The birth of the baby Jesus and our spiritual birth have a common element. The agent for both is the Holy Spirit.
The conception of Jesus in Mary was brought about by the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
The same Holy Spirit is the source of our spiritual birth. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3:3, 5)
Both Mary and Nicodemus asked the same question, “How can this be?” Both the angel, Gabriel and Jesus gave the same answer. It is by the Holy Spirit that these things happen.
As a result, Jesus instructed the disciples before his ascension not to leave Jerusalem, “but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit… and “will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1: 4-5, 8)
Thus, as Jesus was born through the power of the Holy Spirit, so too was the Church. And so too, are we. As St. Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17)
Ever since I was a young boy growing up in a small town in Iowa, I have experienced a special feeling of God’s presence on Christmas Eve. It is a feeling of peace and love. A calm descends; the earth is quiet from all the hurrying and scurrying of Christmas preparations. It is the Holy Spirit.
When I was old enough to drive, I would often leave the house after our Christmas Eve traditions with family were completed and drive through various neighborhoods in our small town. Very few cars were on the roads. Some houses would be dark. Others would be full of lights with people inside celebrating the coming of the baby Jesus.
The words of the song Silent Night gently echoed: “Silent night, Holy night; All is calm, All is bright.”
As we move closer to the celebration of Christmas this year, let us remember the role of the Holy Spirit – the means by which the creator of all that exists became one of us through the Virgin Mary, and the means by which we can experience God’s presence and saving grace at this very moment.