Sermon for Saturday, December 24th, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
[Act 1:1-11 ESV] 1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
The lights are lit, the trees cut, the presents wrapped. Something is in the air.
Well, maybe you say “that is the smell of Christmas dinner.” Of course that’s not what I have in mind.
What is “in the air” is the spirit of Christmas. And by the “spirit of Christmas” I don’t mean the “the Spirt of Christmas Past, nor the Spirit of Christmas Present, nor even the sprit of Christmas Yet To Come.
The Spirit that is in the air, the Spirit I am speaking of is none other than the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit works in the Christian to produce good works and a good mindset and a good attitude. Any and All of the good actions that come from a Christian are due to the Holy Spirit within.
I. The Work of the Holy Spirit
These works, mindsets, and attitudes, are what the Scriptures call the Fruit of the Spirit.
The fruit of spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
And it is worth repeating with emphasis, that these are fruit OF THE SPIRIT. These are not things that flow naturally from you, but only result from the work of the Holy Spirit within you.
When Jesus Christ departed this world he ascended into the air. And one day Jesus Christ will return, the same way he departed, coming in the air. In the meanwhile, he has sent his Holy Spirit, so that the love of God and the fruit of the Spirit would be “in the air.”
This phrase “in the air” is an idiom for when you feel that something is happening or about to happen. It is often said “love is in the air” or “spring is in the air.” (though certainly not with today’s cold temperatures).
One source I found (even better) says that “when something is in the air, it seems to be everywhere, everyone’s thinking and talking about it.”
Indeed as Christians, we should all be thinking about the work of the Holy Spirit and talking about it. The Holy Spirit should be “in the air.” And He (for the Holy Spirit is a person of the Trinity) leads us to do good works. By “good works” I do not primarily mean things like giving to charities or working at a food bank or helping an old lady across the street. These indeed ARE good works. But what I primarily have in mind is the good works which we are called to every day.
These good works are not only to be “in the air” during Christmas, but are to be everyday occurrences for the Christian.
Kindness. Forgiving of sins. Patience. Peace. Love. Joy.
While a non-Christian may have some joy in seeing family during the holiday or in receiving or giving a gift, the Christian has Joy everyday because the Christian knows the Lord and has the Spirit of the Lord working within.
Christmas is a time when peace is in the air. We say “peace on Earth and goodwill toward men.” Even more we have peace with God. For Jesus Christ was born on Christmas day. You might say “no, he was born in the Spring time when the shepherds watched their flock by night.” OK, that may be true. But Christ was born nevertheless. And his birth may be celebrated any and every day. As we celebrate his birth, his life, and his death, we do so because of the Good News of the Gospel: that, as the Scriptures foretold, God sent a messiah, His very son, into this world to save sinners. And because of the work of Christ we have peace with God. The wrath of God has been turned away, and the Christian is saved. Saved from the wrath of God.
So every day we have love, joy, and peace. And every day we are called to patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That is a high calling. A difficult calling indeed.
The opposite of this spirit, is that of Ebenezer Scrooge. And he has such a Biblical name. Not “Scrooge,” but “Ebenezer.” In Hebrew that means “stone of help.” It was a reminder for the Israelite that God is their help and their rock. But Ebenezer’s deeds — at least before his change of heart — can only be described as a foul stench in the air.
Like the Grinch, we wouldn’t want to touch him with a 39 ½ ft pole. He has garlic in his soul.
But we have the Holy Spirit. A breath of fresh air.
Now, tomorrow is Christmas. And Lord willing I’ll preach on the 1st coming of Christ — His birth. But today we look also at his 2nd coming and the time in between.
We are in that “in-between time” now. The time between the 1st and 2nd comings of Christ.
Christ, when he departed, he ascended into heaven. So says the creed and so says the Book of Acts.
“9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”
Christ ascended “In the air.”
Luke (the author of Acts) even says “1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day WHEN HE WAS TAKEN UP.”
Christ’s being “taken up IN THE AIR” is the dividing point between 1st Luke (his gospel) and 2nd Luke (the book of Acts).
But when Christ departed in the air, He did not leave His people without help, but he sent “another comforter.” Jesus himself was a comforter, caring for the souls of men. And so loving us that when He departed he did not leave us “hanging high and dry” but he sent “another comforter,” The Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit comforts us directly and within as He works in us that knowledge and assurance of our Salvation in Jesus Christ. None of us are wise enough or smart enough to “prove” the truths of God, but rather “our full persuasion of the truth of God’s work comes about from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word of God in our hearts.”
And the Holy Spirit comforts indirectly and “Without” as others are moved by the Holy Spirit to produce fruit that in turn benefits us. The Good Works of a Christian not only benefit Him who does the good work, but also all of them on the receiving end.
How wonderful it is when others are patient with us, kind to us, good to us, faithful to us, and gentle with us. Let us then BE SO to others.
When such occurs we know that the Spirit of Christ is in the air.
In our passage, between mentions of the Ascension of Christ and His return, Luke three times mentions the Holy Spirit and His work:
In verse 2, Christ gives command through the Holy Spirit to the Apostles.
In verse 5, Christ says the Apostles will be baptized by the Holy Spirit.
And in verse 8, Christ says the Apostles will receive power the Holy Spirit comes upon them, so that they can be witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria, and to the end of the Earth.
When Christ ascended into heaven, he left His apostles firmly in the support of the Holy Spirit.
II. Christ Returning in the Air
Our passage tells us something else about “the air.” Not only did Christ ascend “in the air” but He shall return in the same manner “in the air.”
10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
The point is that His return is as REAL as His departure. Seen by human eyes.
When does this occur? At no time but the very end of the world.
Paul’s first letter the church at Thessalonika explains in more detail:
[1Th 4:15-17 ESV] 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
This is the at the end. The great second coming of the Lord. The coming of the Lord “in the air.”
It is NOT a passage saying that there will be a “rapture” of Christian BEFORE the end. But it is a description of the very same thing Luke is speaking of in the book of Acts and the same thing spoken of in the Book of Revelation:
[Rev 1:7 ESV] 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
The coming of Christ brings about the end. A great and glorious end for believers. An end that is only a beginning. But a terrible end for those who oppose the Lord. They will wail on account of him.
If you have read more of the “Left Behind” books than of the Bible, you may have been tricked into thinking there will be a “rapture” of Christians that is considerably BEFORE the end of the world. The theory of those authors — and others like them— is that there is some earthly age in which Christ comes and lives again on the earth, though some or all of His people are secretly “raptured” away to heaven.
I must agree with a certain Presbyterian writer has well said that the idea of a “secret rapture” must be “so secret” that even the Bible does not mention it.
In fact, when Christ comes it is with TRUMPETS! And EVERY EYE will see him. It is about the least secret thing imaginable.
The coming of the Lord in the air is far greater than the establishment of a new kingdom on earth. It immediately leads IN ONE SINGLE DAY, as the Scriptures frequently attest, to the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment. A judgment in which believers in the Lord will have no condemnation and following which we will have no sin nor suffering but be forever with the Lord.
But, as we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life in the world to come, so we celebrate the life that we have in Jesus Christ because of his first coming and that Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, which works in our hearts so that all around —in the very air — is fruit that is becoming of a Christian. Fruit that encourages and blessed one another.
I pray that that fruit, this Christmas, in your home and in your life, is “in the air.”
Let us pray.