Sacred Seed

We are here

because we have heard a promise of peace

and we have faith its day will come

we have heard a rumour of justice

and we have faith its day will come

we have heard a whisper of hope

and we have faith its day will come

we have heard a hint of love

and we have faith its day will come

we have heard of the birth of the Christ-child

and we have faith his day is here.

Welcome to Christmas

Welcome to worship

— written by Cheryl Lawrie, on her blog [hold this space]

With Christmas just a week away, I have been thinking about the incarnation, the first coming of the Lord Jesus to earth as a human being. We have allowed so much sentimentality to invade our acknowledgement and celebration of such a momentous event. I live in Oregon, a Northwestern state in America. Here most people feel that the perfect Christmas must include snow on the ground, eggnog in the cup, and presents under the tree. I know every locale has its own tokens, remembrances, customs, and celebrations surrounding Christmas. I’ve spent three Christmases outside of the Pacific Northwest. One in Alexandria, Virginia; one in London, England; and one in Brisbane, Australia. My favorite was in London, where on Christmas Day the streets are virtually empty. No cars, no noise, a surreal, eerie quietness that so wonderfully preceded my entering St. Paul’s just as the evening Vespers caroling began to ring through the vast edifice. As delighted as I was with this experience, and the fond memories I still hold years later, there is still the danger of letting that experience define for me what the perfect Christmas is. Yet, I guard myself to not do that because the fact of Christmas far outweighs the outward, cultural aspects of Christmas.

The preparations for the first Christmas excluded black Friday shopping madness, decorating of hearth and home, sending cards, and all the rest. The unwrapping of that first Christmas revealed a much simpler, if not more complex, series of events. As we read in Matthew:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”

Before the birth of Christ could be accomplished through Mary, there needed to be a seed planted within her. Now the Bible is quite clear that this seed was not planted in a natural act by Joseph, but rather “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” I know we know the story, perhaps too familiar at times to consider with proper import the process behind the birth of the baby. In the natural when we see a woman with child, we do not- as it should be- imagine or dwell on the act that brought about the conception. In the back of our minds we know, as my first pastor, Norman Clear, used to say, “They did more than say ‘Howdy’.” The natural act of conception is eclipsed in our thinking by the product of that act, the child within the womb soon to come forth. But when we read the account in Matthew above, we must examine the process with more than a cursory nod. To miss the process in Mary is to miss the process in us, as well.

Jesus, some 30+ years after His birth was clear about the process and distinction between natural and spiritual birth when He spoke to Nicodemus in John chapter 3:

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

Water and Spirit here both speak of God’s grace as an agent of regeneration. Not the natural waters of baptism, but spiritual washing that must precede baptism. As the apostle Paul says in writing to Titus:

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

But this process of spiritual conception, this seed planting, is not a singular event. The sowing of seed in our lives is a continual and perpetual grace of the Spirit, from glory to glory. As 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Paul tells us just previously that in Christ the veil of the heart is taken away. In the natural, conception can only take place after the vail, or cover, of the womb (hymen), is taken away in intercourse. Spiritually, in Christ, there is no longer a separation, a barrier to the Spirit planting a seed within us. However, as in the natural, the womb of our heart must be in a receptive state to receive the sowing of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit poured out on the day of Pentecost, initiated a process of spiritual intimacy, seed planting, filling, that continues time and again in the life of every believer. The story of Christmas is not only the story of Jesus coming to earth through a Jewish virgin by the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ was conceived in Mary of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is conceived in us of the Holy Spirit. The incarnation began with Jesus but continues in us as we are conformed to the image of God’s Son in the earth.

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