So today we continue our big Christmas series and I have to tell you I’m really excited for what we are going to get into today because we are going to really be addressing something that is so important to us as Christians and I will go as far as to say that it’s an area that we all have challenges in one way or another.  We are going to take something really spiritual, namely the Holy Spirit and see how much of a role the Holy Spirit is actually playing in our everyday lives and relationships.  I want us to understand that the spiritual is part of the practical.  That is very important, the Holy Spirit is more than an idea in our heads, it is effecting our relationships, our motives, our thoughts and feelings.  He is leading and guiding us through life or at least it could and should be.  I don’t know that everyone can connect the Spiritual to the everyday life, and that is something we must understand.  These Spiritual concepts, things we place in Sunday morning worship settings shouldn’t just stay there on Sunday mornings, they need to be part of our “regular” lives!  That is what we are going for today.  We are going to see how much the Holy Spirit influences everything we do from relationships, to decisions, to our internal selves.  Today we are going to talk about love, real love that literally comes out of us as the Holy Spirit leads our lives, the kind of love that literally shows God to the people around us who need to know Him in a very real way.  But before we get rolling here today, can we just bring out the elephant in the room for so many of us when it comes to Christmas and the Holiday season in general?  I know we are at church, and we love this time of year, and we have so much to be thankful for but can we just talk for a moment.  The holidays can be really hard can’t they?  They are often painful, and for many of us stressful.  Ok, I don’t know about you but I feel better, we exposed the elephant, now it’s out there and we can move on with the talk today!

If you are like me you see the Holiday’s approaching, and you can often get the perfect image in your mind of the beautiful holiday season to come…you can just see it right?  The food, the laughter, the children playing and happy, the snow gently falling, Bing Crosby singing in the back ground.  I often feel like Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation looking off into the distance picturing the perfect holiday meal, and presents, and time with family and friends…and well, let’s just say that dream of what it could be just never seems to come together the way I draw it up in my head.  Usually the Holiday’s become a whirlwind of activity and emotion and by the day of the big family get together, there’s stress, there is hurts and we can leave what should be a beautiful time of year engaging our loved ones tired, worn out, and just glad it’s over!  Well that shouldn’t be, and today I want to really challenge you to look at your own heart, your own stress, your own hurts through this season, and I want you to figure out who is leading you through this time of year.  I guess what I’m saying is I want to ask you an important question as you head into these big parties and family get-togethers over the next few weeks and that question becomes this.

Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you through this Holiday season or not?  Because we have been learning about the Holy Spirit and what it brings to our lives and what it doesn’t.  And everything I just described doesn’t sound like that amazing gift that the Holy Spirit should be.  So maybe as I ask that question you are thinking, that you are not really sure if you are walking with the Spirit or not.  Well to give you the short version, there is a product of this type of life lived in the Spirit, and that product is love, and it really will come out in the love you have for others…or not.  You will see the product or fruit of the Spirit coming out in your relationships.  You need to see the importance of love here, let’s check out what Paul says in Romans 5, I was really thinking about this verse as I wrote this talk…

Romans 5:5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. NIV

I love that phrasing God has poured His love in our hearts, in the Message version it says that we can’t even get enough containers to hold this love that the Spirit is pouring into us…which is an awesome image for us to think about.  This amazing love is coming into us, and then flowing out of us in our relationships.  So if we wonder if the Holy Spirit is leading our lives, I think this ‘love thing’ is going to be a very big deal and frankly it becomes the gauge for whether we are walking in the Spirit or not.  Well there is that phrasing again…walking in the Spirit.  We have studied this earlier in the series right?  Paul describes a life led by the Holy Spirit as a life walking in the Spirit do you remember this?

Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. ESV

So this is something we studied earlier in the series we are to walk and will choose to walk one of two ways.  One way is centered on God and allowing His Spirit to lead, the other is to continue to live in our flesh.  This is so important that we understand that we will choose one of these two ways to live, just a few verses later Paul talks of this…

Galatians 5:25 Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.  MSG

So this is really important for us to see as we get rolling today.  Paul says that by the Spirit God is pouring His love into us, it’s a love that should be overflowing out of you and into your relationships. We have learned already in this series that Paul would also say that we are all choosing to live one way or the other, we are either walking by the Spirit and allowing Him to lead or living for ourselves.  These two ways of living literally oppose each other in every way.

Which takes us back to the question of the day.  Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you through this Holiday season or not?   If you are wondering if you are fully surrendered to God this Holiday season, allowing the Spirit to lead you or not, the gauge will really be found in your relationships and if we are really getting into something today this can be challenging because not everyone that you see this Christmas season, and hang out with is all that easy to love…which is why we need the Holy Spirit’s help, guidance, and counsel.  Just in case you think I’m just being a Christmas Grinch, remember Jesus did point out a couple things, he points out the importance of loving others, but He also lets us know that there are some challenges when it comes to loving people…so it’s not just me!

Matthew 5:43 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44 I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best — the sun to warm and the rain to nourish — to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. 46 If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. 47 If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. MSG

So not only is Jesus raising the bar on love, but He is also pointing out that some people aren’t all that easy to love!  You know this about people don’t you?  You are probably picturing that person right now in your head!  But please take note that He doesn’t say because they are hard to love that you shouldn’t love them.  But I do think it’s worth talking about…because some of us walk in guilt that we struggle to love and relate to certain people, and I think Jesus is helping us see that, that might be more normal than we are willing to believe, but He is not saying that we shouldn’t respond to tough people and situations with love…so love can be a challenging thing and love is really what it’s all about and it’s this love that we need to really look at as the gauge for whether or not we are walking in the Spirit.

Look when it comes to the Holiday’s I think there are some challenges.  I think the number one challenge is in the people we will be around.  But it’s in our relationships that we can really see the Holy Spirt working in our lives, or not.  I’m not saying you have to be out there bubbly, singing Christmas carols all day long, because it’s Christmas, let’s just say that some of us are just more “Christmassy” than others.  I was in Giant the other day, and I’m just going to say it…I’m probably never going to make the conscious decision to put on reindeer antlers, and a red Rudolph nose, and elf slippers, and a sweater with Christmas lights that actually light up to go to the grocery store, but some do…and frankly I think it is brave, and awesome that some do that.  Some of us are blasting Christmas music before Thanksgiving, and some of us just aren’t all that excited for the Holidays at all.  So I’m not saying you have to be jolly all through the Holidays.  And to be honest, the holidays bring a lot of stuff with them.  For many of us this is a time to face and re-enter relationships that we have done a pretty good job of avoiding all year long.  We feel old issues and emotions that start to resurface and while Christmas seemed exciting a few months out, now it is looming out ahead of us as we feel those old hurts, painful emotions, wounds, even anger or rejection, these things hit us and can seem to come from places we had hidden down deep inside us.  So there is emotions to deal with, relationships that are messy, which means that stress joins the process, which leads to fights with the spouse, and emotions you don’t want to feel, then we add the busyness of planning, packing, wrapping, plus the financial challenge of buying too much stuff for too many people and don’t forget preparing meals for all of these parties and all of a sudden we have a pretty volatile situation on our hands!  Have I mentioned for some of us as we think family, we are simply missing someone we loved so dearly this time of year?  I’m not trying to depress anyone today but the Christmas season can be a lot to deal with, and frankly it doesn’t lead us to that Christmas cheer everyone is talking about in the movies and around the office parties.  But we can’t say that can we?  I mean this is the time to celebrate the birth of our Savior and what kind of a heathen or Grinch would we be if we weren’t excited around this time of year?

So here’s the deal, we can have this love Paul spoke of pouring in and out of us which is so important, especially this time of year where we are re-entering so many relationships and situations that are challenging.  Listen, we want you doing that in a healthy way.  You know what, I will just say it, the holiday season can be challenging and we want you to be able to walk through it differently this year.  We would love for you to come out the other side as healthy and you can.  But frankly it won’t happen without the Holy Spirit walking you through it.  I want you to see that it is possible to engage your parents, your in-laws, your siblings, even your children who we love but may not always respond well to us, and all of our run ins with people this time of year.  We can walk differently this Holiday season, where we can actually see what Paul said we should see coming out of our lives as the Spirit leads.

Remember scripture tells us that we are literally living one of two ways.  It is that cut and dry.  We are living to feed the desires of our sinful nature or we are living to feed the desires of The Spirit in us.  The sinful nature has a list of desires that need satisfied, and I wanted to bring it up yet again…

Galatians 5:19 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; 20 trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; 21 the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. MSG

Now here’s what is so cool.  The Holy Spirit creates a whole new list of desires in us…

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. NIV

Imagine walking into your relationships with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  This is how we want to live our lives isn’t it?  And we can as we walk in the Spirit.  You know what is really interesting, when we relate to people in this way we are showing God to the people of this world, because living this way is so opposite of the ways of this world…the Holy Spirit is revealing God to this world through this transforming love that the Spirit is pouring into and out of you.  It’s in the fruit of the Spirit that people literally see God in you.  Have you ever thought about that?  That love is that important.  I want you to see this, because it’s important here in 1 John.

1 John 4:7 My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. 8 The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love — so you can’t know him if you don’t love. 9 This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. 10 This is the kind of love we are talking about — not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. 11 My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. 12 No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us — perfect love! 13 This is how we know we’re living steadily and deeply in him, and he in us: He’s given us life from his life, from his very own Spirit. MSG

Did you every think love was this important?  Have you ever thought this?  If you refuse to love you don’t and can’t know God because God is love?  That is a pretty intense statement isn’t it?  How about the idea of God showing us His love in the gift of Jesus?  Another pretty intense statement.  If that isn’t enough did you notice that we are to love because God loves us this much, and also did you pick up on the fact that when you respond with love you are literally showing people God?  Think about that for a moment, you can read all the scripture you want to your children, and tell them about God, but they will see God through how you love those around you, or not.  It’s in this life changing love that we share God with people who need Him.  They will see God or not in the conversation they listen to in the car as you leave your in-laws.  They will see God or not in your relationships.  The proof of who God is comes from the life walked in the Spirit (through our actions) and that over flowing love coming in and out of us.  That is a pretty intense thought today and it challenges me in my own personal life.  Not everyone is all that easy to love, but as a man choosing to live and walk in the Spirit I should see the fruit coming out in how I respond to people which literally becomes my way of showing God to my family, my friends, and those around me.  WOW.

So the question of the day was this…Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you through this Holiday season or not?  If you are wondering whether or not this is something you are doing on a personal level today I think the place to start is to look at your relationships.  Keep reading over that list of the fruit of the spirit and ask yourself if you are seeing those nine characteristics in your life…

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. NIV

I want you thinking about this.  Do you see and are you responding to people this way?  Listen, I know how difficult this time of year can be.  I get it.  I know there could be painful memories.  I know there can be relationships that are fractured and messy that you aren’t looking forward to stepping into this holiday season.  You may be worried about how many times you swiped the credit card this holiday season, or how in the world you are going to get to all the different parties, family get-togethers, and Christmas activities through the next few weeks…I get it.  I know we are at church and we should not talk this way but if we are being honest, the Holidays aren’t always easy.  Which is why we need the Holy Spirit leading the way.

Imagine your heart condition if it was filled with this love we spoke of today.  Imagine your relationships if this year you could respond with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Imagine peace where stress was…love where resentment was, patience in the traffic jam on the way to your grandparents house, self-control where it’s needed (maybe around the egg-nog.)  Internalize that for a moment, how would that feel this Christmas and beyond.  Now let me take it a step further.  Imagine your family, your friends, and people all around you who need to know God seeing you live this way and respond this way to life?  You would literally be showing them God, through the Holy Spirit living and active in your life.  Imagine living life in that kind of joy, and peace, and just centeredness, and bonus, it’s also a witness to your loved ones of who God is…wouldn’t that be awesome.

Can I tell you something?  You can have that today.  You can live differently this holiday season and beyond.  You can have this kind of love, the love of God pouring in and out of you by the Holy Spirit.  It’s all there for you, and it can be yours today…this love that Paul spoke of earlier.

Romans 5:5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. NIV

So here’s how I want to end today.  I know that you want your life to be a life full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  I know that you want to respond differently to life and people…and I know there is probably a couple of really messy situations and relationships and memories that you are walking into this Christmas season.  And I know that you want to respond well to those moments, and I also know that you can’t do that without the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit.  So here’s what I want to do to end today.  I want us to slow down and pray.  We are going to pray for not only the challenging things in our lives that we are about to face, but we are also going to pray an invitation for the Holy Spirit to be part of our lives, our relationships, and every situation we are about to walk into…because I know it isn’t easy which is why Jesus sent us The Helper.

So right now I want to take a moment and to ask you to quiet your heart and we are going to enter a time of prayer where you can invite the Spirit’s love and power into the practical and challenging parts of your life.

1st Prayer –  Inviting the Holy Spirit Into My Relationships – Right now, I want you to think about the person or people that you are really worried about seeing this Holiday season.  Who is it?  It might be someone close, if there is hurt it probably is someone close to you.  Where is the hurt?  Who is he or she?  Right now I want you to pray for that specific person right there in your seat.  Pray for their heart.  Pray for your heart.  Pray that you can respond with a Godly love to that challenging relationship.  Now invite the Holy Spirit to walk with you in that relationship.

Lord God, I pray right now for _____ .  I struggle with them and I don’t want to harbor resentment and hate where love should be.  Lord God I pray in the name of Jesus that you would allow me to love them as they are.  Help me and protect my heart where I need it and help me to show you and your love to them and all who I relate to this Christmas season.  Lord God I invite the Holy Spirit into my life…pour your love out into me, and bring your love, and your peace and your fruit into this relationship moving forward.  I want to be your witness through my relationships Lord.  Amen.    

2nd Prayer – Inviting the Holy Spirit into my pain – For some of us this time of year is so hard.  We used to celebrate it but now it’s a time of mourning, or pain and we struggle to get through the Holidays.  I want us to take a moment and pray right now inviting the Holy Spirit into our pain.

Dear Heavenly Father, I need your in my life.  Lord God I’m walking through such hurts and pain.  I miss _________ so much.  I need your Spirit to guide me through the hurts.  Lord God please bring your peace into my heart and soul.  Lord God I love you and right now I invite the Holy Spirit to walk with me and to guide me through the Holiday season so that I can walk in your love and healing power, Lord I need you living and active in me.  Please pour your love through the Holy Spirit into me and help me to find peace even as my heart hurts.  Amen.

3rd Prayer – Inviting the Holy Spirit into my every day decision making process – I added this because I think so many of us talk of surrendering our lives to the Holy Spirit and walking in the Spirit, but we struggle to make every day decisions that could help us in very practical ways.  We don’t see that our decisions effect our spiritual lives.  So we go into incredible debt through the holidays and have no financial margin which leads to stress.  We say yes to every activity and party and burry our own schedules afraid to say no to anything or anyone which leaves us cluttered and exhausted.  We make decisions to live for ourselves never considering our healthy boundaries and wonder why we struggle so much and I think it’s time to invite the Holy Spirit into our everyday decision making and into our every aspect of our lives, because we need Him to guide our lives.

Dear Heavenly Father, we need you in our lives.  And I pray right now that your presence would fill my life.  Lord please pour your love into me by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Lord pour your wisdom into me as well.  Lord I pray that I would be able to hear you speak, and that I would not only hear the Holy Spirit speaking into my life, but that I would have the focus and discernment to listen and allow the Holy Spirit to guide.  Lord God I want love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control in my life…but it’s so hard when I keep making decisions that fill up my life with other things.  Lord God guide my heart and my life and my decision making so that maybe for the first Holiday season of my life I have healthy boundaries, that would lead to margin financially, emotionally, and physically to engage you well.  Lord I need your guidance, Amen.

Listen, I’m not going to sugar coat it to you, the Holidays can be really challenging.  There is a lot that comes with them.   So my challenge to you would be are you inviting the Holy Spirit into them with you, or not.  If you want to know if you are walking through the Holidays with the Holy Spirit look at your relationships.  If you are surrendering your life to the Holy Spirit, love will be a huge part of your life.  You will walk in the Spirit.  You will find that your reality becomes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  You will also find that living a life this way is the best way to share God with all those around you…it’s the love of God pouring in and out of you that proves the Spirit in you and shows everyone around you that God is real, and that He really still with us today.

So the big question of the day today was this… Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you through this Holiday season and really life or not?  The easiest way to gauge this is in your relationships.  But you know, I just kept thinking the holidays can be challenging times, probably more challenging than you are willing to admit at church on a Sunday morning and I think we need to see just how much we need the Holy Spirit in this process.

So my challenge to you becomes this, please invite the Holy Spirit into your life daily.  Invite Him into your relationships, into your hurts, and into your decisions…because a life lived led by the Spirit is a different kind of life.  It’s the kind of life we are all searching for and because of Jesus it’s yours if you want it.  So be intentional and invite the Spirit into your life this Holiday season and enjoy the love, and freedom, and joy that comes from living that way.