The Spirit of God was upon Jesus, and with Jesus, from the very first moment of His human existence.
“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
The Holy Spirit empowered the Lord Jesus from that moment on so that He would be the servant of God, fully equipped to fulfill His mission (Is. 42:1). And that mission was to make everything new. Christmas is our commemoration of how God began making everything new. But to celebrate it without actually partaking of the newness . . . that’s the old way.
Since the fall of man, every new thing has gradually and inexorably gotten old. New things keep arriving because God intends to remind us of something through it, but these new things cannot ever remain in their new condition. The new always becomes the old. This is why tourists in parts of the world long settled are sometimes confronted with the amusing spectacle of a building that is centuries old, still retaining the quaint name of something like New College. That’s how time works. But the New Testament is not like that.
In the arrival of the new covenant, with the advent of the long promised child, something about time has changed. This child represents a new way of being new. There is a newness here that can never grow old. The new covenant is as new today as when God first established it. The new covenant is qualitatively new—this is because it is eternally new.
The covenant with Abraham is called the everlasting covenant repeatedly throughout the Old Testament, and the author of Hebrews identifies it with the covenant established by the blood of Jesus—the new covenant, in other words (Heb. 13:20). The blood of the everlasting covenant is the blood of Jesus, and the blood of the new covenant is the blood of Jesus (1 Cor. 11:25). The new covenant and the everlasting covenant are therefore the same, sealed in and with the same blood.
Because this new covenant is qualitatively new, rooted in eternity, as we come to Christ, two thousand years after His birth, we are not at the end of the line. The Lord Jesus, whose birth we are here celebrating, has said this in His majesty: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). These worlds are true and faithful, and were spoken from the throne.
He has made all things new by being new, by never sinning. Although He was tempted, in every point as we are, He never sinned. As Chesterton once put it in Orthodoxy, “We have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” In this respect, and in this respect only, we may be counted older than the Ancient of Days. We are weary, we are exhausted; we are frail. We must be made new, and when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, that is precisely what He came to do. His name is Jesus—He saves His people from their sins. He came to make us new.
Jesus came into an old world at the culmination of the ages, and He came into it in order to renovate all things, top to bottom. Because we get used to things, and quickly take them for granted, we sometimes fail to recognize how much this mission of newness plays into the meaning of our faith. We read of new wine, of a new song, of a new heavens and new earth, a new covenant, a new commandment, a new way, a new teaching, a new name, new hearts and new spirits, and of course, new men. But there is a new glory here—the fundamental thing is that we have been given a new kind of new.
The longer this gospel goes out into the world, the newer it gets. And when the whole world is made completely new, there will be at least twelve baskets left over.
The gospel does not give us the old kind of new religion. It gives us new men, men who will never die. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). This is the meaning of our baptism—that we should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). We are liberated by this message, delivered by it. “But now we are delivered from the law . . . that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Rom. 7:6). In Christ Jesus, nothing that gets old should matter to us—what matters is “a new creature” (Gal. 6:15). The letter kills. The letter makes old.
But we are servants of the same Spirit who came upon Mary. The Spirit gives the kind of new life that is consistent with the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:6). None of this can be accomplished by rearranging the ecclesiastical furniture. It is done by the same Spirit who used Mary to give us the greatest gift that has ever been given. “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh” (Eze. 11:19). “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Eze. 36:26).When God brought Jew and Gentile together, it was to make “one new man” (Eph. 2:15). This is the new man—Jesus—that we are to put on. “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24). We put on the new man because, of course, this is the whole point.
Because Jesus was born in Bethlehem, He took on a body that was capable of being offered on the cross for our sins. Because He did this, and because of all He did leading up to it, we are offered a new way of being human. That new way of being human is itself alive.
“By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Heb. 10:20).
The way through the veil, the way through the sacrificed body of Jesus, the way through the riven body that Mary once suckled—that way is new and alive. That way is alive because everything is now alive, and everything is alive because Jesus rose. Jesus rose because Jesus died. Jesus died because He had a mortal body. He had a mortal body because His Father gave Him a body so that He could give it to us. And in that gift, that Bethlehem gift, we have been given new life.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.