When you celebrated the Christ child and started the New Year, did you have any primary experiences of the Spirit at work in your life? Did you see the Spirit touching someone else’s life?
The Holy Spirit is God at work touching hearts and then moving people into action. The Spirit’s hallmark is stirring up and increasing God-centered love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and such fruit.
Secondary Christian experiences are symbols that can cause us to remember what God did in the past, like sending his Son to be born as a baby in Bethlehem. The symbols for that past action are rich in the Christian tradition.
Here is the question about possible primary experiences over Christmas and New Year. Did you find yourself growing in commitment to a higher level of Christ-centered living? Was your sense of confidence in your relationship with God greater than last year? Are you committing yourself to some new actions in devotions and fellowship to make yourself more available to the Spirit’s work?
In family relationships, did you find yourself more forgiving of those who caused you pain in the past? Did you experience more motivation to reach out to others, perhaps with gifts, to express God’s love for them?
Did you have encounters with others that raised your appreciation for a fellowship of believers? Were you inclined to reach out to other believers to encourage them in their walk?
Those are questions for you personally. Now ask yourself whether you saw the Spirit move others in spiritual directions new to them?
Mainline Christians are not used to answering such questions. Other Christians around us are better trained to look for the Spirit in action here and now. Some have perhaps been given a special prayer language. Many are used to telling stories of past encounters with the Spirit in their life or that of others. An overarching term for believers sensitive to the Spirit is Pentecostals, who feature the Spirit’s work on the first Pentecost. Most of the growth of Christianity around the world is in Pentecostal expressions.
Instead of looking for the Spirit, we mainline Protestants are inclined to stay focused on Christ the Son born in the stable. But that man Jesus himself tells us that he will send his Spirit to be with us today. We have the memory of the Son’s redeeming work. We also have his promise to not leave us as orphans living just with those memories. He promised to send his Spirit of Truth to teach us now how to live more like Christ.
John Shea is a popular theologian and storyteller. He highlights trigger events that point us to past experiences of God. Call those traditions. We have centuries of Christian traditions and you probably have years of family traditions.
I hope those traditions worked well for you in recent weeks. But Shea warns us that memories, symbols and other secondary experiences are not enough to keep faith and a church healthy as it faces the future.
Memory needs to be reinforced and refreshed with evidence of the Spirit at work in lives today.
Here again, is the lead question a week after the holidays. Did you have any primary experiences of the Spirit working in your life or recognize him in the life of others? What you need to look for is not just heightened feelings but Spirit-produced fruit in the context of God’s love working and Christ’s grace healing.
If you have such stories, either this year or in the past, share them. They are basic to the mutual conversation and encouragement so important in Christian fellowship.
Do you have any encounters to share with readers of this blog?