It’s appropriate that my final post should be about God’s revelation in the person of Christ, what we call, “Christmas.”
Christmas is special, not only for the lights and festive foods but because it was revealed to us. A little theology is in order here. The Bible speaks of general revelation and special revelation. Imagine you wake up in the middle of the night and walk out into the darkness. You reach for the light switch and, bam, the light comes on. Nothing special about this, it’s built into every home’s wiring. This is generally the case.
Now, you’re wandering, lost, in the forest. Darkness closes in and you have no hope of being found. But then you see a light in the distance. Someone is looking for you and finds you! You are special to someone.
Christmas: A Special Revelation
Christmas is like that. We were wandering in the darkness of sin, and God found us. Christmas is a special revelation. Everyone enjoys the season, but only those who are found appreciate the Christ child. On the first Christmas morning God not only revealed his son in human form but his plan of salvation that had been promised for centuries.
The stories of Simeon and Anna in Luke, chapter 2, occur in time between the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the Magi. The angels appearing to shepherds in Bethlehem is a matter of history. The city is buzzing over the news they spread, and excitement is in the air. The Magi have only just begun their journey and Herod has no clue what is going on!
In-between, the young parents, Joseph and Mary, are going about their business. First, according to the Jewish Law, they must have their son circumcised 8 days after birth. Then Mary must wait 40 days to be pure following child birth. (Exodus 34.19; Nm. 18.15,16),and must then come with Joseph and present him before the Lord (22-24). They must bring a sacrifice, either 5 shekels (for the middle class and wealthy) or a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons (for the poor). All of this is to set the stage for a remarkable story, not one of the more popular of the Christmas stories, but one of the more meaningful.
If you are elderly (I am not) you have learned over the years what it’s like to hope and dream, succeed and fail and live one day at a time. You’ve learnt patience, that anything worth having is worth waiting for. In short, you’ve gained the wisdom of years.
In this story God reveals three spiritual truths about Christmas…
Wise Men and Women Still Seek Him
First we meet an elderly man names Simeon (25,26). He is more in the audience than on the stage of this Christmas story and yet we know more about him than we do about the Magi or the shepherds. It’s fair to say that he was one of a small group of Jews who were looking for the Messiah. You might say he was the other Wise Man… In v.25,26 we learn three reasons why:
- He was righteous and devout – He was a regular church goer (devout) but it was more than just a habit for him. He was righteous – a man of integrity with a reputation better than shepherds.
- He was waiting for the consolation of Israel – He was an inheritor of the promises to Israel, the prophecies of Isaiah and he was anxious to see the day when the Messiah was revealed,
- The Holy Spirit was upon him – This is the key to what happens next. A man made wise by the Holy Spirit is about to speak wisdom into the lives of a young couple caught up in a whirlwind of activity and change in their lives.
Everyone needs purpose in life, a reason to get up in the morning. For Simeon it was the hope that on day he would see the Christ, the Messiah. That day had finally come.
Like two planets in orbit, the young family and the old man come together under the influence of the Holy Spirit and God blesses both, one with a beginning, one with an end. (29-32) Simeon’s words of blessing stretch out beyond his death and even the earthly life of Jesus: “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
God doesn’t reveal himself to everyone. Why? Because not everyone can be trusted with the truth of Christmas. But for anyone- young or old, rich or poor, shepherd, Magi – who seeks the peace of Jesus, who allows himself/herself to be led by he Holy Spirit, the light of revelation shines!
Christmas Is Inside You
The Friday night before Christmas my daughter dropped Kinsley off for the night while she and Corey watched, “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Music Hall in Portsmouth. My favorited Christmas movie! I love it because the message is about the inside of George Bailey.
George’s life was filled with disappointment. He became depressed to the point of pondering suicide.
With so much going on outside – the evil Potter, a run on the bank, World War 2, the pressure and stress of a young family – George ends up on a bridge, ready to jump.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, so God arranges for George never to have been born and sends an angel named Clarence to show him what life is like without him.The triumphant last scene has George on a bridge, where earlier he had pondered suicide, and he prays, “I want to live again, I want to live again.,” And then, changed on the inside, he races around Bedford Falls wishing everyone and everything a Merry Christmas at the top of his lungs.
This story is no less dramatic. There was a lot going on outside that first Christmas – a long trip to Bethlehem, angels, shepherds in the sky, Magi and a Star, a wicked king bent on murder – But Simeon now speaks directly to Mary about matters of the soul and the heart (34,35)
Beginning with a blessing, he then gives Mary a dose of reality: the future would not be easy. Not everyone would receive Jesus. He would be the source of triumph and judgment. He would be like a sword, cutting deeply into hearts and souls, revealing inward thoughts.
Mary, as we know, was a very sensitive young lady. She took everything in, beginning with the birth announcement of the angel, Gabriel, to the story of the shepherds and she “pondered them in her heart.”
We think our Christmas Eve service will be a great opportunity to ponder the Christmas message and to prepare our hearts for Christmas Day. Whether or not you can be there, take the time as Mary did to shut out the world and to ponder the wonderful truths of Christmas.
Christmas Was Meant to Be Shared
Learning to share is one of the hardest lessons for little children and for children of God. We have our God, our faith, our church, our friends – and we don’t always think to share the celebration.
My wife often tells of a Christmas when she was a little girl. Her family was poor but her mom, a single mother of seven young children, managed to provide four or five small gifts for each. With them she gave a lesson. Each child was asked to choose one of their gifts to give to a child less fortunate. My wife remembers thinking (but not saying), “Who is less fortunate than us!” That Christmas she chose a small basket with a little doll.
That lesson speaks of the larger lesson of God sharing his only son for unfortunate sinners like us.
If Simeon’s words seem a little somber, God brings an elderly woman onto the stage. Her name is Anna, an eighty-four year old widow. Leave it to a woman to brighten things up! She, like Simeon, had been waiting patiently for the Messiah (36,37) – worshiping, praying and fasting – and God has revealed to her that the Day had come! Time to celebrate!
Her celebration if both vertical and horizontal: “Thanks to God” and then, like the shepherds, she began to speak to anyone who was waiting for the Messiah as she had been. She leaves a great example for us in the new year and beyond: treasure the things of greatest value in your life, and share them freely.
Thank you for reading these posts over that last few years. I’ll keep you posted on what’s coming up. Have a wonderful 2019!