders.